Over 70 social entrepreneurs gathered in Kigali last week as part of the annual Social Venture Challenge. Following the competition, 32 contestants walked away with awards on Saturday night. Most of the scholars awarded are involved in projects inspired by challenges they have observed first-hand in their communities.
Some of the solutions are themed around; helping smallholder farmers adopt modern technologies to improve productivity, educating communities to end female genital mutilation, and addressing mental health through tele-medicine services.
With the fellowships awarded to the winners, it means that they will be able to activate their projects and possibly turn them into big projects that will create positive changes in their communities.
Through the fellowships, the winning ventures will get seed funding of up to US$5,000 (about Rwf4.3 million) each, mentorship and access to a wide network of people. According to the organisers, the first two editions empowered more than 30 entrepreneurs.
Claudette Igiraneza and her team of two young ladies, Ubah Ali and Kawsar Muuse, are some of this year’s winners. Igiraneza is a Rwandan who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the American University of Beirut. She teamed up with two Somali girls to initiate ‘Solace for Somaliland Girls’, a social venture that seeks to address all forms of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somaliland communities.
Their project is an idea which Ubah Ali said advocates for the Somali women whose rights have for long been denied, and cultural norms are making life harder for them to thrive in their communities.
The team had earlier revealed to The New Times that both Ali and Muuse are actually victims of FGM, but they were determined to become social entrepreneurs. FGM, also known as female circumcision, includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
It is estimated that around 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.
Igiraneza urged African entrepreneurs to look beyond their communities if they want to make a much bigger impact, emphasising why her idea addresses Somali communities rather than Rwandan communities. The three girls are not just excited about the seed funding, but more importantly, the mentorship, which they said is very critical in the implementation of their idea.
According to Ashley Collier, the Manager of Youth Engagement and Networks at the Foundation, the competition is trying to address the challenges that young people may face in the process of implementing their business ideas. This year’s challenge attracted 272 applications. The competition occurred along the annual Baobab Summit which ended over the weekend.