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The conference began properly today and the venue is Addis Ababa United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The last two days have very much been focused on local social enterprise in Addis and surrounding areas, while today we truly went international with 70 countries and 1000 delegates. The week’s timetable is complex with an education symposium, a policy forum, a youth week aiming to increase youth participation in social enterprise (running simultaneously with the conference) and then the main programme. Clearly this has been complex to organise and the ambition is to be commended.
There is great excitement about social enterprise not only here in Ethiopia but across Africa. The themes discussed following the spectacular opening ceremony have been social enterprises tackling inequality, tech for good and global mapping and the importance of data.
The three women speakers describing their ‘tech’ social enterprises were really excellent. One has developed a system for delivery of affordable household goods and food for people in rural communities in Kenya who don’t have postal addresses, no internet, no delivery service – she called it M-Commerce. It uses a text system with collection points which enables people to order and receive goods and saves them money. So clever!
A topic that keeps emerging is social enterprise awareness which I feel continues to be the biggest barrier to the development of the sector. Without comprehensive understanding of what social enterprise is about and how it delivers social value social enterprises can’t achieve sales which is fundamental to their growth. There must be an opportunity with all of the networks now operating across the world to address this – as we do in Birmingham with City Drive. Imagine the impact we could have by working on this together!