SAP and Acumen catalyze social entrepreneurs in Africa and India

SAP (Systems, Applications & Products in Data Processing), a multi-national software company in collaboration with Acumen gathered in Nairobi to recognize its entrepreneurs who had taken part in their 100 day program in a project aimed at supporting them to scale their businesses. The Entrepreneur Fellowship saw CEOs from several countries including Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and India take part.

In Kenya, John Waibochi, the CEO of Virtual City was among the fellows. Virtual City is a mobile software firm that develops and delivers streamlined, cost-effective solutions to the supply chain and agribusiness industry in Africa.

Speaking to media, John was emphatic that the fellowship has been phenomenal to him.

We have learnt how value chains that are more complex than ours are made to run complex issues in a very simple manner in the ecosystem. We learnt from those who preceded us, some of whom had the same challenges as ours, how best to change things so that we can build simple solutions to societal problems.

As part of the fellowship, the CEOs, all from Acumen’s portfolio, traveled to Silicon Valley in July to take part in a leadership development program before returning to execute their plans for growth in their respective countries. Their enterprises, which represent a variety of sectors including energy, agriculture and education, take an innovative approach to addressing the problems of poverty.

They have proven business models with the potential to scale and replicate across multiple markets but face a number of challenges, ranging from marketing to talent recruitment, keeping them from becoming sustainable businesses capable of creating lasting social impact. The SAP fellowship was designed to address these challenges and build social enterprises to create jobs and promote economic growth throughout these emerging markets.

“With a 40-person team spread across seven countries, it’s been challenging to actually make swift progress,”

said Ashifi Gogo, CEO of Sproxil, a mobile verification service that helps protect East African consumers from counterfeit medicine and other products.

“We took the learnings from the fellowship to create a common language and synthesize our ideas. It can be lonely as an entrepreneur when you’re discovering these new growth frontiers, so it’s important to find like-minded people to reinforce our beliefs and trigger collective success. The fellowship was a tremendous platform to bring CEOs like myself together.”

The partnership between SAP and Acumen was meant to see ways in which their network and experience can help ensure that entrepreneurs create an impact in what they do. They there took then fellows to businesses that have made it, like Google, to learn about the challenges they have faced and how they overcame them, and to see how they could use them to smoothen their operations.

The Entrepreneur Fellowship program entailed two parts. One was the leadership element and the other growth acceleration.

“East Africa does not have solid businesses that are between the SMEs and the big companies. We are working to see how these enterprises can fill that gap,” remarked Andrew Waititu, Managing Director, SAP East Africa

Waibochi explained that Virtual City helps reduce the bottlenecks between farmers and the market including how the farmers can track their commodities and also receive their fair share of their proceeds through mobile money.

In a place like Eldoret, we have created a platform where maize farmers can see how their produce move from their farms to cereal boards stores, to millers. When a farmer can see the chain and also get the money they deserve, you have helped transform the farmer.

He added that with this success, banks have now started embracing the farmers,

We see banks approaching these farmers wanting to give them advances and credit to ensure they do not have any liquidity challenges that would affect their farming. Technology is making these transformation possible.

SAP and Acumen intend to work with them in a continuous mentorship program to ensure they grow. This will be possible since they have created a global ecosystem of CEOs, influencers and investors to drive social innovation and impact around the world

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