In recent years social enterprise has become an increasingly popular business model for youth in African countries. According to the 2019 Ibrahim Forum Report youth in Africa make 60% of Africa’s population under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest continent. The increased engagement from youth in social entrepreneurship is inspired partly by trying to adapt to overcome the unemployment crisis in their countries.

Social entrepreneurship is all about recognizing how to solve social problems by employing entrepreneurial principles, processes and operations. A good example is the Tanzanian based Maswa Chalk Factory in Simiyu. The founder, Kelvin Emerson, realized that the school depended on the importation of chalk, which rendered the teachers ineffective when supplies did not arrive on time and schools. There are adverse implications when teachers are not able to teach including an increase in the number of dropouts, pregnancies and early marriages of young girls. Maswa Chalk Factory decided to start making chalk and selling them at a lower price than what would be spent on importation. Therefore, Maswa Chalk Factory solved a number of problems: the shortage of teaching materials, the rate of student drop outs in Simiyu dropped from 45% to 15%, and the factory itself provides employment to young people.

Social entrepreneurship is usually considered as just another form of entrepreneurship without considering the impact that it has on the community. Due to minimal recognition, most social enterprise markets and ecosystems remain in their infancy.  It should be recognized that social entrepreneurship is a different form of practice entrepreneurship that informs philanthropy; hence it should be treated differently. Most of the youth who own social enterprises find themselves burdened with taxes, a long process of registration and hardship when trying to find financial resources to start their enterprises.

It is important for policymakers and key stakeholders to realize the potential and contribution that social enterprises have in addressing challenges in our African communities in a philanthropic manner. Additionally, more research needs to be done to understand the different forms of social entrepreneurship and find a way to define the ecosystem.

In the course to define social entrepreneurship and understanding the ecosystem in Tanzania, Africa Philanthropy Network (APN) is running a program on Youth and Philanthropy in an effort to document the different models of philanthropic giving across the continent. Social entrepreneurship can be viewed as a form of philanthropic giving especially when it addresses the concerns of our communities.  At this juncture, we are identifying, recognizing, and profiling youth that are operating as social entrepreneurs in Tanzania.

APN is looking at how it can use social entrepreneurship to bring change in Africa socially, culturally, and economically by using the untapped youth potential in the sector. Its mission is to reclaim the power of what we know as giving practices and how they contribute to uplifting the life of Africans. These conversations are going to carry on with many other stakeholders to ensure that the government recognizes the contribution of social entrepreneurship and how they can support the ecosystem.