Putting expertise to work in one of Africa’s most disadvantaged communities


Africa Students

The Sauder School of Business has been engaged in its Africa Initiative in Kenya since 2006. The main thrust of the program, Social Entrepreneurship 101(SE101), is a three-week course that brings students from UBC and Nairobi’s Strathmore University together to teach impoverished youth how to start their own businesses. The budding entrepreneurs are mentored, sources of funding for their projects are identified, and businesses are launched as a result.

Since the beginning, SE101 has focused its business plan training program in Kibera, East Africa’s largest slum where over 1 million inhabitants live in just 2.5 square kilometers and youth unemployment exceeds 80 per cent.

Nancy Langton, an associate professor, in Sauder’s Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Division, has led the project since its inception.

“We wanted to build on Sauder’s expertise to make a difference in Africa,” says Langton who teaches in the UBC MBA program and with Sauder Executive Education. “Business planning seemed like an area where we had some comparative advantage, since I had worked on a similar project in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We ended up in Kibera, on the outskirts of Nairobi, through a student who had connections there.”

The program is comprised of four components, beginning with three weeks of workshops where Kenyan youth learn the essentials of creating a business plan. They move on to one-on-one consultation sessions where program participants share ideas and information, complete their business plans and organize step-by-step development strategies. To impart inspiration and share experience gained in the local market, guest speakers are brought in from the Kenyan business community. Finally, post-program support is supplied to help polish business plans, access funding and launch businesses.

“Our next step is to raise funds so we can create a year-round drop-in centre,” said Langton about how she envisions the program expanding to become more effective. “The centre staff would guide students as they complete their business plans, then help support the business—through cash-flow monitoring, for example—once it is running.”

With the program now is in its sixth year, UBC students will soon be traveling again to Nairobi from July 28 to August 19, 2011. People interested in getting involved are encouraged to visit the SE101 website.