Every corner of the world has its own host of challenges. Or, Joachim Ewechu, CEO and co-founder of The East Africa Unreasonable Institute, said in a recent interview, “The more we look at all these challenges as great opportunities and stop complaining but rather ask ourselves what we can do about it, then we are on the right course to development, we are on the right course to equality, we are on the right course to improved livelihood.”
2014 marks the first year that the Colorado-based Unreasonable Institute is expanding to both Mexico and Uganda, where East Africa Unreasonable is based. (See earlier post regarding the Unreasonable Institute.) At present, fourteen entrepreneurs in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania are crowdfunding to raise their tuition as Fellows this summer. The entrepreneurs’ projects highlight the diversity of opportunities available for improving lives and livelihoods in East Africa, from solar energy to feminine health. The full marketplace of Fellows, which Launcht is delighted to partner on, is available here.
Ewechu expressed excitement over how this first group of exclusively East African Unreasonable Fellows are rising to the particular opportunities of their region, “Everyone has talked about how Africa is the next frontier. The challenges we face here are huge opportunities for entrepreneurs. If there is a lack of quality affordable health care, that is an opportunity for an entrepreneurs to set up a chain of hospitals or clinics to bridge this gap. If there is lack of food and starvation, that is an opportunity for a farmer to grow more food and sell the surplus. If there is a problem in the lack of clean cooking energy, then this is an opportunity for an entrepreneur to create a company that provides this access”
To engender this transformation from challenge to opportunity, East Africa Unreasonable will run on the same model as the Global Unreasonable Institute. The entrepreneurial Fellows will spend five weeks this summer living together and learning from experienced entrepreneurs in their fields, connecting with a network of potential investors, and gaining crucial experience to provide them with an unreasonable advantage to succeed in an unreasonably challenging environment. “By having our 14 awesome entrepreneurs living in the same house and sharing with over 50 well accomplished mentors under the same roof, we are creating a family of entrepreneurs,” explained Ewechu.
Ewechu highlighted that there are three main sources of support that budding entrepreneurs need to reach sustainable success: “You need to provide the mentorship which is the knowledge and you need to provide the access to capital as well, and lastly, you need to provide them with a network of support to take them the long way.”
With nascent entrepreneurs, one of the chief learning experiences has been to give projects an appropriate amount of capital—Ewechu mentioned that some investors tend to provide more capital than a new venture is able to use effectively, “most impact investors doing investments ranging from 250k to 5 million dollars and yet the entrepreneur and ventures here need just between 10k-50k.” By facilitating real relationships between the Fellows and investors, East Africa Unreasonable educates the investors, as well as the entrepreneurs, about the ways in which mentorship can be of a deeper value than capital alone.
As the 2014 class of Fellows comes closer to reality, Ewechu is “most excited about all our entrepreneurs. I am moved by their work, their dedication, their impact, their passion for what they are striving to do. Their stories, keep me motivated to work eighteen-hour workdays without tiring. I am excited about working with them and helping them grow all their ventures by tenfold. They are the reason we do the work we do and the impact is truly inspiring.”
And, work like East Africa Unreasonable and the Global Unreasonable Institute overall, are the reasons that Launcht does the work we do.