Meet the Social Entrepreneurs Leading Africa’s Transformation

  • Nine of the World Economic Forum’s 17 global Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2017 are actively leading positive transformation in Africa, and achieving outcomes that have eluded governments and conventional businesses
  • Success stories include tackling poaching, mobilizing health workers, reuniting refugees, using fingerprinting to give people an official ID for the first time, and delivering medicines in rugged terrain using drones
  • Members of the Forum’s Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship from all over the world will convene in Durban South Africa, on 1-3 May for the Solutions Summit, a meeting aimed at scaling and mainstreaming social innovation for Africa’s development
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Durban, South Africa, 26 April 2017 – Nine individuals representing seven organizations, all with operations in sub-Saharan Africa, have been recognized as Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. These nine individuals are among 17 recognized globally as Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2017.

Social entrepreneurs establish and run outstanding, innovative businesses that benefit low-income, marginalized and vulnerable people. Members of this year’s cohort, along with other members of the community, will play a leading role at a special Solutions Summit that will take place in Durban, South Africa, on 1-3 May. This meeting, convened by the Schwab Foundation and supported by the Motsepe Foundation, will take place just ahead of the World Economic Forum on Africa, and aims to find ways of scaling the work of the social entrepreneurs to help them have a more profound impact on society.

The Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2017 that are active in sub-Saharan Africa are:

  • Vivek Maru and Sonkita Conteh, Namati, Sierra Leone/USA: Namati trains and supports local paralegals to assist the billions of people worldwide who live outside the protection of the law. Focusing on three main justice challenges – land and environment, access to decent healthcare, and citizenship rights – it has helped over 90,000 clients in 10 countries.
  • Keller Rinaudo, Zipline, Rwanda/USA: Zipline is the first company to use drones to deliver vaccines, medicine and blood for transfusions for use in rural Rwanda. Each drone, or “zip”, flies at 100 km/hour, dropping its cargo with a small parachute. Zipline’s partnership with the Rwanda government covers 20 hospitals and health centres.
  • Eleanor Allen, Water for People, USA: This company helps 4 million people across nine countries access water and sanitation services by helping governments build institutions and authorities capable of delivering sustainable services. Through its Everyone Forever model, Water for People aims to help 40 million people.
  • Raj Panjabi, Last Mile Health, Liberia/USA: Last Mile Health pioneered a model to recruit, train, equip and manage community health workers in rural Liberia, a country where 46% of women report having lost a child under the age of five. The company’s partnership with the government mobilized 1,300 health workers to help stop the spread of Ebola. Its new aim is to deploy over 4,000 professionals to reach over 1.2 million Liberians.
  • Christopher and David Mikkelsen, REFUNITE, Denmark: The company helps refugees locate missing family members and other loved ones via a free and easy-to-use mobile platform. REFUNITE and has reconnected more than 38,000 family members to date.
  • Toby Norman, Simprints, United Kingdom: Simprints brings relief to the 1.5 billion people in the world that currently lack an official ID by developing an affordable and secure open-source fingerprint system that is four times cheaper and 228% more accurate than existing biometric tools.
  • Dale Lewis, COMACO, Zambia: COMACO tackles poaching by helping farmers improve their livelihoods by accessing higher-value markets for products such as peanut butter, rice and honey. To date, COMACO has registered 140,000 farmers committed to conservation farming practices and wildlife preservation.

At the heart of the Solutions Summit will be an effort by social entrepreneurs, plus members of the Forum’s Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers communities, to advance “systems change” in social entrepreneurship, in other words uniting relevant stakeholders behind particular ways of solving big social challenges in order to reach a critical mass in terms of people. Research suggests that today, too many promising social enterprises are prevented from achieving true scale as they are built on models borrowed from the private sector which are not suited to social entrepreneurship, such as branch replication, franchising or open-source dissemination.

More than 1,000 participants are taking part in the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa, from 3 to 5 May 2017. The theme of the meeting is “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership”.

The Co-Chairs of the World Economic on Africa are: Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International; Siyabonga Gama, Group Chief Executive Officer, Transnet; Frédéric Lemoine, Chairman of the Executive Board, Wendel; Rich Lesser, Global Chief Executive Officer and President, Boston Consulting Group; and Ulrich Spiesshofer, President and Chief Executive Officer, ABB.

The World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world, is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. (