Scottish government funded programme opens second round support to help social enterprises expand into Kenya

Lilypads is a social enterprise committed to improving girls’ access to sanitary products and ending period poverty. Photo: Challenges Group

Scotland-based social businesses are once again able to access free support to help them export into fast-growing African markets.

The second round of the Access Africa Programme (AAP) opened last week which enables Scottish social enterprises and social entrepreneurs to explore and expand into African markets. It provides market research and business development assistance through £100,00 of funding from the Scottish Government for enterprises and individuals who have an idea, product, service or model that could make a real impact in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Edinburgh-based development agency Challenges, that is responsible for delivering the programme, believes it is the first in Europe looking to the African continent. From their Edinburgh office working alongside teams in Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, the programme has so far supported more than 20 Scottish organisations and individuals to take their first steps into African markets.

Among those supported have been Lilypads, a social enterprise committed to improving girls’ access to sanitary products and ending period poverty. They do this by supplying sustainable, reusable sanitary products in Kenya and are now being supported in finding manufacturing and distribution partners in Zambia. The Challenges team in Zambia is working with the business to better provide accessible and affordable menstrual health products for women and girls.

Lilypads’ chief executive Alison Woods said: “Working with Challenges has been a brilliant opportunity. They provided thorough market research and recommendations to enable us to evaluate what the best next step is for Lilypads.”

Another social enterprise getting support from AAP is Edinburgh based engineering firm Clean Water Wave who have developed a low-cost, low-power water filtration system. They will be working with a community group in Kenya to test their social enterprise model and its effectiveness in delivering long-term wholesome water. AAP is in negotiations with various water boards to try to get their system installed in sites across east Africa. 

Clean Water Wave
Clean Water Wave has developed a water-filtration system that is high volume, and low power and low maintenance. Photo: Challenges Group

Funded support is limited and provided on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible enterprises. Applications are also invited from those with promising ideas but not yet established as a legal entity. Applicants much be a social enterprise (registered as a CIC, registered charity, SCIO or Company Limited by Guarantee) and based in Scotland.

Alternatively, you can also apply if you have an idea for a product or service that will create social impact, but not yet be legally registered and currently there is a particular focus on business ideas in tourism, renewable energy, fintech, sustainable packaging, and healthcare.

If selected, businesses receive two months of assistance which includes advice from Challenges’ UK team to identify the right market, in-country market research and business development support, and publicity for the project by AAP, as well as access to hotdesking space in Edinburgh.

AAP support is also available to other impact companies on a paid basis.

For more information about the Access Africa Programme, please visit the Challenges website

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