Social entrepreneurship in Africa: China takes the lead, Americans missing out?

Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project; Nell Diallo, VP of Corporate and International Relations for MedShare; and Bernard Taylor, Sr., partner at Alston & Bird LLP
Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project; Nell Diallo, VP of corporate and international relations for MedShare; and Bernard Taylor Sr., partner at Alston & Bird LLP

Using the popular footwear brand TOMS – which donates a pair of shoes for each pair purchased (more than 10 million thus far) — as a catalyst, the briefing addressed struggles and successes of well-meaning efforts on the African continent in terms of social enterprises. Diallo was joined by fellow panelists Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project and Bernard Taylor Sr., partner at Alston & Bird LLP and member of the southeast regional board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

To Diallo’s point, once China started investing their resources in Africa, the other countries figured out how to be partners and make money, without passing judgement or imposing their own morals, values and politics. “The interest rate on soft loans decreased after China went into Africa,” she continues, “that is significant.”


During the insightful discussion, the speakers identified social entrepreneurship models, efficient use of resources, and the future of nonprofit and for-profit organizations in the region.

“Are you saying what China is doing in sub-Saharan Africa is the appropriate way to approach interacting with the people on that continent?” quizzes Taylor, who has traveled with UNICEF to Madagascar, Tanzania, and Rwanda and is helping to lead the efforts on the African American Initiative.


“China isn’t going in Africa asking, ‘Did you vote for me at the U.N.?’ They are focused purely on economics and not trying to tell them how to run their politics. Many countries are penalized because of their politics. Do you leave them in that category?” Diallo answers.

“Africa’s potential can’t be viewed as desperation. We want real devotion, solid, not by the way,” avows Kayongo, a Ugandan-American who is a renowned expert in environmental sustainability and global health.

In her role with MedShare, Diallo works with public and private partners that include Coca-Cola Africa, Anadarko Oil, GE-CAMINE, and Chevron.

“African nations must have foreign, direct investment,” says Diallo. “There isn’t a country in Africa that doesn’t have a 20-year plan for development. Diallo has lived in Togo, Congo, Burkina Faso and traveled to 30 countries and has received numerous honors and awards from several foreign international associations and offers a wealth of knowledge on this subject. She’s served as a consultant to UNDP, UNICEF and UNIFEM,  and as a special advisor to various project to five heads of state in Africa. In addition to her work at MedShare, she continues to assist with issues related to the promotion of tourism, marketing and development in Africa.

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