Research and Innovation project
April – May 2017
“I have just spent two months in Senegal, in Dakar. I went there to study and observe how business incubators work in developing countries and what is their potential and their possible impact. In particular, I focused my research on the social side of business incubators, trying to understand what a social business incubator represents in a country like Senegal and how it can sustain itself.
I had the chance to spend most of my time working and observing from an internal perspective the development and the evolution of a new born business incubator, completely destructed from an organizational point of view: the founder was trying to create a new model of business incubator basing her concept on the Africans mindset and values rather than on the traditional western concept. In the meantime, I went also visiting some other business incubators, co-working spaces and join labs, where I interviewed key people of the different organizations.
Developing a business incubator in Dakar it’s not easy and having as target not only the economic profitability but also and in particular the social sustainability it is even more difficult.
I was impressed by the potential that Senegal and the overall West Africa have to offer. Once you are there, you can breathe the willingness to change and the desire of many people to deal with the difficult economic landscape of Africa. I had to face many challenges: the different values and mindset, the language barrier (often people speak only Wolof) and the hot weather that affects badly people’s behaviour. Unemployment and poverty are the biggest actors of the Senegalese business context and finding people that really believe that business incubators and social innovation can represent a means to overcome these two plagues: it is amazing and creates huge optimism for the future.
It was not the first time for me in Africa, but living there it’s never easy. It’s a tough and huge continent. In spite of its contradictions, I am strongly convinced that Africa represents the future and approaching this inevitable development in a sustainable and social way will be crucial. That is what I tried to do with my research and is what many social business incubators are trying to cultivate in the population.”