A Vibrant Social Entrepreneurship Network: Why Miller Center is Catalyzing Investment in Africa


It’s spring in Africa for social entrepreneurship. The energy is palpable. With every trip the Miller Center team makes to Africa, it becomes more and more apparent that the social enterprise ecosystem is thriving and that the network effect of our enterprise partners in this region is incredibly vibrant. Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship was honored to be a knowledge partner at the 11th annual Sankalp Africa Summit, Africa’s largest convening on impact entrepreneurship and sustainable development, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya. We also teamed up with Jibu, a fellow Miller Center enterprise partner, to be the official water sponsors of the conference, providing “inspiration in every drop” to all of the Sankalp attendees.  And we co-facilitated two conference sessions with our partners from Alpha Mundi, Segal Family Foundation, Rippleworks, DRK Foundation, Villgro Africa, Pollinate Impact, and Impact Hub Abidjan.

Peer Learning at Entrepreneur Workshop in Nairobi   

With 136 Miller Center graduates creating impact in Kenya and several more attending the Summit, we took the opportunity to bring together our social enterprise community and host a day-long interactive workshop. This year, the workshop sessions were tailored to the specific needs of attending entrepreneurs and focused on topics identified by the network. As part of Miller Center’s Post-Accelerator Strategy to foster peer learning, we collaborated with fellow Miller Center partners Manuel Wiechers and Morgan Babbs to develop workshop sessions centered on building recurring revenue models and cultivating company culture for scalability. It was energizing to work with and reconnect with so many in our enterprise community.

Santa Clara University and Kenya Ambassador Meg Whitman

We were invited to the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, to share more about Santa Clara University’s (SCU) vision to be a globally engaged Jesuit university and Miller Center’s mission of accelerating entrepreneurship to end global poverty and protect the planet. There is significant alignment between Ambassador Meg Whitman’s enthusiasm for trade and investment opportunities in Kenya and Miller Center’s expertise in accelerating investment-ready social enterprises. We committed to continue exploring avenues for collaboration between Kenyan initiatives and SCU, especially under the leadership of President Julie Sullivan.

Supporting the Rwandan Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

Following the whirlwind week in Nairobi, we continued to Rwanda. During our time in Kigali, we had the pleasure of co-hosting an entrepreneur reception with INKOMOKO, another Miller Center partner. We also met with members of the Rwandan Ministry of ICT and Innovation, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), and the US Embassy in Kigali to explore potential collaborations and partnerships in line with Rwanda’s vision for entrepreneurship. It’s inspiring to witness the country’s transformation under the strategic leadership of President Paul Kagame over the past two decades. The investment in new infrastructure to drive the country’s entrepreneurial spirit and support its growing economy reflects their ambitious aim to become a Middle-Income Country and a regional thought leader across many industries by 2035.

Investing in Miller Center Enterprises

One of the biggest highlights of this trip was visiting our social enterprise partners and seeing firsthand the transformative impact their businesses have on the communities they serve. We visited four of our enterprise partners – Deevabits, Nyota, Sistema.bio, and Solar Sister, two of which are also Miller Center Capital investees. To date, Miller Center Capital has made 29 investments in our enterprise alums, with 20 having impact in Africa, specifically in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia. Miller Center very much shares the ardor of Ambassador Meg Whitman to encourage growing businesses and investment in Africa. With every investment that Miller Center Capital makes, we aim to catalyze significant additional investments into enterprises that are driving real and growing impact across the continent.

Thriving Social Entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa

To say entrepreneurship is thriving in Sub-Saharan Africa would be an understatement, especially with enterprises dedicated to addressing poverty and environmental concerns. There is a reason that Kenya has been dubbed the “Silicon Savannah.” With technological advances, such as the mobile money service M-PESA, Kenya has dramatically extended its global reach and broadened the way the country is able to connect within the Kenyan market.

Africa is a young continent, with 60% of the population under the age of 25. Additionally, Africa is also the last emerging market meaning that the country offers the last big supply chain opportunities and untapped consumer prospects. Drawing parallels to the development surge in Southeast Asia 20 years ago, it’s reasonable to anticipate a very similar and rapid development trajectory across Africa. The enterprises supported by Miller Center Capital are advancing sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and our fund intentionally offers innovative financing tailored to accelerate the delivery of these solutions. Impact investment convenings like Sankalp Africa Summit prove that there is a desire and ecosystem primed for not only expanding economic development but also for creating truly forward-thinking solutions across the continent.

Really Getting Into It…Full on Immersion

Miller Center will be hosting our annual summer immersion trip, bringing a group of delegates to Kenya and Rwanda in June. The experience provides a unique opportunity to witness first-hand the power of entrepreneurship to transform lives and create climate resilience in a variety of communities across Africa. We are excited to have Santa Clara University President Julie Sullivan and her husband join us on this trip. It will be an engaging experience with visits to seven investment-ready social enterprises who have participated in Miller Center’s flagship accelerator program.

Miller Center and Santa Clara University, under President Sullivan’s strategic plan, is well positioned to become a global hub for collaboration that advances economic, social, ecological, and political development. Being physically located in Silicon Valley, we find ourselves uniquely placed to do this as we leverage our close proximity to and relationships with several global tech corporate giants. And by leveraging the partnerships that Miller Center has already established with our African social enterprise network across the continent, we have much more opportunity to further drive catalytic capital and help social enterprises innovate, scale, and lift entire populations out of poverty.

We began 2024 with a shared commitment to make a difference through deep and meaningful engagements with our African entrepreneur community. We are well on our way to continuing to create ripples of positivity together!


Photo Credits

  1. Karen Runde and Jibu Head of Impact and Partnerships Tosca Terra at Sankalp Africa Summit

  2. 2024 Miller Center Enterprise Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya

  3. INKOMOKO and Miller Center co-hosted Entrepreneur Reception, Kigali, Rwanda

  4. Jeff Pilisuk and Karen Runde visit with Rwanda Ministry of ICT and Innovation, Kigali, Rwanda

  5. Madrin Maina, Africa Director, Sistema.bio