A social enterprise is an entity that uses business approach to solve a social problem
In Kenya, social enterprises are growing faster with each passing day.
Many initiatives are being implemented ranging from studies, conferences and projects all geared towards the growth of social entrepreneurship.
Kenya is leading in Africa as far as social enterprise is concerned. The country has attracted global attention as the most successful enterprises have either international roots or are supported internationally.
However, although Kenya is ahead, the notion of social entrepreneurship remains new to most people, with some confusing these enterprises with non governmental organizations.
The end result is a low concentration of home grown social enterprises which have been chocked by the internationally backed social enterprises, currently competing in the Kenyan market.
Social enterprises are businesses that trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. They make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community.
How to start a social enterprise
“Like any other business, one must have an idea,” offers Carlo Chege, co-founder of the East Africa Social Enterprise Network (EASEN).
The network provides training to help people clarify whether they have an idea and a business model.
A good example is Bridge International schools, institutions which provide low cost education targeting the poor.
“The challenge is how one defines the social and environmental mission. One should also have a business plan, financing and market,” adds Chege.
Social enterprises are known to convert social problems into business opportunities, solving social and environmental problems that are left out by mainstream corporations.
Take Sanergy’s case for instance. Operating from Nairobi slums where the sanitation problem is prevalent, Sanergy is a social enterprise that seeks to address the sanitation crisis in Kenya. The company which was established in 2010 has tackled the ‘flying toilets’ problem in Kenyan slums, improving sanitation for thousands of people while creating jobs for others. They have achieved this through an innovative toilet franchise business, where slum dwellers are financed to own and operate a clean, hygienic toilet dubbed ‘Fresh Life Toilet,’ which do not use water.
Like Sanergy. Other social entrepreneurs, commonly known as the ‘do good enterprises’ have pitched tent in the Kenyan market.
But they have to address the challenges of lack of a legal framework to streamline their work, getting funds and attracting employees.
To see more growth in the area of social enterprises, The East African Social entrepreneurs Network is working on modalities of providing mentorship and internships in social enterprise to students so that they are able to know and get interested in the area.
Currently, social enterprises have generated interest from a number of social entrepreneurs, with most focusing on energy, water and sanitation, agriculture and health. These areas have a lot of social challenges.