22 July 2016
Social and environmental enterprises applying green and inclusive business models are making a significant contribution to job creation, youth and women empowerment, and managing natural resources sustainably globally. Yet, such enterprises currently constitute a vanishing sub-group of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) which are the backbone of developing economies—providing over 60% of permanent full-time employment for citizens. In Ghana, MSMEs contribute as much as 70% of GDP and 85% of the manufacturing sector employment, and such impacts could even be higher if social and environmental MSMEs flourished.
The question then is, how can such enterprises be supported to thrive? Over the past 10 years, SEED—the global partnership for action on sustainable development founded by United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been exploring answers to the question.
One convincing answer SEED’s work has revealed in various developing countries has been, the need to focus on building the ecosystem that supports social and environmental ventures. Thus, this year, SEED continues to build the ecosystems of social and environmental enterprises through its Business Development Service providers (BDS+) Trainer of Trainee (ToT) workshops, under the Switch-Africa Green Programme—a pilot Programme in six African countries –Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Ghana—that seeks to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns in developing countries.
In Ghana, Afrik Eveil has been providing local support to SEED in promoting, organising and facilitating the social and environmentally focused BDS+ workshop. BDS providers across Ghana were invited in a “Call for Nominations” to submit their CVs and letter of motivation demonstrating their interest in the training. An already tested assessment methodology was then used for the subsequent selection of workshop participants. Building upon existing training materials and methodologies, the participants explored different types of eco-enterprise models and applied the SEED Toolbox to case studies of eco-enterprises in the priority sectors of Manufacturing, Integrated Waste Management and Tourism. The training was conducted from 5th-8th July with 21 participants (including 2 members from Afrik Eveil-Burkina Faso) in Accra. Participants were equipped with the necessary tools to expand their services to eco-enterprises and to consider social and environmental dimensions in their services for conventional start-ups. Additional follow-up activities including a LinkedIn page has been created to facilitate the formation of a strong BDS community for social and environmental enterprises.
Another answer that has emerged out of SEED’s work has been encouraging enthusiastic entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that have strong social and environmental components to launch their enterprises and seek needed support. To that effect, teams of 2-5 with innovative ideas in priority sectors of Manufacturing, Integrated Waste Management and Tourism were once again invited to apply for the first SAG-SEED Starter Month in Ghana. In total, 60 teams applied and 15 were selected. Selected teams took part in a 3-day training (from 14th -16th July) during which they covered topics such as building a visual prototype, target market analysis, lean enterprise blueprint, pitching and branding as well as the formulation of hypothesis and a roadmap for a testing phase. A follow-up workshop is scheduled for 5th-6th August, 2016 aiming to bring together all the teams again, to exchange their results from the testing phase and to further refine their business models as well as to introduce them to running a crowdfunding campaign.
There are certainly many ways social and environmental enterprises can be supported in emerging countries, and SEED with local support from Afrik Eveil continue to explore for more answers.