As a global phenomenon, social entrepreneurship seeks to address social and environmental issues through innovative, sustainable business models. While the underlying principles remain consistent, the practice of social entrepreneurship can vary significantly between Africa and North America and Europe. Here are 4 key characteristics of social entrepreneurship in Africa that other regions can learn from:
1. Infrastructure variability: Issues that African-based social entrepreneurs face, tend to be far more systemic. Startups are required to account for a lot more variables, for example, logistic connectivity across undeveloped terrain, lack of internet or tech infrastructure, multiple language barriers, and political buy-in. European or North American countries aren’t without similar infrastructure issues, the difference is frequency. African startups have a higher aptitude for working around these variables and can act as case studies for other regions.
2. Good-enough mentality: Africa-based organisations tend to be highly frugal and resourceful, relying on a community-support landscape, and good-enough-for-now mentality. This can work really well, however, investors sometimes rely too much on this. This low-cost, community-driven characteristic means that these organisations are often building an expertise that is undervalued.
3. Everyone benefits: Social entrepreneurs in Africa tend to prioritise community engagement, job creation, and empowerment. They aim to uplift entire communities by addressing shared challenges collectively. Countries in North America and Europe tend to place greater emphasis on individual empowerment vs. supporting whole communities.
4. Inclusivity: From language barriers to cultural nuances, African social enterprises have to build inclusivity into any product or service, and understanding the values of their service-user base is not a nice-to-have, it is a necessary function that is so ubiquitous it is often invisible. Forget pop-up chat boxes, organisations are frequently using WhatsApp and other social platforms to communicate with service users in their mother tongues.
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