At the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) last month, I had the honor of joining President Obama, corporate leaders, and entrepreneurs—including several Echoing Green Fellows—to collaborate on growing the global entrepreneurial movement. Held in Nairobi, this year’s convening was strongly focused on Africa as a hub of innovation in entrepreneurship. Over the past few years, Echoing Green has noticed steady growth in the number of Fellowship applications we receive from East African entrepreneurs, and we’ve seen growth in the infrastructure and support for these leaders and their businesses. The presence of the GES Summit in Nairobi, a social impact hub, underscores this fact. As I represented Echoing Green and our efforts to support leaders who bring fresh perspectives to solve age old problems, I was inspired to be among so many others recognizing the extraordinary potential of innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa.
Key to ensuring the success and impact of these innovative enterprises is to invest in the leadership development of these entrepreneurs and provide them access to a network of support. It was encouraging to see members of the Echoing Green community doing their part to foster partnerships and connections. Several Fellows and partners were recognized for their innovative solutions during the Summit:
- Jehiel Oliver, 2015 Global Fellow and founder of Hello Tractor, participated in the opening plenary panel with President Obama and President Kenyatta. Jehiel, one of three young entrepreneurs selected to appear on stage with these heads of state, shared the ambitions of Hello Tractor to combat food insecurity in Nigeria using SMS technology and their signature “Smart Tractors” to service over 100,000 farmers.
- The work of 2010 Global Fellows Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner, founders of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), were acknowledged by both President Kenyatta and President Obama. Kennedy was able to tell President Obama about SHOFCO’s tuition-free girls’ school, holistic community development model, and hopes for expansion during a meeting with the Members of Civil Society in Kenya. The President’s advice for them? If SHOFCO can work in Kibera, it can work anywhere across Africa.
- Kwami Williams, 2014 Global Fellow and co-founder of MoringaConnect, delivered a pitch that landed him the Africa Impact Prize Award of $10,000. Kwami and co-founder Emily Cunningham are working with smallholder farmers growing moringa trees in Ghana to turn the seeds into high-value oils. Their goal is to eradicate poverty and alleviate hunger.
- Lindsay Stradley, co-founder of 2011 Global Fellow organization Sanergy, was invited to participate on a panel at the GES Youth and Women Event. She discussed how entrepreneurship can be leveraged to address social challenges. Sanergy is building a sanitation network in Africa by designing its own toilets, franchising them out to entrepreneurs then converting the waste into fertilizer sold to farmers.
These social entrepreneurs and their organizations are prime examples of what can emerge when partners recognize and invest in innovative leaders and their bold ideas. In order to continue the momentum of GES 2015, it is imperative to keep the connections and conversations going. Our collaboration will help ease the challenges faced by entrepreneurs striving to make positive change in Africa, and create further movement for leaders like Jehiel, Kennedy, Jessica, Kwami, and Lindsay.