Sankalp Africa 2016: Pushing the Frontiers of Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Africa

By Kanika Kumar, Sankalp Forum Manager, Intellecap

Sankalp Africa 2016 Main Plenary Day

Sankalp Africa 2016 Main Plenary Day

High energy, multicultural, dynamic, fun and hopeful – these are words I would use to describe the three days at Sankalp Africa Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. Located in a secluded patch of green amidst the chaos of Nairobi, over 850 people from 30 countries came together to discuss the best way forward for sustainable entrepreneurship and equitable growth on the African continent.

Honest conversations and thought-leading questions were brought forward on a range of issues, from the impact of soft money on the entrepreneurial culture in Africa to last mile delivery of goods and services. From sector focused conversations to impact measurement, impact bonds, SME financing and the digital economy, all discussions were centered on building an enabling environment for the African entrepreneur to move from idea to scale.

As people traveled from around the world to attend the Summit, the 13 Sankalp Africa Award finalists prepared their business models and financial models for their game changing, innovative and sustainable solutions. Sankalp Africa Awards announced The Recycler as the winner and 4G Capital, Shield Finance and Maramoja as runners-up.

To continue with the focus on enterprises, Sankalp Forum created a platform to understand their needs, challenges and growth potential. Towards this end, Intellecap launched a report on the enterprise landscape in East Africa. Key findings from the report pointed to the fact that impact enterprises engage with the low-income populations across three levers: Access, Ability, and Knowledge. Access enterprises provide critical products and services to low-income and underserved populations. Ability enterprises increase their capacity to earn higher incomes through training or by engaging with them as partners. Lastly, knowledge enterprises build awareness and markets and encourage behavior change.

Sankalp 2016 Exhibition and Field-84

Sankalp Africa 2016 Exhibition Field

Key takeaways from the Summit were:

  • Conscientious entrepreneurship can play an integral role in driving economic shifts in capital flows, building sustainability and enabling resilience. For example:Entrepreneurs are increasingly focused on producing for excluded populations and adding value instead of extracting it.
  • An increasing number of global actors with tremendous expertise and knowledge are converging to build efficiencies in local markets.
  • Collaborations and partnerships are key to enabling scale – locally relevant solutions are created with global expertise and built for scale through strategic alliances.

While these trends are extremely encouraging, some challenges still exist:

  • Most ventures die in the “valley of death” (between idea and go-to-market).
  • Access to “free money” is distorting the market.
  • Consumer markets are increasingly becoming import-reliant with limited traction for local products/solutions.

At the Sankalp Africa Summit we called out to partners, thought leaders, experts, entrepreneurs and innovators to work together to build a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs, including:

  • Building a truly GLOCAL ecosystem where global actors participate as catalysts with intellect, capital and networks that ultimately transition to locally led efforts
  • Mobilizing domestic capital that is more contextual and market-based and where the return can be channeled locally
  • Continuing to build local innovations for global markets

Sankalp concluded with a sense of hope and a promise to collaborate for the future of African entrepreneurship in a way that is conscientious, locally based and sustainable for long-term growth and impact.

To catch highlights of the Summit, look at our photos here. You can also stay updated and contribute to the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.