Yunus Centre & YY Ventures launches the East Africa Social Business Ecosystem Builders Project

East Africa has been the fastest-growing region in recent years–with a growth rate of 5.3% in 2019, compared to 3.4% in Africa overall. However, the region’s economic growth is constrained by poor infrastructure, trade and investment barriers, unreliable power, low agricultural productivity, and a lack of market competitiveness. Moreover, the prospect of the loss of livelihood and poverty was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – pushing the region’s extreme poverty level to 33% in 2021 and affecting 134 million people. In this context, it is crucial to recover from the crisis and build resilient businesses, communities and economies for the future.

In response, YY Ventures is collaborating with Yunus Centre to launch a seven-month-long program titled ‘East Africa Social Business Ecosystem Builders’ in four countries – Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania, in October 2022. The program aims to work with East African educational institutions, development organisations, local incubators, and accelerators to build a supportive ecosystem for the local youth to start and run their social business and bring diversified products into the local and regional markets. The goal in the long term is to increase trade and investment and access to reliable power, create jobs, and improve food security to build a stable, prosperous, and self-reliant region that is resilient to future economic shocks.

Essentially, through a wide range of innovative and hybrid business models, social businesses prompt a generation of social change to combine the efficiency and innovativeness of a commercial enterprise with the provision of developmental goods such as jobs, welfare, opportunities, education etc. In Kenya and Uganda especially, social businesses build on the strong local technology and start-up scene to provide innovative technology-enabled learning content and school management systems. This plays an important role in building infrastructure, driving innovation, and contributing to policy development.

The program will build the capacity of the 20 local organisations to design and run innovation and incubation programs for the local youth population. It will also upskill and reskill more than 500 local youth to improve their technical understanding of designing frugal and scalable solutions to solve many pressing social issues in the region.

Various activities will be designed to ensure knowledge transfer and opportunities for peer learning among ecosystem builders and social business support organisations, such as – stakeholder engagement meetings and workshops for ecosystem builders (e.g., university faculty members, development professionals, Yunus Social Business Centre leaders, community builders) from various social business ecosystem building organisations and universities; comprehensive learning journey on how to design and run a social business incubation or design competition; and a regional forum for the ecosystem builders to exchange knowledge and strengthen partnerships.

Overall, the program will help the youth expand their connectivity and encourage them to develop entrepreneurial solutions to create a world of three zeros – zero net carbon emission, zero wealth concentration for ending poverty, and zero unemployment by unleashing entrepreneurship in all.