🌍 Creating impact in the African tech ecosystem takes many stakeholders, and while venture dollars might grab the biggest headlines, foundation and impact partners also play a crucial role. You might even argue—correctly—that these impact partners have influenced traditional VC players and shaped how they think about investing on the continent. 

🚀 This month’s podcast is a conversation with Dr. Nina Smidt, the Spokesperson for the Board and the CEO of the International Siemens Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation that has been promoting and investing in sustainable social development for the last fifteen years. 

According to Dr. Smidt, the Foundation focuses on three key topics: access to essential services, connected societies, and climate and sustainability. 

At the heart of this conversation is the importance of sustainable social enterprise. Another key theme is the importance of working with local stakeholders in specific regions because they know best what will create the most significant impact on their work and impact in their communities. 

👀 It’s a particularly valid point when foreign VC players in Africa have received criticism for their poor understanding of the landscape and lack of knowledge of sustainable business models. In 2021 and 2022, a time when foreign VCs poured money into Africa, there was a sense that partnering with local players familiar with the lay of the land would have led to better investments. 

But it’s not all about divergence. VCs and impact foundations also have notable points of convergence. Impact foundations can, for instance, invest in late-stage social enterprises that may not receive follow-up VC funding but serve very important purposes. 

💡 Here’s a quote from Dr. Smidt that drives the point home: 

“The biggest obstacle is still a lack of funding in general. Funding is there for ideation and later stages, but the so-called middle experiences a funding gap. We support social enterprises that are not in the early stages anymore, that are already generating revenue but are not sustainable in themselves from a funding perspective. So here’s where we come in.” 

Enough spoilers for one episode. Please listen and share what you found the most impactful in this episode! - Olumuyiwa (Contributor and Writer, African Pre-seed Podcast).

💡 Top 5 insights unpacked in the episode:

  • The International Siemens Foundation's point of view on impact and social entrepreneurship [03:37]
  • The foundation bridges funding gaps for social enterprises in the "missing middle" stage, supporting them until they become self-sustainable [08:34]
  • The importance of local understanding in driving innovation and change [11:30]
  • Monitoring and evaluation methods to assess programs and continuous improvement [17:22]
  • Investing in research and development, empowering local innovators to pilot and scale solutions [24:06]

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