149, Sara Leedom, African Entrepreneur Collective | The Real Job Creators: African Entrepreneurs

Jan 23, 2017, 08:00 AM

African Entrepreneur Collective builds the capacity of African entrepreneurs to create jobs. Sara Leedom has a history of working in the social justice space in the US and in India. She worked on affordable housing for those with HIV. She worked on teen pregnancy prevention. She worked on education equity. In 2012, Sara and a friend, Julienne Oyler were traveling through Mali. As they got to know their tour guide, he revealed that he wanted to launch a company. At the time, Mali was experiencing political turmoil. The country was under trade sanctions from France. To make matters worse, the country was experiencing a severe drought. The entrepreneur acknowledged the harsh conditions and yet, he also knew that if he could start and scale a company, he could create jobs for himself and for others. And yet, he was unclear on how to start. Over the next three days, Sara and Julienne walked him through the process of putting together a business plan. They loved the experience of mentoring this entrepreneur. They immediately saw the potential of working with other entrepreneurs. They recognized that building the capacity of African entrepreneurs was a path to create jobs. The Problem of Youth Unemployment There are 290 million young people, age 15 – 29, in Africa. Every day, more young people are joining the workforce. Small and medium size enterprises aren’t growing fast enough to create sufficient jobs for the workforce. Most young people are ambitious and enterprising. They have the hustle-and-grind mindset, but often lack the business skills, the financial resources or the networks to grow a business. That’s where the African Entrepreneur Collective comes in. African Entrepreneur Collective works in Rwanda and Tanzania. They identify young entrepreneurs and give them the tools and resources needed to growth their businesses. In doing so, they create jobs for young people across the continent. African Entrepreneur Collective is a hybrid social enterprise. They are hired by the entrepreneurs to provide services such as growth planning, HR planning, tax advice and marketing services. African Entrepreneur Collective also runs a loan fund. To keep fees within the reach of most entrepreneurs, African Entrepreneur Collective also seeks philanthropic capital. In the past four years, African Entrepreneur Collective has worked with more than 250 entrepreneurs. Those entrepreneurs have created more than 3,000 jobs. Many of the entrepreneurs they work with are in labor-intensive industries such as agriculture, retail and manufacturing. While these industries lack some of the cache of tech startups, they are powerful instruments in job creation. More Stories of Sustainable Development Goal 1, No Poverty In 2017, we’re emphasizing the Sustainable Development Goals. In January, we’re focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 1, No Poverty. Today’s episode is the fourth in this series. You can read more about Sustainable Development Goal 1 here. Or learn about the Sustainable Development Goals here. Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sara Leedom “In Africa, there aren’t nearly enough jobs.” “It’s really going to be young people in communities who hire each other.” “One of the things I love about doing work here is, there is so much hustle.” “We have a debt fund. We invest directly in our clients.” “When entrepreneurs are ready to do the work, we’re ready to be there with them.” “We really focus on local entrepreneurs.” “We see African entrepreneurs as the ones who understand their community best.” “Our target market is a young, aspiring African entrepreneur.” “We trust entrepreneurs to know what their community needs.” “About 40% of our entrepreneurs are in agriculture.” “Social justice has been a continuous thread throughout my career.” “We’re still trying to figure things out as we go.” “It has this echoing positive social benefit.” “You never know who is going to walk into the office.” “Just start.” “Figure out what...