At a time when states are struggling to meet the challenges facing West Africa (agriculture, energy, sustainable development, health, etc.), a handful of women and men are creating businesses with a very particular mindset. Their main objective: to improve the quality of life of their fellow citizens through the creation of responsible and economically viable businesses.
Social entrepreneurship is a way of doing business that places economic efficiency at the service of the general interest. Whatever the legal status of the companies (SA, SARL, association, cooperative, …), their leaders make profit a means to create a positive impact on society or the environment.
In order to promote social entrepreneurship in West Africa, the Ricochet initiative has produced the short film In Their Eyes, a true immersion in the journey of 12 social entrepreneurs from Senegal, Burkina Faso and Benin.
First of all, the family can be one of the first obstacles to the creation of this type of business.
The choice of entrepreneurship represents a risk that is often misperceived. The civil service still represents, for many people, job security, a high salary and social recognition.
Imagine then that, in addition to this, the entrepreneur tries to respond to a societal problem, putting the common good ahead of his personal interests. These social entrepreneurs then find themselves out of step with a majority for whom personal enrichment and social recognition is the priority.
Another difficulty, and not the least, is financing.
One of the main questions for any young entrepreneur is how to prove to investors that his project is viable despite his youth and limited experience. The reality is quite harsh: local banks lend little or not at all to SMEs, state aid is almost non-existent and crowdfunding does not “work” for African projects. There are few possibilities for these young people who are thirsty for creation.
Yaye Souadou Fall, a 23-year-old Senegalese entrepreneur and head of the start-up e-cover, says: “When I started my project, I was only 20 years old and had 30,000 CFA francs. 30 000 FCFA, that’s not even 50 euros. But we just wanted to prove to people that it was possible.”
However, this is not a fatality because there are alternatives to finance your project. For example, applying to calls for projects or having another income-generating activity in parallel with the business. The development of the internet, incubators, or micro-credit can also help the growth of these promising young companies on which the future of Africa partly depends.
No matter what happens, unfailing determination and total dedication to the project are essential.
As Godfrey Nzamujo, director of the Songhai Center in Benin, confides: “The socio-economic situation is always unfavorable in entrepreneurship, that’s classic. What do we do about it? It is to develop crocodile skins, to be really strong. It’s the people who are capable of doing that who will succeed. For him, whether it’s entrepreneurship for yourself or for others, you have to fight with your weapons to succeed.
The challenge of developing entrepreneurship in West Africa is well reflected in this sentence by Mathieu Aly Faye, a young Senegalese entrepreneur in agro-ecology: “There is no point in succeeding if others around me do not succeed as well.