In Summary

  • Unreasonable East Africa, an organisation that helps young people to adapt the world to their environment in order to improve it, will from June 25 to July 31, host 24 social entrepreneurs, who run 14 ventures in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, at the Unreasonable Institute in Kampala.

Social enterprise is the new buzz in East Africa. The region’s social entrepreneurs — who are mainly from the younger generation — have come up with projects that make money while furthering social welfare.

Unreasonable East Africa, an organisation that helps young people to adapt the world to their environment in order to improve it, will from June 25 to July 31, host 24 social entrepreneurs, who run 14 ventures in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, at the Unreasonable Institute in Kampala.

During this period, the 14 delegates will network, share ideas, source capital and be mentored by 50 world-class entrepreneurs to turn their start-ups, most of which have existed for less than three years, into life-changing enterprises.

These are expected to solve social and economic challenges such as food security, access to electricity, financial literacy, household incomes and health care in East Africa.

Boot camp

The five-week boot camp in Kampala is modelled on the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, Colorado, but it attempts to create projects tailored to the East African context.

Joachim Ewechu, chief executive officer and co-founder of Unreasonable East Africa, said that with mentoring and financing networks, the 14 chosen businesses are expected to grow into social enterprises and eventually scale up to meaningfully change the lives of more than one million people.

“We will work with them in the markets in which they operate and derive solutions from those markets,” he said.

A couple will pay $4,000 while an individual will fork out $3,000 for the programme, which will feature Iranian-born venture capital specialist Kamran Elahian.

Initial public offerings

Mr Elahian has built 10 companies, four of which were sold for between $70 million and $700 million. Three of his companies have raked in over $1 billion in their initial public offerings.

The fellows coming into the Unreasonable Institute are expected to draw inspiration from other social enterprises that have transformed societies in the past decade. Uganda’s coffee brand, Good African Coffee, is a good place to start.

In 2003, the proprietor, 44-year-old Andrew Rugasira, left a career in marketing for a social enterprise that engaged 14,000 coffee farmers in Kasese district, western Uganda, to sell their crop to his company in an arrangement that would see profits shared 50:50 between the producers and the company.

At the end of 2012, Good African Coffee posted a $1.3 million profit. 

Rebbeca and Eric Kaduru
Proprietors of passion fruit venture KadAfrica, Uganda

This couple own KadAfrica, one of the enterprises coming into the Unreasonable Institute, run a passion fruit farm in Kasese district, near Fort Portal.

Eric Kaduru, 29, was a public relations and advertising practitioner before switching to farming. Now the Kadurus work with outgrowers and more than 1,500 girls who dropped out of school for various reasons.

Their project started in 2013 in partnership with Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Fort Portal under a programme called Girls Agro Investment (GAIN).

“We provide outgrowers with free seedlings, basic inputs and a ready market for passion fruit. We combine the outgrowers’ produce with our own from the five-acre plantation. We also ensure that our outgrowers get a fair market value for their fruit,” said Rebecca, 27.

Myles Lutheran and Cosmas Ochieng
Eco Fuels, Kenya

Eco Fuels produces and sells biofuel and organic fertilisers made from croton nut, which grows naturally across East Africa.

The product is environmentally sustainable, as it restores organic matter into the soil, leaves no waste and uses low-energy manufacturing.

Since inception in March 2012, Eco Fuel has sold more than 10,000 litres of biofuel and 100 tonnes of organic fertiliser, earning over $50,000.

Sachi DeCou and Olivia Nava
Juabar Design, a solar phone charging franchise, Tanzania

American-born Sachi DeCou, who lives in Tanzania, has a power solution for a country where 60 per cent of the population uses mobile phones, but only 12 per cent have consistent access to electricity.

Before starting Juabar, Ms DeCou did the maths: Tanzanians spend 13 per cent of their total phone costs on travelling to charge their handsets. Then she provided a solution.

“We start each of our franchises — Juapreneurs — with a phone-charging business via our solar charging kiosks, which is a straightforward revenue source,” said the 35-year-old designer and artist.

From phone charging alone, each franchise earns $75-$175 per month.

Chantal Heutink,
I-Care Pads, Kenya

Chantal Heutink, 45, who lives in Kisumu, western Kenya, began producing and selling high quality but affordable reusable sanitary pads aimed at schoolgirls.

Besides producing I-Care pads for more than 20,000 poor schoolgirls, her venture also provides training in menstrual hygiene management.

Heutink, a Dutch national, said her ambition is to reach a million I-Care users in 10 years.

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