12 March 2021

Insights into Best Practices in Pandemic Response for Social Entrepreneurs in Africa

As the pandemic continues to shape our lives and the future, it’s time to take a moment to reflect on the past year, its challenges, as well as the merits that came with a renewed vigor to craft a new path. Among these was the emergence of a collective desire to create better conditions and targeted support for social entrepreneurs across the globe. 

At Impact Hub, one of our key values is collaboration. When we were asked to join and collaborate with 39 global (impact) organizations to launch the World Economic Forum COVID-19 Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, we immediately saw this as an opportunity to shape the new economy with exciting partners.

What is this Alliance all about? It is about changing the way we work in supporting impact entrepreneurs! It brings together knowledge, experience, and support initiatives from Acumen, Yunus Social Business, ANDE, and many others. Today the Alliance includes 85 organizations and represents 90,000 social entrepreneurs and reaches 1.9 billion people.

The story of the Alliance is one that needs more allies and advocates to truly achieve its goals. The work of the Alliance is divided into 10 initiatives including Corporate Access, Non-financial Support, Story Telling, and Regional Mobilization among others. Impact Hub, in its role as Regional Mobilization Co-Lead, partnered with the Aavishkar Group to bring the work of the Alliance to Sankalp Africa Summit on March 3rd. Using the Sankalp platform, which included more than 700 conference participants (intermediaries, investors, entrepreneurs), Impact Hub and the Aavishkar Group were able to recruit more partners to join the Alliance.

COVID-19 WEF Alliance: Insight into best practices in the pandemic response for Social Entrepreneurs in Africa

On March 3rd, we hosted a panel with WEF Alliance members Aavishkar Group to which we invited social entrepreneurs Ify Ummuna from Nourishing Africa and Abisola Oladapo.  The 90-minute dialogue brought together a range of voices from the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Africa to highlight what has worked over the past year, how we can amplify and replicate the successes, and how to increase collaboration as the state of the crisis remains with us. 

WEF Alliance members sharing their experiences included Dr. Frank Aswani, CEO of Africa Venture Philanthropy Alliance, Drew von Glahn, Executive Director of Collaborative for Frontier Finance, and Carolien de Bruin, Head of the WEF COVID-19 Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs. 

The session showcased concrete examples of action taken by the Alliance members in Africa towards the relief effort for social entrepreneurs, with a special focus on how capital providers and non-financial support providers can engage with the World Economic Forum COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs. Some of the calls to action to focus on were:   

  1. Building relationships
  2. Balancing the dynamic between capital providers and those receiving capital
  3. Better equipping entrepreneurship support organizations to be ready to act as connectors between ventures and investors
  4. Supporting entrepreneurs in articulating their needs

What is the Support Entrepreneurs need?

Most importantly the session focused on bringing the voices of social entrepreneurs to the fore. Entrepreneurs like Ify Ummuna from Nourishing Africa and Abisola Oladapo, Founder of Mumspring were present to give their input on what support will be needed to keep the support relevant to their needs.

Ify Ummuna, Program Lead at Nourishing Africa has created a home for more than 1 million actors across agriculture value-chains in the region. These actors face a variety of challenges that hinder their ability to scale, including lower propensity to partner, lack of access to finance, and inefficient business models. Such challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic to the point that over the past year more than 50% of the agribusiness value-chain actors temporarily or permanently closed their doors. Nourishing Africa sought to reverse some of these effects by delivering training to support more than 2000 entrepreneurs in developing more resilient business models and leveraging technology. This work was delivered in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation.

Abisola Oladapo, Founder of Mumspring shared the powerful story of how her own journey as a mother drove her to realize that children and mothers needed more access to information in the pre and post-natal experience. Abisola shared a compelling rationale for the existence of Mumspring explaining that 57% of global maternal deaths occur in Africa, 80% of which are preventable. These shocking numbers are underscored by the fact that 67% of African women are having their babies without any support from trained medical professionals due to a lack of access to information about safe birth practices. Mumspring has developed a solution to ensure access to this knowledge is distributed in all local Nigerian languages. Mumspring will also soon expand to South Africa and Kenya before the end of the year. With this information, women can make informed decisions about their health and the health of their children.

The discussion provided new insights from the COVID-19 relief effort, with a particular focus on how it has affected social entrepreneurs in Africa. Using these perspectives, the discussion captured the opportunities for collaboration among willing partners and actors in the ecosystem in order to achieve impact at scale.  


If you or your partners would be interested in discussing more the Alliance’s work in Africa, contact [email protected]