- Written by Rachael Millson
Social Enterprise is a new concept in Sudan but it’s one that’s attracting a significant amount of interest. Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world and faces many social and environmental challenges. High youth unemployment, gender inequality, human rights, climate change, public health, and pollution all present themselves as opportunities to budding social entrepreneurs.
Social enterprise provides a new way to find solutions and contribute positively to the socio-economic conditions within Sudan, improving lives and protecting the environment.
Speaking at the monthly policy dialogue, I met with representatives from Higher Education, government, UN, financial institutions, social entrepreneurs and the private sector. I shared the Academy’s experience of how social enterprise has been gathering momentum across the African region. There was enthusiasm in the room for agreeing what social enterprise means within the Sudanese context and building a supportive, coordinated eco-system that can adequately support this nascent sector. It’s a challenging environment to work within.
Government approval is essential for smooth operation, and it’s certainly encouraging to see the appetite for dialogue. The British Council’s Social Enterprise Programme in Sudan is leading the efforts to lobby for relevant policy on social enterprise.
Of course, it only makes sense to put in legislation once you have some critical mass of social enterprises operating in-country. By listening to the challenges social entrepreneurs face in running their businesses, it will become clear which elements need to be prioritised into policy. The British Council have undertaken a mapping study of social enterprises in order to gain lucidity on this issue. On day two of my visit, more than 400 people attended the British Council’s monthly public forum on Social Enterprise, with the topic being the role of academic institutions and curricula in supporting the growth of Social Enterprise.
It was amazing to see so many young people with innovative ideas on how to solve some of Sudan’s pressing social and environmental problems using socially enterprising principles, and I was delighted to showcase some of Africa’s finest social enterprise examples. Deaf Hands @ Work and Iyeza Health in South Africa, Jacaranda Health in Kenya, Tebita Ambulance in Ethiopia and WeCyclers in Nigeria all provide great inspiration to those starting on this journey.
"I’m honoured to have shared the stage with Dr Neimat Abdlalah from the University of Khartoum and Dr Mustafa Aljak from Sudan University of Science and Technology"
Meeting Sudan's Social Entrepreneurs
Perhaps the highlight of my trip, however, was the opportunity to meet with some of Sudan’s leading social entrepreneurs, pioneering a new way to do business that provides huge inspiration.
After decades of drought and deforestation, millions of hectares of Sudan's semi-desert have turned into desert. The sand has swallowed homes and farmland, forcing many villagers to move southwards. Experts say that without intervention, parts of Sudan could become uninhabitable as a result of climate change. Mohammed Alhatim Ahmed Ibrahim and Hatem Mubarak Hassan of Massive Dynamics have risen to that challenge and designed drone technology that captures data about key problem areas and drops acacia seeds to the remotest areas inaccessible by road, in order to reforest and combat the problem.
Alaa Salih Hamadto is CEO and co-founder of social business and eco-friendly food company Solar Foods who use industrial solar dryers to dry organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and meat.
"It is very hard to lose a part of your country, a part of your civilisation and your culture, every day" - Hatem Mubarak
In conversation with DAL Food
On my last day in Khartoum we were hosted by DAL Food, one of Sudan’s largest private sector firms. DAL Food’s purpose and the reason for being is about providing “Good Food for Better Lives” and it’s a principle they take very seriously.
I was delighted to share some fantastic examples of food-focussed social enterprises with them operating around Africa – Kwithu Kitchens in Malawi, Question Coffee in Rwanda, Downies and Brownies, I Love Coffee and Y Waste from South Africa, and Divine Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. Our conversation focussed on how corporates can best work with social enterprises to support their growth and impact potential. Four main crossover points are procurement (consciously and strategically including social enterprises in supply chains), providing finance, developing long-term partnerships, and providing or financing learning programmes or business support services.
DAL is one of a growing number of private sector firms looking to contribute towards the betterment of their country, beyond providing employment (Their 5500 employees, by the way, are paid significantly more than average, as a commitment to fair wages and quality of life). DAL shared with us how they incorporate socially enterprising thinking into their business model in several ways. For example, they have trained 230,000 women from disadvantaged communities in cooking and baking skills, for free. Many of these women have gone on to create income streams using their new skills. There’s a business benefit to DAL, of course, as these women will likely go on to become DAL customers, buying flour, sugar or other ingredients such as pasta. But the social impact is not to be sneezed at.
At DAL Food they believe that for a fair and equitable workplace to be established, equal employment opportunity strategies should be implemented. It is the right of all people with disabilities to have the opportunity to be engaged in a productive and meaningful employment. One of their projects, the Coca Cola Bus Stop Project has supported over 200 people with physical, intellectual and hearing disabilities to run a small business at bus stops.
Keep up the good work DAL Food and let’s see if there are even more ways to incorporate social enterprise into what you do.
There’s certainly huge potential for social enterprise in Sudan. Thanks for the inspiration. Let’s watch this space!
Get in touch with Rachael to find out more about our african hubs: firstname.lastname@example.org