Networking event by African Chamber of Commerce focuses on social entrepreneurship projects

By Yang Lan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/9 18:18:39

At a recent networking event by the African Chamber of Commerce (AFCHAM), guest speakers discussed the development of social entrepreneurship in Africa and shared their views introducing their social entrepreneurship projects.

According to D. Nkwetato Tamonkia Esq., chairperson of the chamber, the organization is the first African chamber of commerce to open in China. Its main goal is to attract people who are interested in doing business in African countries and provide information that people need.

One of the guest speakers was Jovita Tjandra from SolarBuddy.org. According to its website, SolarBuddy.org is a nonprofit organization that provides solar energy solutions to people who are suffering from what it calls energy poverty.

There are still communities in rural areas of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that depend on kerosene for lighting. However, kerosene poses great danger to users, Tjandra said.

"Some people spend up to 40 percent of their family income on buying kerosene, but 4.3 million people die every year because of kerosene from accidents or breathing in the fumes," Tjandra said, adding that many of them are women and children.

To help children who live in rural areas lacking clean or sustainable lighting, the Solar Buddy project was created. The founders built small solar-powered lamps and sent them to areas of light poverty so that children could use them instead of kerosene. Currently, the project mainly sends lamps to Asian and African countries and is expanding its distribution.

D. Nkwetato Tamonkia, chairperson of AFCHAM Photos: Yang Lan/GT



Empowering women

The other project presented at the gathering was Foundation Combi. One of the founders, Agrius Oleme, is from a poor area in Cameroon. Oleme is deeply involved in the French community in Shanghai, and he found out that people here were participating in many charity activities in China. He began to work with them.

"I found out that some people in China have the same problems that we have back home, so together with some friends, we created the Foundation Combi," Oleme said. At first, they tried to help people in need. They collected goods and sent them to Oleme's hometown.

From observation, they realized that women had little access to financial or social resources in their patriarchal society. But, the better-educated youth were those whose mothers had some income. So, they decided to work on empowering women.

"The more women have power, the better education the children can get," said Oleme.

They organized women in associations and helped them earn an income. The income was divided into two parts. The first part was given back to them for their daily expenses, and the second part was saved for tuition for their children.

"The first year we started this, we were able to send 20 children to school," Oleme said. Eventually, more women began to apply to the foundation for help.

Then, with the help of AFCHAM, Foundation Combi conducted a survey.

"We told ourselves that it was not good to implement what we have in mind into the community," Oleme said. "We should go to the community and ask them what they want."

The results surprised them.

"It was a kindergarten. About 86 percent of women from the village said that they wanted a kindergarten," Oleme said. "It was unbelievable."

The second thing that village women wanted was financing. After building a kindergarten, the members of Foundation Combi invited local women to join a corporation.

"If they want micro-financing, they need to know that they need to pay some interest on the money," Oleme said.

So, the foundation changed from a charity to a social enterprise to get more people involved and enable people to earn more. Starting with a capital investment of 100,000 yuan ($14,997), the foundation gave small loans to local women, and 95 percent of the women paid back their debts.

"The reason why we often say 'Mother Africa' is that our mothers are the power of Africa," Nkwetato said.

After the presentation of the two projects, feedback from the audience was very positive, and they stayed to ask questions and interact with the presenters. Through these projects, AFCHAM tries to affect society positively.

"Africa has been in a period of free donation for very long time. We believe that right now it is good to help someone, but it is better to show people how to do what they are doing as help," Nkwetato said. "That is the kind of vision that we are trying to promote."

Agrius Oleme from Foundation Combi



 

Jovita Tjandra (left) from SolarBuddy.org talks with a guest at the networking event.



 
Newspaper headline: Connecting China and Africa


Posted in: Metro Shanghai, City Panorama

blog comments powered by Disqus