Social Businesses Can Change Africa

Estimated read time 2 min read

Audrey Selian, co-editor with David Cooperrider of The Business of Building a Better World: The Leadership Revolution That Is Changing Everything, suggests that mission-driven businesses are outperforming their peers in both public markets and private equity.

As Director of Artha Impact (Rianta Capital Zurich), Selian helps oversee a series of programs designed to catalyze the flow of investment capital into small- and medium-sized enterprises, which will have high impact and serve the underserved in India.

Social business is an attractive idea globally because it works. A purposeful business is defined as a startup that solves a social problem, and these kinds of social businesses are particularly attractive to aspirant and emerging African entrepreneurs. However, there can be a gulf between the intent of social business and the ability to create a company that sparks positive social change in objective, measurable terms.

Social entrepreneurs solve problems by focusing on their social values, such as how it approaches investors, dividends, and profits, and its desire to drive social change. However, focusing too much on social philosophy can be a trap. Only some businesses achieve the meaningful social impact they seek, sometimes because they haven’t paid enough attention to the key disintermediation principles followed by Khula!, Yoco, and many others.

Regardless of how meaningful social philosophies are to the founders or the consumers they’re targeting, the business must also ensure it uses technology to focus on the importance of footfall by enabling quick, functional social business at the transactional level. For example, an app that asks consumers to identify their most important social values and then aligns these with the service providers with the strongest performance track record in each area could be a transformative business model.

Africa is filled with entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, but if we want to move beyond spirit to achieve tangible economic benefits for all people, we must combine the spirit of social business with the fundamental principles of tech-smart commerce. Remove the middlemen, and empower consumers and traders to do what they want right now.

For startup social entrepreneurs, the strategic key is to understand how this model works in as much practical detail as possible and replicate its central principle – to activate digital footfall – to build their success. This will be proved by the usefulness and relevance of their solution rather than an over-reliance on marketing to push and position it.

By: Shauneen Procter

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