About us

Introduction and Background

Inclusive business, also termed bottom of the pyramid (BOP), pro-poor, or sustainable livelihoods business, refers to doing business with the poor in ways that simultaneously benefit low-income communities and also benefit the organization engaged in this initiative.

These innovative business models focuses on fostering economic development and helping low-income families build more secure livelihoods, while creating new markets for companies. It is about doing well by doing good.

Pro-poor businesses aim to create more opportunities for the poor to improve their own lives: opportunities for access to safe water, food, housing, education, medicines, transport and energy; opportunities to earn a living, to accrue income and to invest in the family’s future.

African Social Entrepreneurs Network (ASEN) represent network of social entrepreneurs across Africa. ASEN focuses on strengthening business acumen as well as operational and financial management skills of Social Enterprises / SMEs particularly Women Businesses. As part of supporting social enterprise initiatives, efforts are made to seek for ecosystem solutions that are appropriate to businesses. The objective is to provide an opportunity for social enterprises to gain access to markets, networking, skills training and investment opportunities.

SMEs in emerging economies often have limited access to finance and investment capital (e.g., seed capital, start-up funds). As a result, less attention is paid to these SMEs that offer tremendous growth potential, but are perceived as higher risk investments. Early stage enterprises and other informal businesses also cite lack of access to finance as a key challenge; investors cite a lack of investment-ready enterprises. This “pioneer gap” prevents promising SMEs / start-ups from receiving the needed investment in emerging economies.
A vast section of start-ups and SMEs in Africa operate under informal sector with little access to credit from banks and other financial institutions. These start-ups and SMEs depend on borrowings from the informal sector that are both expensive and scarce. Catering to the financing requirements of these start-ups and SMEs generally results in cost inefficiencies to conventional financial institutions, bringing to light the need for an alternative financing.
Increasing SME financing and streamlining the credit market will help these SMEs to expand, grow, increase profitability and employment capacity, and will also ensure the birth of many new SMEs which have not been set into operation as a result of the lack of sufficient startup capitals.

Impact Investment

Impact Investment optimizes risk, return and impact to benefit people and the planet, by setting specific social and environmental objectives alongside financial ones, and measuring their achievement.

Access to capital and financial means remain major obstacles and have alluded to the shallow and limited understanding of entrepreneurship activities relative to counterparts in developed nations. There is also the reality of high failure rate of new ventures. Although the exact failure rate across Africa is difficult to establish, estimates point to an average of 40% to 60% of new ventures failing within the first 2 years. This means that few ventures are moving from low-growth microenterprises to micro, small, medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), creating the so-called “missing middle.”

To navigate the complexity of achieving a future where no one lives in poverty and the planet thrives, we need a simple unifying investment structure to deliver tangible improvements and outcomes for poor people.

ASEN pan-African Impact Investment Fund identifies, finance, develop and possibly incubate women-led social enterprises (small and medium sized businesses) as well as those operating in the informal sector.

The fund helps tackle great challenges like poverty and climate change by harnessing private capital at scale. It assists in advancing sustainable business models and markets to build an inclusive economy.

The Network

The current Social Entrepreneurship (SE) landscape is demarcated into geo-political sub-regions and the networks have pioneered substantial work to position Social Enterprises (SEs) in the policy arena, attract capital and support the sector’s entrepreneurs. However, a consensus emerged for a platform for interaction of the sub-regional networks across the continent.

This proposed entity works to aggregate issues from the sub-regions and leverage resources into the regions and jurisdictions.

ASEN seeks to foster the decentralized but coordinated development of Social Enterprises and the African Social Economy. It does this through the explicit mandate from its core affiliates, South Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network (SASEN), East Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network (EASEN), West Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network (WASEN), Central Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network (CASEN) and North Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network (NASEN), to be responsible for the key objectives listed herein, and actively encourage each affiliate to assume a specific character that best responds to the objective conditions Social Enterprises face in their respective circumstances.

The main goal is to ensure that ASEN’s objectives are guided by the most effective way of supporting regional Social Enterprise to achieve their corporate aims, and the long term development of the Social economy across Africa come through.

Limited regional integration has been a constraint on Africa’s ability to accelerate equitable growth. Closer regional integration would help tackle the region’s most pressing supply-side constraints by enlarging markets, generating economies of scale in provision of public goods and services while facilitating greater global trade alliance.

Our founding thesis is that this social enterprise growth needs to be guided to assume an equivalent role alongside the State and private sector in order to underwrite sustainable and equitable growth in Africa, and developmental projects in general.

Social Enterprise Support and Capacity Building

Africa is endowed with many resources and challenges that present us with unique opportunities for innovation. However, not many people have what it takes to turn these challenges into opportunities for innovation.
This Digital Skills Training program is designed to give beneficiaries real world problem solving techniques. Techniques, methods and activities of this program enables the beneficiaries to see challenges as opportunities to innovate and change society positively.
The program makes a significant contribution to accelerating the global shift in consciousness by de-mystifying social entrepreneurship and making it intelligible and accessible not only to aspiring social entrepreneurs but also to anyone interested in learning about the topic.
Africa is increasingly becoming the new frontier, an important growth pole for the economic recovery and an attractive business destination for capital.

Virtual Incubation

ASEN provides virtual incubation to offer meaningful insight into the depressed economic environment stifling social enterprises (MSMEs) growth and explore ways to improve opportunities for them.

The aim of this program is to foster their business development and growth and an avenue for social enterprises to access funding and investment opportunities, research and development, resources and facilities to further enhance the growth and sustainability of their businesses.