5 Africans named social entrepreneurs of 2012


Five leading Africans and innovators were named Social Entrepreneurs of the Year 2012 Africa last week at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The awards are made by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and were presented by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The five winners include 2 entrepreneurs from South Africa and 1 each from Ethiopia and Rwanda, plus an award to a team (2) in Burkina Faso:

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Co-Founder and Managing Director, soleRebels, Ethiopia

SoleRebels uses recycled car tyres for rubber soles to create durable, stylish and eco-friendly footwear for international markets. It offers training and employment to hundreds of underprivileged workers in Ethiopia, tapping the country’s rich artisan heritage and creating a new employment model for local enterprises. it also uses other environmentally friendly practices and is committed to zero carbon footprint.

Sameer Hajee, Chief Executive Officer, Nuru Energy Group, Rwanda

The group works with micro-entrepreneurs to disseminate its Nuru LED light, which gives up to 26 hours of light and costs one-sixth of the cost of kerosene to recharge. It can be recharged using an off-grid, pedal-powered platform. So far, Nuru Energy has set up 70 village-level entrepreneurs who have sold 10,000 Nuru lights. Many homes in Africa are not connected to electricity grids.

Paul Scott Matthew, Director Africa, North Star Alliance, South Africa

In the 1990s, Paul Matthew saw the alarming impacts of HIV/AIDS on mobile workers such as truck drivers and realized these workers lacked access to basic healthcare. North Star Alliance provides mobile workers and related communities with continual access to high-quality health and safety services through a network of interlinked clinics known as “Roadside Wellness Centres”. Since opening its first centre in 2005 in Malawi, North Star has grown to 22 centres in 10 countries.

Andrew Muir, Executive Director, Wilderness Foundation, South Africa

The Wilderness Foundation, founded in 1972, integrates conservation programmes with social and educational work. It has trained thousands of youth to be community leaders and national park rangers and more than 100,000 disadvantaged/vulnerable youth have benefitted from the Wilderness Foundation through its social intervention and environmental education programmes. The stewardship of the Wilderness Foundation has rehabilitated over 200,000 hectares of African wilderness and these areas are being expanded in the interests of conservation and environmental protection.

Seri Youlou and Thomas Granier, Co-Founders, Association la Voute Nubienne, Burkina Faso

Seri Youlou, a farmer from Burkina Faso, and Thomas Granier, a French mason, built a Nubian vault home in Burkina Faso over 10 years ago. By training farmers in the construction of homes with vaulted earth-brick roofs, the association provides an affordable, ecologically sustainable housing alternative and source of income to farmers during the off-seasons. Today, more than 200 masons have built over 1,300 Nubian vault homes in West Africa.

Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, commented in a press release: “Africa has seen tremendous growth over the past decade. Social entrepreneurs use innovative approaches to extend access to healthcare, education, energy and housing to marginalized populations that may not otherwise be included in the traditional markets. They ensure that growth, such as that experienced in Africa, is and will be inclusive.” Social entrepreneurs implement innovative and pragmatic solutions to social problems by tackling the root causes and creating social transformation

The Schwab Foundation was founded in 2000 and has been identifying the world’s leading social entrepreneurs in over 40 countries around the globe.



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