Freetown Pitch Night (FPN) held their monthly program on the of theme “Social Entrepreneurship”. The focus was on ideas that provide opportunities for youth in their communites. The program was hosted at British Council, Tower Hill, Freetown and was well attended, with 89+ guests in number, including the Global Entrepreneurship Network SL (GEN SL) team, FPN sponsors, company executives of, donor organizations, entrepreneurs and young professionals.
According to an article published on the UNDP (SL) website, approximately 70% of youth are under-employed or unemployed, with an estimated 800,000 youth actively searching for employment. Furthermore, illiteracy remains a persistent challenge, with youth that lack skills and education finding it extremely difficult to compete for the limited jobs available. The relevance of the topic cannot be over emphasized, as the challenges for youth are immense. To a large extent the solution can only come from the people that suffer the burden. The audience for the event were from all backgrounds.
Opening Statement & Panelists:
An Opening Statement was made by Mr. Tony Reilly, Country Director of the British Council, the who gave a brief rundown of the last FPN and a background to the current theme. He measured three pioneers with regard to the topic “Social Entrepreneurship”. The Panelists were Estelle Van Der Ekout, General Manager of Brussels Airline, Dr. Umaru Bah, CEO at Data Wise, and Mr. Abdul Salam Kamara, Lecturer at the University of Sierra Leone.
Four entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas. The topics were linked with the breaking of stigmas, matching youth to livelihoods, motivating good deeds, addressing health, energy and other basic needs, recycling, enterprise, assistive technology and the prevention of violence.
- Samuel A.S Kamara. Founder, Enet Salone:
Samuel pitched his idea on the area of technology. He talked about the poor and weak educational system of Sierra Leone, which he said lacked the resources that would aid the essence of quality education in the country. He explained that his company provides educational materials, which will serve as link in breaching the gap of our traditional way of learning, to a well supporting material which will be in line with modern day learning.
- Basiru Mansaray. Founder, OS Preneur:
Basiru pitched his ideas on Assistive Technology. He said Sierra Leone is currently grappling with unemployment. Because of the lack of jobs many youths have decided to own their own enterprise, yet there remains a lack of infrastructure to support these young businesses. OS Preneur is solving the problem by providing a way to easily register young start-ups, access tools, resources and networks and, in the long term, provide access to funding.
- Yaniv Anthony. CEO of Webber Energy SL Ltd:
Yaniv pitched his ideas on recycling, pointing at Bomeh dumping site as a decade-long problem of waste dumping. He also said little has been done to tackle the problem of waste from the government side. He emphasized how his company is transforming this waste to bio-energy, which can be used as fuel for cooking and also for agricultural purposes. He also said the technology responsible for the transformation of the wastes to fuel is been created by his company. The company carry out education on how to use the technology and encouragement is given to children in the area to understand the important of renewable energy, as this will help in the reduction of pollution and diseases.
- Rebecca Jawara, Founder at Mental Health Program:
Rebecca pitched her idea on how important it is to tackle the issues of mental illnesses, as she said, according to a report from World Health Organization (WHO), one in every four individuals suffers from mental health issues. She said her organization will be focusing on raising awareness about the illness, on with she said little is been done to educate the population on the state of the illness. With regards to disseminating the information, she suggested we would start by approaching people on a one-to-one basis, organizing seminars or events.
Mr. Walid Bahson, CEO of Premier Environ Solution (SL) Ltd:
Mr Bahsoon gave a compelling presentation on waste management. He further encouraged the pitchers to keep focussed, as there lie huge challenges ahead to survive and realize their ideas, in terms of creating a sustainable revenue model.
Panel Review & Closing Remarks:
The panelists gave important and critical feedback to each of the pitchers and expressed their delight at seeing young Sierra Leoneans with such aspirations. Saying that challenges bring opportunities, they were pleased that young entrepreneurs were welcoming challenges and exploring new opportunities.
We were privileged to have two closing remarks. Firstly from Mr. Sami of the EcoBank Micro Finance, one of the sponsors, who advised the pitchers to start saving and, most importantly, have focus on their undertakings in the midst of challenges.
The second remark was by World Bank Country Director Gayle Martin. She said “Growth is not going to come from young people wanting to get a job, growth is going to come from entrepreneurs. My first time at this event, I am very encouraged.’
Thanks and appreciation to our sponsors, guests and everyone for making the program a success.
By Abdul Karim Mansaray