By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Despite the entrepreneurial spirit and potential of Burkinabè, Cameroonian and Ghanaian entrepreneurs, very few have the means to create businesses to solve social or environmental problems. Most existing social enterprises are very small, informal and vulnerable.
The above statement is part of the findings of a two-year project carried out by the Nkafu Policy Institute, a think tank of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation and its partners Innohub. Ltd (Ghana) and Burkina Business Incubator (Burkina Faso). The result of the project was made public on August 26, at Djeuga Palace Hotel, Yaounde, during the International Symposium on the project titled Social Entrepreneurship For sustainable development In Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons learned From Business Incubation in Selected Countries and is sponsored by the International Development Research Centre, IDRC.
The role of social enterprises in the development of sustainable and inclusive societies remains little known to many actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in these countries. Despite the many social problems faced by these countries and the fact that they are lagging in achieving the SDGs, social entrepreneurship is making efforts to develop. The main reason for this is the funding constraints faced by social enterprises but above all a lack of qualified staff and skills to promote social innovation.
Surveys show that difficulties in accessing funding and the lack of qualified and competent staff and consultants are the two main challenges faced by social enterprises in the selected countries. In Burkina Faso, 83 per cent of social enterprises, 70 per cent in Ghana and 52 per cent in Cameroon identify the lack of funding as the main obstacle to the development of their activities. As for the lack of qualified staff, 70% of the social enterprises surveyed in Burkina Faso, 60 per cent in Ghana and 41 per cent in Cameroon stated that they were confronted with this.
“Most of the business support structures in the field do not have a good understanding of social entrepreneurship. They also do not have a good understanding of SDGs,” Dr Jean Cedric Kouam, Deputy Director of Economic Affairs, Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation and Project Lead told the press. “In the field, we also noticed that most of the social enterprises and business support structures have identified funding issues as the major obstacle to the promotion of their activities.”
Dr Jean Cedric Kouam added: “One of the recommendations we made is that we have to strengthen the collaboration between the actors of the entrepreneurial ecosystem so that their actions can better contribute to the achievement of SDGs.”
The Canadian Ambassador to Cameroon HE Richard Bale said: “In Cameroon what I have seen is that there is a lot of attention being paid to the development of entrepreneurship and supporting infrastructures including incubators. What the government is trying to do is to create a network and systems of incubators that meets certain standards and this study should help the government in doing that.”
As a policy proposal to business support structures, they have been urged to comply with the regulations in force; specialize; Promote social entrepreneurship and the development of social enterprises; Collaborate effectively with other actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and for them to communicate their actions and successes.
Government and ecosystem enablers on their part have been encouraged to take advantage of the services offered by business support structures to boost national economies by systematically involving them in the definition of the reforms they wish to put in place and to develop at the national level a roadmap defining the conditions of operation, organization and development of the various private enterprise support structures as well as the criteria for obtaining approval (authorization for creation).
The research was carried out between September 2020 and August 2022, in an exploratory phase in three sub-Saharan African countries that are representative of the economic dynamics of the continent – Cameroon, Ghana and Burkina Faso. It aimed to map business support practices in the country and to see if and how they contribute to the achievement of SDGs 4, 5, 8, 9 and 13.
It focused on: the link between business support and the ecosystem for innovation and science; the relationship between business creation and SDGs 4, 5, 8 and 13 (what is being done, where gaps are, and what should be done); the process of upgrading businesses with a particular focus on success and failure factors and analysis of the role of public policies and the generalization of best practices observed at the national level.