SIERRA LEONEAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP SUPPORT HUB - GEN SL - WINS PLACE ON PRESTIGIOUS PAN-AFRICAN PROGRAM


GEN Sierra Leone will join 14 like-minded elite entrepreneur support organisations on the prestigious Village Capital Communities Africa training programme to help develop Africa’s ‘invisible innovators’, after beating over 200 other applicants to win the place.

The programme is supported by the Impact Programme, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development. It is intended to introduce the latest thinking on how to help innovative entrepreneurial talent in challenging markets, flourish and get funding. Without such support, investors could continue to overlook these entrepreneurs for what they consider safer bets.

The number of incubators and accelerators in Africa has grown exponentially, but it is still hard to raise capital and scale a business in many parts of the continent. Recent figures from Nigeria-based start-up portal - Disrupt Africa show that, 72% of start-up funding in (East) Africa went to just three companies. Entrepreneurial ecosystem leaders such as GEN SL, which has just opened its new co working, combined incubator and accelerator space in Freetown, are seen as the key to bridging that gap

Francis Stevens George speaking at Freetown Pitch Night

GEN SL CEO and founder, Francis Stevens George agrees, saying: “In our focus on enabling the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the economic asset has been a challenge. Our participation in the VilCap programme will open opportunities to activate the economic asset part of Sierra Leone’s ecosystem. We would like to see a Business Angel Network and of course venture activity. Without access to risk capital, some of the more high-potential, disruptive innovations that we see in Sierra Leone will not be commercialised.”

GEN SL, which was set up at the end of 2016, has become a key player in Sierra Leone’s increasingly exciting entrepreneurial environment, responsible for the two main entrepreneurship gatherings in the country – Freetown Pitch Night and Global Entrepreneurship Week.

At the Freetown Pitch Night - Mayor's special

Stevens George highlights some of GEN SL’s other work: “We are very proud that we have been able to generate debate on the need for an approach to entrepreneurship support that is based on looking at the ecosystem. In particular, we have elevated Schumpeterian (disruptive) entrepreneurs, whom have often been overlooked by current support mechanisms. We look forward to incubating and accelerating amazing entrepreneurs with transformational business models.”

The Village Capital Communities Africa programme starts in Lagos and then tours two of Africa’s other top ‘startup ecosystems’, Nairobi and Cape Town, for inspiration. It will share investment-readiness techniques with incubators, accelerators and seed funds in sub-Saharan Africa, some from more mature ecosystems such as Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and some from embryonic ecosystems such as Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

It ends with a forum in Cape Town in November, where they will learn and share the best practice, including Village Capital’s proprietary curriculum and peer-selected investment process.

Village Capital has run more than 50 investment-readiness programmes across the world, including eight in sub-Saharan Africa that have directly supported more than 80 entrepreneurs and facilitated 16 seed-stage investments. VilCap Communities Africa will build on this experience to equip entrepreneur ecosystem leaders with the tools, resources and connections they need to catalyse impact investment.

“Passion and vision are important, but entrepreneurs also need to have a plan to deploy capital efficiently to generate a return on investment,” said Allie Burns, Managing Director at Village Capital. “At Village Capital we specialise in helping entrepreneurs think like investors, and we’re excited to share what we’ve learned over the past eight years with this elite group of leaders in Africa.”

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