Ethiopia’s Green Face Trading and Rwanda’s UZURI K&Y will each receive $25,000 after participating in the Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship East Africa Accelerator which aims to strengthen the capacity of social enterprises in East Africa in order to improve the lives of vulnerable communities.
Green Face Trading works with unemployed youth to counter deforestation by providing alternative means of income through organic honey production. UZURI K&Y employs women and youth to produce footwear out of recycled rubber tires. Uzuri K&Y was founded by Kevine Kagirimpundu .
Jony Meshesha said Green Face Trading plans to use the seed funding to expand their supply chain to reach 2,000 rural youth in nearby villages. “I am from a rural area, so I know the pain of rural unemployment. We are currently working in three villages, but youth in other villages are asking to join our sustainable supply chain as well. This money will allow us to reach more rural youth than we have been able to in the past.”
The 19-week long accelerator program began in the midst of COVID-19 in April 2020 and graduated 19 teams of social entrepreneurs from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
“Our commitment to social entrepreneurs is based in our belief that the world’s biggest challenges need diverse, local problem solvers, and this is what led us to partner with Acumen to support social enterprises in East Africa,” said Åsa Skogström Feldt, head of IKEA Social Entrepreneurship B.V at Inter IKEA Group. “Through our co-worker engagement we have been able to bring IKEA’s capabilities and resources to help scale social enterprises across the region, which is especially important during the challenges of COVID-19.”
As COVID-19 exacerbated both the business challenges social entrepreneurs and the communities they serve, Acumen Academy and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship quickly co-created the accelerator program combined with online learning and peer engagement to help social entrepreneurs develop scalable business models and adapt to changing circumstances in light of the pandemic.
“This Accelerator is just one of many ways Acumen Academy accompanies social entrepreneurs in East Africa,” said Jo Opot, Acumen’s head of leadership and strategic partnerships in East Africa. “We’re proud of how the cohort persisted through these challenges because of their commitment to serve poor and marginalized communities in the region. The world needs more builders like them.”
Acumen Academy has led nine other accelerators, but this was the first that they have designed and led in collaboration with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship.
IKEA provided Acumen with business continuity grants for 75 percent of the accelerator cohort in addition to the $50,000 in seed funding.