RISE Ethiopia delivers investment ready programme and mentorship for social enterprises

RISE Ethiopia launch

In Ethiopia, Challenges is working with 20 social enterprises to become investment ready as part of a six-month project that will also provide 20 young professionals with the opportunity to participate in a business analysis mentorship programme.

The RISE Ethiopia project is the latest in a long list of Challenges initiatives designed to up-skill young people while also supporting sustainable business growth in the country.

Run in collaboration with R&D Outsourcing and Entrepreneurship Centre, and funded by the British Council, RISE has been designed to improve the investment readiness of social enterprises in Addis Abba. It comes as the Ethiopian capital prepares to host the Social Enterprise World Forum this October.

After an initial market scope and assessment, Challenges staff recruited 20 social enterprises from sectors including agriculture, crafts, education and tech. These organisations have now formed the first cohort of what we hope will become a programme for other ambitious enterprises.

And as with most Challenges’ projects, there are a number of angles to this project!

Training young professionals

RISE Ethiopia business training

 

Running tandem with our scoping of suitable social enterprises has been the recruitment and subsequent training of 20 university graduates. Each of the 20 Challenges business advisers has been provided with a key placement at one of the 20 social enterprises taking part in the RISE programme. Their aim is to take their designated social enterprise through a programme of analysis and implementation support to enable it to become investment ready.

As part of their on-boarding with Challenges, each associate underwent an intense two-week training programme delivered by the RISE project team. Our Ethiopian project team designed this bespoke training to complement each adviser’s own work experience and degree, which cover a range of disciplines, including finance and accountancy as well as business administration and social sciences. This immersive approach gives the young professionals the unique opportunity to access all areas of a business and enables them to understand the competing tasks managers must balance in order to successfully run an enterprise. By having this rounded experience it puts them in the optimal position to secure a job either directly with the enterprise they have been placed in or in a job after they successful complete the programme as they have both the theoretical knowledge and the skills to put this into practice.

Business analysis

During the RISE programme, each enterprise will receive an in-depth analysis of its investment readiness. They then receive professional business consultancy support from a Challenges associate; access to senior technical expertise to address specific business issues related to investment readiness; monthly group training programmes and workshops for enterprise leaders focused on entrepreneurship and management skills; implementation support including access to our business diagnostic tools; and leadership coaching as well as networking opportunities.

It’s this multi-faceted approach that Challenges is becoming known for. In a nutshell, the RISE programme is recruiting young graduates, giving them a work placement, employment experience and business training, while also supporting the growth of social businesses, which in turn will drive sustainable economic growth and job creation. Our ability to pull together various strands in order to achieve multiple aims reflects our expertise in being able to understand the on-the-ground detail while also fulfilling the ambitions of organisations and agencies seeking to address the UN’s sustainable development goals.

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Coffee market building for peace and prosperity in Rwanda

Challenges Rwanda Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity

Challenges Rwanda is a member of The Challenges Group, a family of social businesses committed to building prosperity. Challenges Rwanda launched in 2017 and offers a range of business growth services including business diagnostics, market assessments, pilot and prototypes, deal strengthening, investment readiness, and more. Our team of experienced associates also deliver accredited training programmes in business, management and leadership from the Chartered Management Institute, and we are uniquely placed to deliver tailored programmes adapted to rural and isolated environments and/or remote audiences, ensuring we provide trainees with the best opportunity to grow personally and professionally.

One of our key projects in Rwanda is the Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity, which is funded by the Scottish Government. The coffee sector has been one of Rwanda’s success stories, playing a pivotal part in restoring the economy after the genocide 25 years ago, and rebuilding trust between community members. Helping the Rwanda coffee sector to better access the international market is one of the key aims of our Rwanda coffee project.

Launched in partnership with Twin Trading and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum in 2017, the Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity project is working with eight coffee co-operatives in the country’s western and southern regions. The project, which is also supported by Enactus and Matthew Algie Coffee, aims to increase the capacity of eight Rwandan coffee co-operatives by delivering business, management and leadership training; improving quality control and each co-op’s “cupping scores”; streamlining and better enabling infrastructural processes; widening access to international markets; encouraging the adoption of clean tech innovations; and working with communities, particularly women and young people, to overcome systemic barriers to economic growth.

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Challenges partners with Uganda Solar Energy Association to enhance services

USEA Uganda Challenges Group

The off-grid solar energy sector is an exciting and fast-moving arena that Challenges is excited to be working in. Our Challenges team in Uganda has partnered with the Uganda Solar Energy Association (USEA) as part of its mission to grow solar energy businesses in Uganda and the East African region.

Founded only a few years ago in 2016, USEA is an independent non-profit business membership body that was formed to act as a driver for the development of the off-grid solar energy sector in Uganda. It also seeks to push for improvements of solar energy standards, and to attract new entrants to the solar energy sub-sector.

Challenges Uganda is working with USEA to better understand its potential to act as a broker of business development services for its members. Most recently, we conducted needs assessments of 25 USEA members, giving us detailed insights into the sector as well as each business’s individual needs, as well as their future investment strategies, risk profiles, and whether they have the appetite for USEA’s support in connecting them to business development services. Data from this research has now fed into the construction of a pilot training programme in organisational leadership and sales and marketing, which will be offered at a subsidised rate for USEA members. At the same time, we’re also working with USEA to enable it to operate this training and business support model in the long-term without outside assistance.

We hope that by the end of this project USEA will be equipped with the training and tools to develop an in-depth understanding of the needs of its members, and that it can use this information to construct impactful business development service and investment pipelines. Like us at Challenges, USEA wants to significantly boost the ability of the solar energy sub-sector to reach the many Ugandan households who do not yet have access to electricity.

Image courtesy of Uganda Solar Energy Association.

 

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Challenges shares Equal Community Foundation’s vision of a world free from gender-based violence

Equal Community Foundation Challenges Group Rwanda Access Africa Programme

Joining our Access Africa Programme is the Equal Community Foundation, whose vision is a world free from gender-based violence. ECF works towards this vision through its mission: to raise every boy in India to be gender equitable, an outcome it calls Gender Equitable Boys. Challenges is working with the ECF team to bring their experience and expertise to Rwanda.

Until recently, Equal Community Foundation had focused on designing and implementing programmes that transform knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours for adolescent boys in India, while rolling out that approach through a national collaboration called Project Raise.

ECF has now begun to explore how it can accelerate the impact of organisations working with boys on gender equality in other countries by sharing its knowledge. In order to achieve this, Equal Community Foundation has developed a framework that describes the capacity required to raise Gender Equitable Boys at a national level. Equal Community Foundation now wants to use this framework to help organisations in other countries to build local capacity.

The Challenges Group is helping ECF to develop and test the diagnostic tool that assesses the capacity of a country against the ECF framework. Will Muir, chief executive at Equal Community Foundation, said he wanted to focus on Rwanda because of its progressive policy on gender equality.

Working closely with ECF, the Challenges team have now developed a robust interview toolkit based on the ECF framework, which our team in Kigali has used to engage with sector experts in Rwanda.

Will added: “Although we’re specifically working to assess the current landscape in Rwanda, the plan is for ECF to hone its diagnostic so that it’s robust and flexible enough to be applied in any country, meaning the charity can both accelerate and grow its impact internationally.”

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Lilypads and Challenges collaborate to help end period poverty

Lilypads Zambia Challenges Group

Lilypads is a social enterprise committed to improving girls’ access to sanitary products and ending period poverty. The Challenges team in Zambia is working with the business to better provide accessible and affordable menstrual health products for women and girls.

As part of our Access Africa Programme, we are assessing demand for Lilypads’ eco-friendly sanitary pads within Lilypad’s target market. Challenges consultants are also scoping the feasibility of a local manufacturing centre in Zambia, which would enable Lilypads to expand its reach and impact.

Meanwhile, Challenges’ Team Ghana is supporting Lilypads to identify a local manufacturing and distribution partner.

Lilypads’ chief exective Alison Woods said: “Working with Challenges has been a brilliant opportunity. They provided thorough market research and recommendations to enable us to evaluate what the best next step is for Lilypads.”

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Clean Water Wave offers breakthrough solution for water filtration

Clean Water Wave Rwanda Challenges Group

In Rwanda, the Challenges team in Kigali are collaborating with a Scottish social enterprise called Clean Water Wave. Clean Water Wave has developed a water-filtration system that is high volume, and low power and low maintenance.

Clean Water Wave

Clean Water Wave’s CAFE system can turn dirty water into safe drinking water.

Within our Access Africa Programme, Challenges is working with Clean Water Wave to identify the most feasible partner in Rwanda for a pilot that will demonstrate the potential of CWW’s CAFÉ water filter system. This innovative and sustainable treatment solution can be used in rural and hard-to-reach communities. It’s a breakthrough system that can treat polluted ground and surface water, and turn it into clean drinking water. All of us at Challenges and Clean Water Wave are deeply excited about the potential for CAFE.

Working with Clean Water Wave, Team Rwanda is in advanced talks with the national water regulator, the Rwanda Water and Sanitation Corporation.

Clean Water Wave is a social enterprise committed to providing technology that can provides clean water to everyone around the globe. Like the team at Challenges, CWW believes in working collaboratively with local partners, NGOs and other social enterprises in order to fulfil its clean water aims and help generate jobs.

Have a look at Clean Water Wave’s website for more information on their water treatment system.


 

The Access Africa Programme

The Access Africa Programme enables Scottish social enterprises and social entrepreneurs to explore and expand into African markets. It provides market research and business development support, funded by the Scottish Government, to enterprises and individuals who have an idea, product, service or model that could make a real impact in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

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Giraffe Health partnership could provide personalised physiotherapy to Ghanaian patients

Giraffe Healthcare Ghana Challenges Group

As part of our Access Africa Programme, we’ve forged a series of positive partnerships with social businesses, including Giraffe Health, a healthcare enterprise based in Glasgow, Scotland.

Giraffe provides an e-health platform that delivers high quality, personalised healthcare programmes backed by expert advice and support. We’re working with the team to identify whether there is a market for its healthcare platform among urban-based physiotherapy services in Ghana, while also providing additional insight into other potential markets and applications in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Giraffe platform means patients can directly connect online with physiotherapist, enabling real-time data-capturing and sharing, and promotes better home care through tailor-made exercise programmes. It’s been designed for people who have difficulty accessing traditional face-to-face clinical services, whether that’s due to work commitments, rural location, specific cultural and language issues, transport problems, mobility limitation, or other health issues such as fatigue.

We’re working with Giraffe’s medical specialists Professor Lorna Paul and Dr Elaine Coulter to identify whether there is a market for its healthcare e-platform among urban-based physiotherapy services in Ghana, while we’re also providing additional insight into other potential markets and applications in sub-Saharan Africa.

Giraffe is a social enterprise spin-out from Glasgow Caledonian University, and won the Converge Challenge Social Enterprise Award in 2017.

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Small businesses praise Challenges Zambia after training in financial management and leadership

Musika Zambia Challenges Group

Challenges Zambia has been working with the Zambian non-profit company, Musika, as part of our goal to achieve poverty reduction by ensuring agricultural markets work for all stakeholders, in particular Zambia’s rural poor. Musika is supported by the Swedish Embassy in Zambia, the Norwegian Government’s NORAD and IRISH AID, which seeks to stimulate private investment in the agricultural market and has a particular focus on the smallholder and emerging farmer sectors.

Musika’s approach to reducing poverty and creating wealth in rural Zambia involves stimulating the development of a supportive market environment that provides long-term and sustainable opportunities for farmers to invest in their own production and to use the markets to graduate out of poverty.

On the back of a survey of the sector, Musika identified gaps in financial management and leadership skills among small rural agribusinesses, aggregators and veterinary service providers, and decided upon a programme of training in financial management and leadership in order to build capacity within the sector.

Following a bidding process, Challenges was appointed to deliver a series of training sessions to small business holders in the Copperbelt and Central provinces of Zambia.

One of the key modules covered was “Meeting Stakeholder and Quality Needs”. As part of the training Challenges consultants took the participants through a series of strategic business activities and strategic assessments. These included: Understanding your Stakeholders’ Needs; Stakeholder Analysis; SMART Objectives; SWOT/PEST analysis; and Porter’s Five Forces.

  • SMART is a mnemonic used to describe the criteria for the setting of objectives. It stands for: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; Time-bound.
  • SWOT analysis is a strategic tool for an individual or organisation to measure its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
  • PEST analysis is a framework of macro-environmental factors (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological) to be considered while undertaking a larger strategic analysis of a business or market research.
  • Porter’s Five Forces is a tool individuals and businesses can use to assess competition. They are: Threat of new entrants; Threat of substitutes; Bargaining power of customers; Bargaining power of suppliers; and Competitive rivalry.

Results of Challenges Zambia training

The training comprised of group activities that encouraged discussions and debates from all learners, each of whom was encouraged to use their own business experience as case studies. This was crucial as participants were able to reflect on past experiences (both successes and failures!), and consider how circumstances might be different should they experience the same in the future.

A total of 64 participants across three towns in Zambia – Kapiri Mponshi and Kabwe in Central Province and Kitwe in Copperbelt Province – took part in the training. The majority of participants did not know each other, and the interactive training created a lively environment that enabled participants to feel comfortable and to interact with both the trainers and participants.

All participants at each of the three sites received a days’ training in the following topics: SWOT analysis; PESTEL analysis; Stakeholder analysis; Stakeholder interest matrix; Empathy map; and setting SMART objectives.

Participants were excited to learn how to apply the above tools in their everyday business decisions. Examples used during the training helped them realise how their businesses would benefit from this newly acquired knowledge.

As the graphs and feedback results below show, this was a training session that was warmly received by its participants. We will in due course report

on the long-term impact on the businesses and the people who undertook the training.

Musika trainees’ comments on the Challenges Zambia Business Development training

Our key takeaway from this event:
“I have learnt the importance of management of clients, good relationship with stakeholders and customers, SWOT & PESTEL analysis for my business”
Mwape Chanda
Kitwe participant

“Before the training, I did not have knowledge on how to plan in business for it to be managed well. I can now confidently plan for my business to avoid losses.”
Benjamin Chaaba
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

Our views on the different aspects of the training:
“We all participated in the training, it kept us awake. Please continue with this type of training”
Margaret Chimanga
Kabwe Participant

“The training was good and examples were clear and time manageable. The training should continue to teach business people”
Jason Ngulukila
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

Our thoughts regarding the sessions or overall agenda:
“I very much enjoyed the PESTLE and SWOT analysis sessions as we used personal business examples and experiences to learn.”
Innocent Phiri
Kitwe Participant

“Very interesting and easy to grasp, it was very educative we look forward to more trainings delivered in this manner.”
David Mweo Musonda
Kabwe Participant

Our overall feedback for the event?
“The training was different from the usual trainings we attend where we just listen and not actively participate. It was great.”
Jess Phiri
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

“The trainers interacted well with us, it was a great training.”
Julius Chisenga
Kitwe Participant


Feedback from Challenges Zambia training

 

Graph 1 - Challenges Zambia Musika Case Study

 


Graph 2 - Challenges Zambia Musika Case Study

Graph 3 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


Graph 4 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


Graph 5 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


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Challenges Uganda intervention encourages detergent manufacturer to clean up its financial management and sales strategies

Armour Group Uganda Challenges Group

Strong demand and a diverse portfolio should have brought success for Kampala-based Armour Group Ltd, a family-owned detergent manufacturer with 12 employees. But with little growth and challenging financials, it was clear that something was going wrong. Challenges consultants undertook an Enterprise Diagnostic on the business … with some eye-opening results, and have since been brought in to help strengthen the Ugandan business.

Armour Group Limited is a family-owned detergent manufacturing business that produces nine different cleaning and sanitising products, ranging from bar soap for the home consumer, liquid soap for businesses, and its more heavy-weight degreaser for industrial kitchens and catering businesses. Its bar soap – by far its most popular product – is made from locally sourced natural oils, and has no industrial residues.

Founded in 2014, Armour Group now employs 12 staff from its base in Najjeera in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

Despite strong demand for its products, and in particular its natural bar soap, Armour struggled to grow turnover or increase market share. Challenges Uganda consultants were invited to undergo an Enterprise Diagnostic to analyse the business’s operations, strengths and weaknesses, and to recommend areas for change.

The Challenges intervention quickly identified huge potential for the business, but also a series of significant internal obstacles that required prompt attention.

Although demand was strong for its products, Armour was failing to capitalise on the market due to the lack of a cohesive sales strategy. The business suffered from poor record keeping, and as a result, had no internal mechanism to record expenses nor manage costs.

As a result of poor management practices, such as a lack of record-keeping and inventory management and non-existent sales strategy, Armour was subject to a poor credit situation that exacerbated its tight working capital. Despite its sales, Armour was registering a decline in profits. In the first week of our intervention, Challenges analysts highlighted a massive increase in the business’s losses, which had grown from a year-on-year loss of 18% in 2016 to an eye-watering 83% in 2017. Due to poor record-keeping, management had not realised the severity of the problem.

As part of the Enterprise Diagnostic, Challenges recommended ways to improve Armour’s financial management systems, and strategies to improving their capital position. We also worked to develop internal controls to enable better planning and budgeting: moving the financial recording to an accessible accounting platform meant that managers were better able to understand the company’s financial position.

In addition, we also recommended methods to improve internal and external communications, as well as sales reporting, forecasting and analysis.

Challenges encouraged the management at Armour Group to implement a training plan for new sales staff to drive sales and generate brand awareness. It also highlighted the need for product-specific sales strategies; consistent branding; a ring-fenced R&D budget for product development; robust market assessment; and clearer value propositions to its separate customer segments.

As part of the support, Challenges recommended Armour looked at ways to optimise production through available technology, and a more efficient supply chain. Expanding market reach into other regions of Uganda would also create new sales jobs for young Ugandans who could be trained as sales representatives, a strategy that would also make the business more attractive to impact investors.

Although the recommendations were far-reaching and made difficult reading for Armour’s management, quick adoption by Armour had a positive impact on the business, which has since recorded a slowdown in its net loss. The business has subsequently commissioned Challenges Uganda to undertake a more thorough intervention that will see Challenges staff working directly with Armour to create market linkages, give sales support and drive business development. The results of this will be published in the new year.

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Future bright for Rwandan coffee co-op after Challenges’ solar power initiative

Rwandan Meshpower Rwanda Challenges Group

In 2017, Challenges began working with eight coffee co-operatives in Rwanda as part of a forward-looking project to generate sustainable growth. With backing from the Scottish Government, this has project also pioneered the adoption of innovative solar technology, drastically improving the prospects of a remote coffee co-op severely hampered by a lack of electricity.

Since 2017, the Challenges team in Rwanda has been working with eight coffee co-operatives to build capacity, generate market links, deliver leadership training and improve sustainability.

But alongside this far-reaching project sits another innovative programme that beautifully demonstrates Challenges’ methodology of innovation, partnership and sustainability, as well as our commitment to clean energy!

Rwanda, and its large agricultural sector, is liable to be hit hard by climate change. It is something that its farmers and politicians alike are all too aware of. And as part of the Scottish Government’s climate justice campaign, capital funds were made available for a pilot programme for the innovative use of an innovative product, championed by Challenges.

Solar PV micro-grids are breaking new ground across much of Africa as individuals and organisations realise the potential for solar energy to connect difficult-to-reach communities. In 2018, Challenges partnered with Meshpower, a state-of-the-art micro- and mini-solar grid engineering company, to deliver such a system to one of the recipient co-operatives.

At Challenges’ we always measure our work by the impact it can create, the economic growth it can facilitate, and the sustainability for the future. Selecting which co-operative was not an easy task, but measured against these factors we chose Buhanga in southern Rwanda. Cut off from the national grid, Buhanga lacked electricity in its office, due in part to its remoteness and in part the expense of generators. But the business also suffered from break-ins, while the inability for staff to use laptops or other electrical equipment inhibited further growth. When we spoke to the management team at Buhanga it was clear to us all that the potential for the scheme and the opportunities it could create was significant.

The Meshpower Installation at Buhanga is a clean energy solution to a continent-wide rural problem: access to reliable energy. This installation, slated for completion in December 2018, now enables the coffee co-op to develop and open new methods of data gathering and storing, book-keeping, marketing and so on. It also gives them the opportunity for a modest secondary income as they can now charge a minimal fee for members of the local communities to charge phones or print documents. And it means that co-op staff will be trained in both the solar PV technology but also the equipment and software its adoption has enabled. The Buhanga coffee co-op now has a valuable income-generating asset that enables business growth and staff development.

As we monitor the success of this clean energy programme, as part of the wider Coffee Market Building for People and Prosperity project, we look forward to seeing this pilot rolled out beyond Rwanda, and used to create a case for ethical lenders and grant-makers to invest in similar initiatives at other sites lacking in sustainable and reliable clean energy.

When Challenges first approached Meshpower about this initiative, we had no idea this was the first project of this kind the business had undertaken. It’s also likely the first of its kind in the region … and maybe all of Africa! Who knows, maybe one day every co-operative office will hum with solar energy!

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