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Chasing The Vision: New Milestones In YouthActionNet Africa Expansion

Jessie Elisberg | September 19, 2013
Fellows from Uganda meet with the MUBS team

This summer has been a busy and exciting time for me, because in addition to the Laureate Global Fellowship, I get to work on YouthActionNet’s efforts to adapt our model for local and regional institutes in Sub-Saharan Africa. For years we have seen amazing Global Fellows coming from a number of countries in the region, and we know there are so many other young social innovators whose efforts to create real change we could support if there were fellowship programs based in Africa.

Not only is this vision becoming a reality, but it’s happening quickly! As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, in partnership with USAID and The MasterCard Foundation, two new regional institutes are joining the ranks of YouthActionNet membership. Synapse Center, based in Dakar, Senegal, launched Innove4Africa earlier this year, which will provide training, coaching, networking, and support to young social entrepreneurs across Francophone Africa. The program recently closed its application period and will be announcing its first class of fellows later this year.

As Innove4Africa prepares to announce its first cohort, Makerere University Business School (MUBS) in Kampala, Uganda is busily readying itself to open the application period for the other new YouthActionNet regional institute, this one for Anglophone Africa. This program brings together the Entrepreneurship Centre, Leadership Centre, and ICT Centre at MUBS to provide training, coaching and advocacy to young innovators from Anglophone countries in Africa.

At the same time, LEAP Africa is readying to launch the Social Innovators Program and Awards, a YouthActionNet institute that will offer training, advocacy, and network support to strengthen the initiatives of young social innovators in Nigeria. The first class of fellows will also be announced later this year!
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Fellow Charles Batte and the village library he is constructing in Katiiti Village, Mpigi DistrictAt the end of August, I had the chance to spend some more time with a handful of fellows from the Laureate Global Fellowship program in Uganda. We got together over lunch with the team from MUBS to discuss the challenges and opportunities for young social entrepreneurs in Anglophone Africa, and brainstorm ideas for the new program based at MUBS.

Fellow Charles Batte and the village library
he is constructing in Katiiti Village, Mpigi District

Some of the challenges identified by the fellows were what you might expect to hear – difficulty with convincing people to support their ventures and spreading awareness of what they do, lack of funding opportunities – but some of the challenges these innovators face aren’t so predictable. For example, there is a major youth bias and hesitance to take seriously the efforts of people under 30, even more so if they aren’t married. Several of the fellows also indicated that government policies frequently hinder young entrepreneurs from starting their own ventures, whether they are for-profit companies or focused on a social mission.

Excel Education Centre in Bwaise slum, Kampala,  an initiative of Fellow Muhammed Kisirisa's organization AFFCAD.	Another common challenge encountered by social entrepreneurs is balancing supply with demand while trying to manage community expectations. Because they are working hard to address real issues, these young people are often simultaneously praised for their leadership and efforts to serve community needs while being criticized for not doing enough.

Excel Education Centre in Bwaise slum,
Kampala,  an initiative of Fellow
Muhammed Kisirisa's organization AFFCAD.

How wonderful that you’ve built a school for disadvantaged youth, now why isn’t there enough space for my child to enroll there?

You’re offering support groups and services for women in this village who have been affected by conflict, but why aren’t those services in my village?Muhammed manages several different community programs, using  educational slum tours for revenue generation.

It seems to me that this is the double-edged sword of grassroots social entrepreneurship – the opportunities for creating real and lasting change are boundless, but there is always more that needs to be done.

Muhammed manages several different
community programs, using educational
slum tours for revenue generation.

The same thing can be said about YouthActionNet itself. Every day is bringing us closer to seeing the YouthActionNet community blossom in Africa, to seeing more and more young leaders benefit from what we offer. It’s so exciting to realize that by early 2014, we’ll have up to 70 new members of our global network of social entrepreneurs, all from Africa, but our work is far from done. What country will be next?

Be sure to join the YouthActionNet newsletter list to stay in the know!