Market solutions for inclusive societies in Africa

Bridge pupils learning math.
Friday, June 29, 2018

Harnessing the power of markets in the fight against poverty has been an area of much study and experimentation over the past 40 years. Increasingly, business innovators are using market-based practices as a means to bring sustainable social benefits to locally impoverished regions of the world and provide a financial return to investors. In 2011, Bo Hopkins, who has more than 25 years of private industry investment, management, and consulting experience, developed a course—Market Solutions for Inclusive Societies (AFST 305/306)—that explores the increasing importance of enterprise solutions as a means of fostering local empowerment to establish the building blocks of regional economic development. 

There are two parts to the class. Part 1 (January-April) is structured as a case-based seminar. Selected sophomores and juniors meet weekly as a class to discuss and explore the many commercial opportunities and challenges faced by socially entrepreneurial organizations and their sponsors in each of their unique circumstances. Part 2 takes place over 6-8 weeks of summer. Student team members travel in their individual groups (three students per group) to a selected research “host” headquartered in Africa which is directly involved in the promotion and development of businesses whose mission prioritizes social benefit along with financial sustainability.

Now in its seventh year, this summer 14 students will travel to four African countries to learn and work with five dynamic social enterprises. Two teams will participate in Uganda for the first time— a Rhino Camp in the north and Kampala in the south—making this the fifteenth country in which the class has studied.

  • African Health Placements (South Africa)
  • Living Goods (Uganda)
  • Global Environment & Technology Foundation (Ghana)
  • Bridge International Academies (Kenya)
  • Gulu Agricultural Development Company (Uganda)

The following report is from Sam Burton, Yale College Class of 2020, who is in Nairobi working with Bridge International Academies, a social enterprise that focuses on providing underprivileged students with access to suitable education. Bridge has a network of over 300 affordable private schools throughout Kenya to support low-income families, and has expanded to Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, and India.

“Kenya and Bridge have been incredible! I am working with the Quality Assurance and Measurement & Evaluation departments to make Bridge’s audits easier to use and more efficient, so that Quality Assurance associates can better help students and so that the data they collect can be more reliable and usable.

Work has been so interesting and inspiring. The project they gave me involves programming, which is new for me, and also gives me the opportunity to come up with my own insights and ideas that I will eventually incorporate into my project. I have been in meetings with the heads of departments (operations, IT, schools, customer care, etc.) and got to learn all about the different facets of Bridge. I’m learning how to use the software SurveyToGo, which will be crucial to my project. I got to visit two academies with a QA Associate to watch how the Attendance audit and Key Observation audit—the two audits I am tasked to improve—actually work. Visiting the schools was so incredible. I was able to play with the students during recess and sit in on some of their classes. We work long hours, from about 9am to 6pm, but since everyone here (including me) is so passionate about the students and about education, it doesn’t feel like a long day at all.”