Sankalp Forum Africa: this February, the global social entrepreneurship platform comes to Nairobi

This February, t
he Sankalp Forum Initiative (one of the world’s largest platforms supporting social enterprises, impact investing and inclusive development) is coming to Africa! February 12 and 13 the first ever Sankalp Africa Summit will take place in Nairobi, Kenya. VC4Africa members are invited to attend with 50% discount on the registration fee (see below)! And watch out for VC4Africa ventures such as Wecyclers, Penda Health, and Karibu Solar, selected as Finalists of the Sankalp Awards for Africa!

We had a chance to catch up with Aparajita Agrawal, Director of the Sankalp Forum Initiative and Intellecap; and Dipika Prasad, Senior Associate Consulting at Intellecap.

Dipika Prasad

Director Aparajita Agrawal

Please introduce the Sankalp Forum and Intellecap?

“Intellecap is a development advisory firm focused on supporting businesses that have a positive social and environmental impact. We’re a team of over 100 professionals and have worked with over 120 clients across Asia and Africa. Our major business lines include consulting services and investment banking services. We have also launched critical market building initiatives in India; including Sankalp Forum and an angel network called I3N – Intellecap Impact Investment Network.

Sankalp Forum was initiated in India in 2009 by Intellecap with support from banks, private foundations and investors. Over the past 5 years, it has built one of the world’s largest high impact SME focused platforms that has supported over 900 SMEs with connections to over 400 investors, mentors, and business support providers. Over 40 SMEs supported by us have gone on to raise over US$ 120 milion in funding. A number of landmark Indian industry initiatives have launched at Sankalp, including the National Association of Social Enterprises and the Indian Impact Investors Council.”

Why is theSankalp Forum coming to Africa?

“As an ecosystem builder in India, we have had some learning from failures and successes that are relevant for other developing countries. At the same time we’re also keen to learn from “what’s working” in other parts of Africa and Asia. With this objective, we are expanding our operations and work through Intellecap as well as Sankalp Forum globally.

We continue to focus on developing economies and are keen to build a South-South corridor in inclusive development. We are launching this corridor effort with Sankalp Forum Africa; and have started some initial on-ground work there in the past 4 months. We have built a network of over 100 high impact SMEs from 12 African countries and will be convening our first ever Sankalp Africa Summit on Feb 12 and 13 in Nairobi, Kenya.

As our work in Africa gathers momentum, we hope to have a stronger on-ground presence in Africa around the year. For future annual convenings, we are open to hosting them at other regional hubs – in West or South Africa.”


Why is it important to promote ‘South-South cooperation’?

“Countries of the Global South may have vastly different local cultures and contexts, but they face similar social and environmental challenges that need to be solved under severe resource and time constraints. Countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and Kenya are emerging as social innovation hotspots; but largely in isolation from each other. There is tremendous value in learning –from each other both at the macro-economic level, amongst enablers (like VC4Africa for instance), and at the entrepreneur level. Why should we reinvent the wheel each time?

Operationally, this learning can translate to exchanging best practices; technology transfer; joint ventures; trade relationships – the list goes on. This is great news for investors, because they are already thinking about “regional portfolios”. Fund managers like Grassroots Business Fund, Omidyar Network and ResponsAbility already have portfolio companies across the Global South and hopefully many more will come up soon.”

What can both investors and entrepreneurs in Africa get out of the summit in Nairobi?

“Sankalp Africa Summit is scheduled for Feb 12 and 13 in Nairobi. We’ve designed the convening in a way that encourages more action and more collaboration. One of the key highlights of Sankalp Africa Summit will be the Angaza Immersion Experience, which is a 2 day pre-conference journey for angel investors and startup supporters keen to enter the East African market. “Angaza” is Swahili for “enlighten”; and will involve closed door meetings with local angels and incubators, field visits to high potential social enterprises, and support from the Sankalp team in setting up useful meetings while the participants are in Nairobi. We’d love to invite VC4Africa members interested in angel investing to sign up for Angaza, and also participate in a pre-trip webinar that TONIIC and I3N are hosting on Jan 9. Write to us for an invite.

Aside from Angaza, we have partners like GIIN, Overseas Development Institute, ANDE, One Acre Fund and Strathmore Business School organizing convenings before and after the conference. So the entire week of Feb 10 to 14 will see over 350 inclusive development, impact investment, social enterprise, and SME support practitioners gather in Nairobi. We’re quite excited to see the industry come together this way!”


What developments in social entrepreneurship do you see as opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors?

“Over the past few years we’ve seen some great new models that ride heavily on technology innovation to solve social and environmental challenges. It’s also very interesting to see big business and social enterprises start to work together. We’ve seen some examples in India where GE and Embrace partnered; and State Bank of India and FINO. In Africa, the AngloAmerican Zimele Funds for SMEs is doing some great work. Witnessing some of these partnerships beyond the “usual group of suspects” is always very encouraging.

I think we have also seen a lot of young and fresh talent pick social entrepreneurship as a career of choice. We’re seeing the cream of ivy league and top management colleges knocking on our doors today and that’s a far cry from how things were five years ago.

For entrepreneurs – there are suddenly a whole lot of supporters from business plan competitions to accelerators to incubators and others wanting to support them. This much institutional support has never existed for startups; and most of this support comes at little or no cost to the entrepreneurs. So it’s a great time for entrepreneurs to pick and choose what kind of support they want and on what terms. It is important to make those choices carefully of course. Entrepreneurs should also be aware that there are over US$ 2 billion in impact investments and US$ 13 billion in mainstream private equity investments earmarked for Africa. That’s a  significant amount of capital and a great opportunity for those building and scaling businesses over the next 3-4 years.

To my mind, the opportunity for investors is really in the small ticket and very early stage enterprises – also popularly called angel investing. We’re seeing high net worth individuals keen to make angel investments in social enterprises and would really like to see the trend catch on. Our angel network has been speaking with several groups in the African region and we’re finding that this is a common trend across both regions.”

What kinds of developments in Africa excite you?

“Social entrepreneurship is booming in Africa – it has always had a leadership position in ICT and technology, and now we’re seeing similar activity in healthcare, clean energy, agriculture and financial services as well. What’s interesting is most entrepreneurs are young, the 100+ applications we received for Sankalp Awards in Africa were predominantly from entrepreneurs between the ages of 25 and 35. Most are active in 2 or more ventures. As Bright B Simmons puts it so eloquently – they’re not building just businesses but “profit ecosystems”.

Also, these entrepreneurs are not constrained by geo-political borders. Most of them are building institutions and business that are pan-African and may even work in other developing markets. It’s fantastic to get that into a company’s DNA from day one.

Finally, we see early signs of a quite sophisticated group of “intermediaries” emerging that are looking to bring entrepreneurs and investors closer to each other. VC4Africa is a fantastic example of that. So are on-ground incubators like Mara Launchpad, Growth Africa, Impact Amplifier; Angel Networks like Angel Fair, Africa Angels Network, Lagos Angel Network, Zenzele Circle and others; and investment advisors like Open Capital. This is a great trend for both investors and entrepreneurs.”

What is your message to the VC4Africa community?

“For the entrepreneurs – thank you for the incredible work you do. It is not easy, not everyone can do it, and we’re all here because you are. For the investors and mentors – you are pioneering a new model of capitalism which will create a more prosperous Africa. More power to all of you!

Finally at Intellecap we’re very keen to partner with and learn from you. So drop us a line in case you’d like to have a chat; or come join the Sankalp Africa Summit 2014. We have a 50% discount on the registration fee for VC4Africa members. Click here to register and use discount code VC4A.”

Sankalp Africa Summit will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, February 12 and 13. VC4Africa members who want to attend with 50% discount on the registration fee should click here to register and use discount code VC4A.