African Social Entrepreneurs 2012

Five social entrepreneurs were presented the award of Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 for Africa by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship yesterday in Addis Ababa at the World Economic Forum on Africa.

They were presented their awards in the context of Africa`s Leadership plenary, to underscore their importance in the economic, political and social future of the continent. We were also honored to have with us at the awards ceremony President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Nigeria, President Jakaya M. Kikwete of Tanzania and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Sole Rebels, Ethiopia Sole Rebels taps into Ethiopia`s rich artisan heritage to create durable, stylish and eco-friendly footwear for international markets. Sole Rebels offers training and employment to hundreds of underprivileged workers in Ethiopia, creating a new employment model for local companies. It is committed to a zero carbon footprint, through practices such as use of recycled automobile tires for the rubber soles.

Sameer Hajee, Nuru Energy Group, Rwanda Electricity grids do not reach many homes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nuru Energy works with micro-entrepreneurs to disseminate its Nuru LED Light, which can be recharged using an off-grid, pedal-powered platform. The Nuru Light provides up to 26 hours of light with a full charge and costs one-sixth of kerosene to recharge. To date, Nuru Energy has set up 230 Village Level Entrepreneurs, who have sold 20,000 Nuru Lights.

Paul Scott Matthew, North Star Alliance, South Africa In the 1990s, Paul Matthew observed the alarming impact of HIV/AIDS on truck drivers and other mobile workers. The North Star Alliance provides these communities with sustainable access to high quality health and safety services through a network of interlinked clinics known as "Roadside Wellness Centers". Since opening its first Center in 2005 in Malawi, the North Star network has grown to 24 Centers in 10 countries.

Andrew Muir, Wilderness Foundation, South Africa An environmental activist, conservationist and community leader, Andrew Muir dedicates his life to conservation and social development. The Wilderness Foundation has protected over 200,000 hectares of wilderness and more than 100,000 disadvantaged youth have benefited from its educational and job programmes. In addition, the Wilderness Foundation pioneered the Green Leaf Environmental Accreditation Standard, which certifies and monitors the environmental sustainability business practices of companies across Africa.

Seri Youlou and Thomas Granier, Association la Voûte Nubienne, Burkina Faso More than a decade ago, Seri Youlou, a farmer from Burkina Faso, and Thomas Granier, a French mason, built a Nubian vault home in Burkina Faso that inspired them to establish Association la Voûte Nubienne. By training farmers in the construction of homes with vaulted earth-brick roofs they are providing a source of income to farmers during the off-season, and creating a market for affordable, ecologically sustainable housing. Today, more than 200 masons have built over 1300 Nubian Vault homes in West Africa.

In the midst of great challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa, I am inspired by the achievements of these dynamic individuals and their social impact. I am filled with immense hope for the future of the continent. It is with deep pride and honor that I welcome these social entrepreneurs into the Schwab Foundation family.

Author: Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship