Africa Social Enterprise Forum 2009
It’s been almost three weeks since the Africa Social Enterprise Forum (ASEF) took place in New York.  As ASEF’s co-chair, I can proudly say that the event went beyond our wildest dreams.  The standing-room-only forum gathered a diverse audience comprised of Africans and non-Africans, students, professionals, entrepreneurs and investors at the Desmond Tutu Center.

Our goal in creating ASEF was to provide: 1) access to information and 2) opportunities for action around social enterprise in Africa.  The buzz about the event, turnout, and post-event feedback have all confirmed that ASEF was a unique initiative which met the need for a large-scale, visible, and focused forum on social enterprise in Africa.  ASEF also confirmed that the major funders in the social enterprise arena need to diversify their portfolio.  Since the event, we’ve received inquiries from foundations and investors who are looking for up and coming African social entrepreneurs.  We’ll continue to work with Beyond Profit to share these stories and highlight Africa as a hub for social innovation.

A few takeaways from ASEF:

Craig Newmark, Founder, Craigslist: Craig delivered our morning keynote with a healthy dose of humor.   What is interesting, and perhaps quirky, about Craig is that he is aware of, and honest about, his shortcomings.  Many entrepreneurs prefer to be their own boss, but Craig instead opted to be a customer service guy at Craigslist and hired a CEO that he believed was better for the job.  Craig’s lessons learned as an entrepreneur are invaluable for anyone in any part of the world.

Andrew Zolli, Curator and Executive Director, PopTech Andrew delivered the afternoon keynote and closed with an impactful statement: “If given the choice between the sexiest business model and the best entrepreneur we would pick the best entrepreneur anytime.”  Andrew advised social entrepreneurs in the room to be prepared to fail, often – it’s expected.  Learn from it and “change your religion” accordingly.

Jacob Lief, Founder & President, Ubuntu Education Fund: Jacob spoke on the scaling up and due diligence panel, where he challenged the term “scaling up.”  He explained that Ubuntu’s approach is to “scale down” – to go deeper into a community and focus on changing lives, rather than simply touching them.

Antony Bugg-Levine, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation: Antony’s comments on the Social Financing panel echoed his article in the May/June 2009 issue of Beyond Profit about the absence of intermediaries between social investment capital and those who need it.  “Intermediation, or the placement of money between investors and the businesses and projects that can use it productively, is generally sub-scale and inefficient.”  Antony’s remarks present a huge opportunity for existing investment intermediaries to jump into the social investment arena or for new players to fill this void.

Footage and photos from ASEF are available online.  Also check out co-chair Magogodi Makhene’s blog on Social Edge for her take on the event. Email us at [email protected]for more information.

Please note this article was originally posted at Beyond Profit

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