Introducing Social Enterprise and X-Prize Business Plan Competition at KIST

25Aug09

KIST = Kigali Institute of Science and Technology

Took an afternoon off from the Hospital Project and got in touch with my academia roots and made a presentation at KIST in Kigali, Rwanda.

I made a presentation to a group of 3rd and 4th year engineering students in a course called CET 3321 ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES.

There were two primary objectives of my trip to KIST:

1)   To introduce the idea of social enterprise (using Solar Cookers as an example).  President Kagame is very supportive of private sector investment and poverty alleviation through business and trade.

2)   To introduce the idea of a University-wide Business plan competition to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship training in the form of submitting business plans for funding in a safe environment.

What was meant to be a 10-minute presentation turned into an hour-long lecture and discussion with the class.  I asked for the number of people who has heard of “Social Enterprise” or private businesses measured on both financial and social impact indicators – and the response rate was zero. I asked who has heard of the “Global Fund – to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria” and the response rate was close to 90%.

I used the example of Motorola and the [RED] campaign where they donated profits from phones sold to the Global Fund as my example of Social Enterprise and the double-bottom line in this case.  Motorola made enough profit to cover their costs and operations and donated 10% proceeds to Global Fund to make a positive impact through social engagement.

The Business Plan competition is an idea to encourage entrepreneurship within African Universities.  Entrepreneurship and innovation can come in many forms.  Invention v. Innovation.  The idea is to ask the question of WHY the slow adoption of solar cookers in sub-Saharan African countries.  The solar cooker concept and technology has been proven for decades.  Using sunlight to cook has many health (less smoke inhalation) and social (less time spent by women foraging for firewood) benefits, why is usage still low? The competition is to encourage teams of local students to develop the best new ADAPTATION of this technology so that the technology is country-specific and culturally accepted.  There is seed funding available to create this Innovation Prize – all we need is interest on-the-ground!

[watch this space]. Progress updates on the African Innovation Prize – concept will be posted here.

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