Tag Archives: social enterprise

An Open Letter to Social Enterprise Startups Looking at Africa

By | February 9, 2018

Dear Young Entrepreneur, I receive emails from you, on average, once a week, sharing excited news about your plans to enter the African market, or pilot an innovation, or disrupt some existing solution. I’m thrilled and pleased for you, and wish you the best for your future plans. However, I must write this today, after… Read More »

@Prepaid Africa Connecting Dots – October 2015

By | November 3, 2015

October was a busy month for us – The African Development Bank hosted their first Innovation Weekend in Abidjan from the 9th to the 11th of October. Our contribution was thinking about the problems we face as the starting point for new venture design. Savvy young people from across Francophone West Africa gathered to conceptualize… Read More »

Why social enterprise marketing tends to fail – hidden competition, invisible consumers

By | July 25, 2014

A couple of years ago, I was frequently in East Africa, consulting with a consumer product company  set up as a social enterprise in the renewable energy sector. An extensive distribution network across Kenya had been established through what they called TT – traditional trade. Yet their sales were nowhere near the figures one would… Read More »

The need for human agency: Is the middleman always a monster?

By | October 28, 2013

Mobile phone charging receipt, Kenya  Photo credit: Niti Bhan The unfair demonisation of the middleman is apparent in this recent article on solar power products for the low income market in Africa. “Putting African ‘power pimps’ out of business” is the headline and the rest of the text goes downhill from there: It’s hard to… Read More »

Lessons from the Amul brand for grassroots enterprises

By | September 10, 2012

We also mourn the passing of Dr Verghese Kurien this weekend. The man behind India’s Operation Flood – a grassroots social enterprise based on dairy farmer’s cooperatives that grew into India’s biggest FMCG brand – Amul – while becoming the replicable model for converting India from a net milk importer to the world’s largest producer.… Read More »

Why have I been getting so grumpy about well meaning social enterprise?

By | September 3, 2012

Yesterday’s post deconstructing The Economist article on the promise of solar lighting for the millions of poor living without electricity made me question my strongly worded response. Another recent one is from well meaning Guardian, whose first of the 15 innovations they claim will change lives in Africa is the now forgotten Hippo Roller. Even… Read More »

Deconstructing the solar lighting market hype

By | September 2, 2012

Nairobi solar lantern shop, July 12th 2012 The Economist’s Q3 2012 Technology Quarterly has a paean on the promise of solar lanterns replacing nasty, stinky kerosene once and for all. Of note is the careful mention of MKopa, a Nairobi based startup founded by Nick Hughes of MPesa fame, until now conducting pilot tests in… Read More »

Lessons from working with Social Enterprises

By | April 26, 2012

Aisle Manager at Nakumatt By the end of my most recent project, I was convinced that the label “Bottom of the Pyramid” (or Base of the Pyramid) also known as “the BoP” was one of the biggest barriers for organizations seeking to serve these emerging consumer markets in the informal economies of the developing world.… Read More »

What does it mean when Chinese manufacturers enter the social enterprise space?

By | March 7, 2012

“The market has been destroyed for solar” or so I heard today from someone who prefers to stay anonymous but I’d hazard a guess knows a fair bit about what is happening on the ground in East Africa from the point of view of social enterprises. Interestingly, I’d brought up the question of whether “It… Read More »

The customer is the king; the beneficiary will remain a pauper

By | February 25, 2012

  We weren’t beholden to our customers until we starting thinking like a business. We didn’t hold ourselves accountable until we started treating our ‘beneficiaries’ as customers. No investor took us seriously until we dropped the ‘social enterprise’ label. ~ Ben Lyon, Founder, KopoKopo, Nairobi, Kenya When I wrote “Why so much ‘BoP’ marketing fails… Read More »