Entrepreneurial Training of African Young People who Live in Italy and in Central-West Africa in Order to Set Up an Italian-African Enterprise Incubator in Douala, Cameroon
Project location: CAMEROON, Douala
Project start date: December 2013 - Project end date: December 2014
Project number: 2013-053
Beneficiary: Società Geografica Italiana - ONLUS
The Società Geografica Italiana (www.societageografica.it) is a scientific society instituted in 1867 to increase the research in the field of geography and environment. It promotes scientific knowledge not only at national level, but above all at international level, in the important fields, such as economics, culture, politics, environmental awareness and social business. To this end, the SGI is engaged in several activities with high scientific content, such as the development of research programs and training activities, international cooperation in order to improve the vulnerable areas. Recently (2006), the SGI has acquired the statute of ONLUS for environmental and natural resources protection and utilization in the context of the social development. Several research projects on environmental biodiversity, educational activities and rural development in Africa has been carried out with the aim at enhancing a sustainable development based on the awareness and the respect of the delicate ecological balance and institutional development. More recently (April 2013), the SGI sets up a specific Centre of Relations with Africa (Centro per le Relazioni con l'Africa, CRA, www.cra-sgi.org), whose founders are Italian and African personalities (ambassadors, university scientists and professors, and former members of Parliaments) with long-lasting direct experiences in Africa. Among them, there is Prof. Vittorio Colizzi, the director of the UNESCO chair in Interdisciplinary Biotechnology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata (www.vittorio-colizzi.com), who is the contact person for the proposed project.
In the development and carrying out the activities described in this Project, CRA/SGI has the following partners:
- Micro Progress Onlus(www.microprogressw.org), an Italian non-profit association born in 2004, which deals with training and consulting in relation to social business startup. MicroProgress Onlus will be mainly responsible for the organization and the set-up of the teaching course.
- Technology Development for Africa (www.tdadev.org) is an Italian-Cameroonian start-up (based in Rome and in Yaoundé), created by the University of Rome Tor Vergata in the field of biomedical transfer technology, hygiene, and public health. TDA will be involved in the training course in Italy to bring specific information about the Cameroon legislation, the economic and social constraints, and his experience in developing social business in the field of innovation in public health. In Africa and in Cameroon it will be responsible for the dissemination of the Project, and for the support to the Incubator in Douala.
- The City of Douala 5° is the local and institutional partner. The Major of the City is M.me Francois Foning, member of the Advisory Board of the CRA/SGI. The City Council of Douala has already expressed its willingness to make a physical space available to create a new incubator in the city center, addressed to both the selected Italian-Cameroonian startups and other ones with a positive impact on the society.
- African Incubator Network, a collaborative network of African incubators and other business development service providers. The AIN aims at facilitating the provision of appropriate knowledge to support the development of innovative small enterprises.
Africa is booming, with a growth of 5.6% predicted for 2013, according to the World Bank - although research suggests this has yet to trickle down on the poorest of the Continent. In sub-Saharan Africa the middle class is expanding rapidly. With the seemingly unstoppable growth of the mobile phone, greater access to the internet, and an increase in access to education, the change is happening, and a lot of people have more disposable income to spend. The economy and social development of Africa need a new generation of people who are able to create new opportunity in the industrial development of the Continent. Each year, thousands of the African young are educated in the European and Italian universities, but the numbers of skilled people going back to their home country is less than 10%. At the same time, the Continent is affected by the loss of "brain" phenomenon, due to the lack of job opportunity and career development in Africa. In USA and Europe, including Italy, the institution of Enterprise Incubator has been a good instrument to allow a new generation of young scientists, engineering, economist to develop a business idea and to start up a new company. Specific Incubators of start up companies have been instituted in all universities and all these experiences represent now the best evidences on the feasibility to incubate star tup companies in scientific and technical environments. The main objective of this Project is the training of African educated young in African and Italian Universities in the field of science, economic and industrial development in order to transfer the "know how" and to create an ecosystem for social business.
At the beginning, in its first year, the Project will start with two main activities:
1) the educational phase about methodology and stage of creating startups and innovation;
2) setting up a new business incubator in Douala (economic capital city of Cameroon) with the aim of strengthening the business models of the disruptive social ideas raised in Cameroon and in the sub-region, and help them to be financially sustainable. The choice of Cameroon is due to i) the large Cameroonian community in Italy, ii) a framework agreement already existing between SGI and the City of Douala (Cameroon), and iii) several contacts that are already in progress at both the political-institutional and university level and with business and civil society.
The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant for this project. The project proposed by the SGI is considered from the point of view of poverty reduction, aiming at delivering information, education, at increasing income, while ensuring long term environmental and economic sustainability. In order to promote a highly competitive social market economy, the project will aim at creating a social enterprise with a social impact and where profits are mainly reinvested with a view to achieving this social objective.
This project addresses the following problems:
- Youth unemployment in Cameroon and in the sub-region;
- Extreme difficulty in valorizing young talents and the consequent "brain drain" of the most promising Africans to Europe;
- Lack of a "social entrepreneurship mentality" (both in Cameroon and in Italy), that is the idea of setting up financially viable businesses addressed to solve social problems.
In particular, this project is addressed to the most brilliant and talented young people from West and Central Africa, both residents in Italy and in Cameroon. Moreover, the project will involve a few Italian young talented who aim at starting their own social business in a developing country. The idea is to start from this talented young people and help them improve their own Country. The overall aim is to foster the development of a breeding ground for Cameroonian social innovators in order to help them realize their projects, through:
- Training of African skilled young to start up social businesses in Cameroon, in order to have a positive and sustainable impact both on the social and the employment side of the society;
- Setting up of a new business incubator in Douala (economic capital city of Cameroon) with the aim of strengthening the business models of the disruptive social ideas raised in Cameroon and in the sub-region, and help them to be financially sustainable;
- Promotion of private and public investments in social startups in Central and West African countries.
The training activity will consist of 12 days of intensive course on entrepreneurship and 20 to 30 days of focused internships or incubation. The participation will be free and open to all young talented would-be entrepreneurs from Italy and from West and Central Africa who are interested in starting up a new social business in Cameroon. The project will be diffused both in Italy and in Cameroon, through Universities, local incubators, social media and specialized networks. A variable number of people, ranging from 20 to 40 will be selected for the training, according to criteria such as: entrepreneurial attitude, problem solving, possess of a technical competence, involvement in social initiative/social issues. The training will be organized and provided by the Società Geografica Italiana and Universities of Rome Tor Vergata and Roma Tre, and by two not academic partners with specific expertise (MicroProgress Onlus and Technology Development for Africa srl). The team - composed of 6-7 professionals in the field of business modeling, marketing, business planning, risk evaluation and project design - uses non formal education and new methods of advisory in each of its activities. Lot of room will be leaved for practical workshops, teamwork and cooperative learning. At the end of the course, each team will be able to clearly present its social business project to potential investors or stakeholders.
Afterwards, according to their specific needs, the students will be alternatively:
- matched to one company for an internship aimed at learning the job by doing;
- followed by professional coaches, mentors, entrepreneurs and business "angels" for a pre-incubation period that will help them implement their business idea. This phase could be carried out with the support of Luiss EnLabs, an innovative business accelerator that hosts more than 16 startups, based inside the train central station of Rome. At the end of the training period, the would-be entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to be host in a new business incubator in Douala, in order to fulfill all the procedures needed to startup their businesses, and above all to receive further assistance in structuring their activities.
The Project is divided into the following 6 phases:
1. The development of an Italian-African youth entrepreneurship, by adapting Italian and European models to the situation of the African selected country. In particular, the various forms of entrepreneurship, from the most Italian traditional business outsourced in Africa, to start-ups, university spin-off, and public-private partnership that will be analyzed. The product of this phase will be an Italian/English/French hand book which contains both a general part and a specific part about what it is necessary to know to start a business in Cameroon and in Central Africa.
2. Entrepreneurial training of Italian and African graduates in Italian universities who are interested in developing a business plan in Cameroon and other countries in the African sub-region. The selection of African young entrepreneurs is a delicate phase that will be done in partnership with TDA and AIN. The full-time 15 day course and training period of 1 month will be realized in Rome at the SGI with experts belonging to the CRA and to the other Italian and African institutions. The training course may also provide internships in Italian enterprises in Italy and in Africa. The products of this phase will be: i) curriculum vitae of the course participants, ii) personal training card and certificate of attendance, iii) realization and report of an internship in Italy or Africa.
3. Activation of a Business Incubator in Douala (Cameroon). The agreement between the CRA-SGI and the municipalities of Douala will provide a suitable structure for housing the incubator, as well as local expertise in the field of administration and finance, including customs, taxation incentives and so on. The Incubator will be provided by all technical (photocopiers, internet-Wi-Fi, and so on) and human resources (director, secretary) and expertise facilities to support the set up of new companies. In particular, the organization of public-private financial partnership opportunities as venture capitalism, private equity and microcredits, will be followed by Paolo Cellini - Venture Partner, Professor Strategic Marketing at LUISS. The product of this phase will be the text (and its technical annexes) of the Cooperation Agreement in Italian, English and French, with all technical annexes for the equipment and managing of the Incubator.
4. Identification and study of at least 10 specific business projects in the field of agriculture, health, water, renewable energy and information and communication technology. These projects will have financial and employment effects. These projects may also be proposed by Italian companies interested in creating opportunity for development in Africa. The products of this phase will be 10 projects identified and described at different analysis levels.
5. Business Plan for at least 5 projects that should give rise to 5 Italian-African joint ventures, 2 of which are already identified in the field of functional foods and nutraceuticals (see previous grant application). The "incubation" of 2 startups already involved in the field of innovative natural products for functional food and nutraceutical products will be tutored by Mir-Nat srl, spin off of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, that will be responsible for the monitoring of the quality control and certification of the production and transformation of Spirulina and Moringa oleifera products. The products of this phase will be 5 Business Plan and all documentation relating to the 5 enabled companies.
6. Administration, Monitoring of "incubated" companies and economic, financial, managerial, and commercial support. In particular, a specific office will be set up for the administrative management of the several procedures relating to intellectual property, to drawing up contracts and agreements, the activation of stages, and so on. More important is the identification and creation of a public-private partnership for venture capital, private equity and microcredits. The products of this phase will be the company's administrative and financial relations derived from the 5 new activated and "incubated" companies, in a developed context of venture capital, private equity and microcredits.
These are the expected outcomes:
• Fostering the creation of interdisciplinary and international teams;
• Promoting the social business as both a way of sustainable development and a business opportunity;
• Providing the participants with the key elements for business startup: idea generation, business model construction, calculation of cost and revenues, marketing strategy, etc.;
• Making them develop prototypes of their product/service and make them realize market tests;
• Establishing at least 5 Italian-African companies that are able to enter in African and global markets.