Friday, August 10, 2012

Funding African Entrepreneurs

This was an interesting article written by Loren Treisman of the Indigo Foundation, a grant-making foundation that funds technology-driven projects that seek to bring about social change in Africa.
Do African Entrepreneurs Need Charity?

In the main, I agree with the premise of her piece, articulated around three main points:

- Information technology is key to realizing the full potential of developing economies, especially in bringing about the reforms required to spark said economies.

- The best solutions to Africa's challenges are likely to come from the communities affected by them; a completely different development paradigm to what has obtained historically.

- Investment is required to make these enterprises and start-ups self-sustaining and drive them towards their stated goals.

Where I would quibble with Ms. Treisman is in the titling of her piece and the implied concept that 'charity' is required to make social innovations successful. Webster and his fellow dictionary gurus merely say that charity is the voluntary giving of help to those in need. In our cynic Western havens, the term 'charity' usually refers to an unmerited favor granted by someone who feels sorry for the recipient in order to provide short-term relief for the recipient and make the giver feel that they have made a difference.

Social entrepreneurs in North America and Europe are funded by national agencies that have funding set aside for such programs. These are never referred to as charity because they are seen as a critical requirement for the growth and development of those societies. Where philanthropic investment is made, it is never referred to as charity because there is value in their output. Any enterprise which yields returns for its investors and/or clients is not on charity. It is not helpless. It is quite simply - in business.

My minor issue with the title aside, this is a fantastic piece and is well worth a read.

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