Young African social entrepreneurs took centre-stage at this year’s World Export Development Forum (WEDF) on 11-12 September to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges, with a chance of winning seed funding to develop or scale their projects. The seven finalists – from the Gambia, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia, and Morocco – were selected by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, in collaboration with partners including Impact Hub Geneva’s Accelerate2030 programme and Nyamuka Zambia.
An initiative of ITC’s Youth and Trade programme, the pitch competition aims to connect young social entrepreneurs to markets and support social entrepreneurship as a way of contributing to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, and Goal 8, on sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The shortlisted social entrepreneurs included Hanane Belakhdar of Unlimited Health Company, Morocco; Alan Chanda of Dytech, Zambia; Chisepo Chirwa of Out Source, Zambia; Charles Ofori of Dext Technology, Ghana; and; Diego Dieudonné Twahirwa of Gashora Farm Ltd, Rwanda; Omar Jallow of Green Hectares Farm, the Gambia; and Hamadoum Niangado of KoolFarmer, Mali;
The 2018 World Export Development Forum themed Scaling Up Through Trade: Skill, Innovate, Connect saw Charles Ofori of Dext Technology, Ghana, win the Young Social Entrepreneurs pitching competition beating off competition to take the grand prize of $5,000 provided by Huawei.
Dext Technology, a beneficiary of Impact Hub’s Accelerate 2030 Programme, is a social business that develops practical and experiential tools to scale up young people’s skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
According to a statement, Ofori won the panel of judges over with his pitch for his company’s ‘Science Set’, a user-friendly and affordable miniaturized science laboratory: portable box with materials that enable kids to perform science experiments at school. With 2,000 copies already sold of the ‘Science Set’, Dext Technology’s aims to scale up its operations to enable more teachers easily spark kids’ interest in science through demonstration and practice.
The panel of judges, which comprised Parminder Vir, Chief Executive Officer of the Tony Elemelu Foundation, Colette van der Ven, Director, Trade and Development, Sidley Austin, Oumar Yam, Co-founder, OuiCarry, Senegal, and Michael Ocansey, founder of AgroCenta, a Ghanaian start-up that won the 2017 Young Social Entrepreneurs Competition, made their assessment based on the business ideas’ value proposition, social impact, market potential, team strength, and financial model.
Receiving the award on behalf of Dext Technology, Ofori said: “I am really honoured to have been selected the winner of the WEDF Young Social Entrepreneurs pitching contest. When we at Dext Technology were told to come to this event in Lusaka, we knew it was going to be the beginning of something big, even just participating in the pitching. Now it just got much bigger.”
A key component of WEDF was highlighting the role of youth in Africa in supporting trade-led growth and entrepreneurship, as well as how young people can contribute to the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). All finalists will benefit from a consultation provided by Sidley Austin to determine their eligibility for free legal services under the Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Programme. In addition, ITC will provide free mentorship to the entrepreneurs to improve their products, services, and business models.