Job creation, the launch of new products on the market, technological development and business digitisation are some of the results achieved by the business acceleration programme launched by E4Impact in the area and supported by Eni. To promote the emergence of a new generation of businessmen and women in Africa, since 2018 we have supported selected companies in becoming catalysts for social and environmental change by leveraging their good practices, know-how and skills. During the two years of the initiative, we helped to promote high-impact entrepreneurship in Kenya, provided financial support, created new jobs for the new generation and promoted the internationalisation of companies in strategic sectors for the Kenya-Italy collaboration.
The project, which was launched thanks to the E4Impact Foundation and CeSPI (International Policy Study Centre), received 823,000 euros in funding from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), the Sacred Heart Catholic University of Milan and Eni Kenya, as a private funder, which paid seed grants (start-up grants) to the most deserving companies totalling 150,000 euros.
The concept of shared value can be defined as policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates.
The E4Impact Accelerator was established in 2018, in Nairobi, Kenya. Each year it works with 20 Kenyan companies in an effort to help them grow. The programme offers personalised training as its main services and a network service with investors, the market and international companies. In addition, E4Impact manages start-up financing, ICT and satellite communication services, professional services and co-working spaces. It offers personalised sessions, available both face-to-face and in webinar form. Entrepreneurs are also matched with mentors to share knowledge and skills with startuppers in a similar sector.
One of the key differentiators the E4Impact Accelerator offers is the link with Europe. One fruitful partnership came from a Kenyan company that deals with the problem of fruit waste, through the use of mangoes for the domestic market and export. It was put in touch with an Italian company that distributes dried tropical fruit in Italy, creating a market link between two companies in constant growth. Three other companies are in negotiations with potential buyers.
Finally, one of the challenges SMEs face is fundraising. E4Impact has established a robust database of both local and international investors, some of whom have successfully invested in some of the companies. The investments have been both debt and equity.
Through a partnership with the Standard Media Group, the second largest media house in Kenya, the Accelerator attracted multiple applications. The call for applications was shared on TV, Radio, in newspapers and through various online platforms. To identify the top 20 companies, E4Impact set up a jury of representatives from different sectors.
To apply for the programme, businesses must satisfy the following criteria:
a strong entrepreneurial team
a defined social/environmental impact.
There was a focus on mission-driven businesses that deal with disadvantaged communities in informal settlements and with the approaching end of the first accelerator stage, the E4Impact team plans a second phase consisting of:
launching a third cohort in collaboration with its partners
including more companies in the programme
supporting technology companies
building better partnerships with Italian businesses and Associations
revising the programme to make it more focused on developing different sectors.
E4Impact supports companies that produce sustainably grown fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. These companies collaborate with small farmers, integrating their supply and, in return, offering them agronomy support, consultancy services and a stable market. E4Impact also supports companies that supply fertilizers directly to the villages, helping to increase the local harvest and farmers' income while improving soil quality.
E4Impact supports start-ups specialised in the production of natural products and superfruits, indirectly contributing to the subsistence of small direct producers in rural western Kenya from which these companies purchase raw materials. In parallel, these companies support the employment of disadvantaged women and young people and promote environmentally friendly agricultural practices. E4Impact trains small-time entrepreneurs, helping them to define and fine-tune their financial model, business model and improve from a technological innovation and sustainability perspective. In the case of the start-up from Felix Asenji, CEO and co-founder of one of the selected companies, the support received enabled solar-powered pumps to be installed, while lessons from an expert helped improve social media communication.
The biggest impact for me has been the increase in female employment. We have involved many women in cultivating the land, harvesting, packing papaya and processing products in the factory. This has led to an increase in their income source and streams.
E4Impact supports companies that aim to recover and recycle organic and inorganic waste in the country, using ecological operators and collection centres within companies and municipal areas of the counties. The accelerator also promotes the circular economy by supporting companies that convert waste into quality raw materials and resell it at affordable prices. This creates employment opportunities for women and young people, while reducing pollution and environmental degradation.
E4Impact promotes the circular economy by supporting companies that collect and sort used textile and footwear products. The goal of the start-ups is to resell the products, use them as raw materials to create new products, manage fast fashion waste and protect the environment. In addition, the accelerator funds companies that produce smokeless charcoal briquettes from landfill waste collection, cooking stoves and organic fertilizers.
Thanks to E4impact's business acceleration programme, the glass recycling start-up from Louisa Gathecha (co-founder and business development manager) and Kelly Mwangi (co-founder and operations manager) improved business processes and expanded the business scope to generate value. The company had access to free professional services such as legal assistance, and with the financial support it received, it purchased a glass-crushing machine that allowed it to hire some 100 waste collectors.
I chose to participate in the incubator programme because we wanted to improve all our business processes in general and to scale-up the business and become investor ready.
Thanks to the programme launched by E4Impact, platforms have been created that make specific information relating to the agricultural sector available to farmers and cooperatives at affordable prices. The systems offer several services: business management programmes, market news, support for marketing activities, access to financial and insurance services, soil analysis and various commercial and technical training offers.
In addition, the accelerator supports start-ups that link agriculture precision, software development, conservative cultivation and the production of organic and mineral fertilizers designed to increase the yield, drought tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases. The companies' goal is to find solutions for climate impact mitigation and help farmers manage dry weather conditions, reducing plant loss and other stressful conditions. Of the start-ups that participated in the programme, in the field of agricultural technology, Moses Kimani expanded its work area, launched a new fertiliser line and developed a mobile application to provide weather data, crop health maps and information on plant diseases. The company from Samuel Munguti, CEO of another Kenyan technology start-up, has also seen improvements with respect to commercial and social sustainability, as well as increased interest from investors after taking part in the business acceleration project.
Helping our farmers with training has been a key and integral factor for us. I've always believed that empowering farmers means building a more sustainable business. As a company, we leverage technology to bring widespread training to farmers.
Forests are environments rich in biodiversity. When managed in a sustainable way they can make a significant contribution to the livelihood of local communities, as well as meeting the growing demand for natural products. The accelerator supports companies that produce essential oils, animal feed and foliage, helping to protect the local forest heritage, reduce deforestation and create local income and employment.
One of E4Impact's goals is to develop the artisanal skills of young men and women, providing the artisans of the future with the tools to make textile and leather products and export them around the world. This is why it supports companies that allow young Kenyans to train to become skilled at designing, sewing and assembling leather goods, creating high quality products for individuals and companies. The accelerator also supports start-ups specialised in the collection, classification, processing and sale of gum arabic, indirectly also promoting the empowerment of the pastoral communities of East Africa. Wallace Waiguru's leather start-up reached a wider public after participating in the programme, thanks to the investment in fabric and delivery machinery and the knowledge that allowed the brand to improve its image on social media. Mkamboi Mwakale's cosmetics company also acquired new knowledge in business modelling, finance, entrepreneurship and marketing, which helped the business and enhanced the website and its e-commerce.
By participating in the incubator we wanted to learn how to optimise our business model and increase the company's appeal by creating specific products for customers, exploiting the weaknesses present at market level to transform them into opportunities.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an action plan signed in September 2015 by 193 UN countries. It sets out 17 goals for socio-economic development in communities and countries. In line with Sustainable Development Goal 8, we help achieve higher standards of economic growth, through diversification, technological progress and innovation. We put in place policies with a view to development, supporting production, creating decent jobs, stimulating enterprise, creativity and innovation, and encouraging people to start small and medium businesses.
Read more about Eni’s local development activities
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