Education + Jobs in East Africa: Akilah Institute + African Entrepreneur Collective

Categorized as: , , , , , , , & Tagged as: , , , , , on April 1, 2017. Related Grantees: Advancing Girls Education: AGE Africa, Agora Partnerships, Asante Africa Foundation, Educate Lanka, Hope for Honduran Children, Kiretono Resource Centre through AID Tanzania, Medha.


CATALYST AND SEED PARTNER UPDATE: Akilah Institute and African Entrepreneur Collective in East Africa: Part 2 

Editor’s note: Our family gets so excited when our partners collaborate with each other, that we get a little goofy. It feels a little as though two of our best friends started dating each other . . . This year, our life-changing Catalyst partner, The Akilah Institute, has partnered with our Seed partner, African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), to place some of Africa’s brightest new college graduates in youth-centric startups in Rwanda. We wish Akilah and AEC much happiness and success!

Suzanne Skees By Suzanne Skees


Two Surefire Paths to Success: College and Employment

Since its founding in 2010, The Akilah Institute has graduated 227 women leaders in a region known for its scarcity of jobs–especially for young people. So, while Akilah strives to equip ambitious, compassionate young women leaders with the training they need to lead, their graduates face a dearth of jobs.

Cofounder Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes tells the Asana blog that 88 percent of Akilah graduates secure jobs within six months of graduation. They earn incomes averaging 12 times the national per-capita median income in Rwanda. “Our graduates go on to become supervisors and managers or start their own businesses and employ other women,” says Elizabeth. “Many serve as mentors or community leaders, and 90 percent financially support at least one family member or individual.”


Job Readiness in a Region with No Jobs

Africa has the world’s youngest population, with 200 million people aged 15-24; yet 60% are unemployed and many more are underemployed.  Across Africa, even young people who are motivated to create their own jobs through entrepreneurship, they often lack the skills, networks, and capital needed to grow their businesses to the size where they can create jobs for others.

African Entrepreneur Collective seeks to change that paradigm. Through capacity-building, mentorship, advising, and access to affordable capital, AEC removes the barriers so that young people can lead the economic transformation of their countries.



What African Entrepreneur Collective Does

African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC) was founded in 2012 by two social entrepreneurs who were convinced that supporting youth-led businesses was the most sustainable path out of poverty for the region.

Despite the rapid growth of incubator programs on the continent—especially in East Africa—most provide only short-term or piecemeal services, helping to generate new ideas but not always resulting in healthy businesses with longer-term success and job-creation.

AEC provides comprehensive and ongoing support to already-established but young businesses in a wide range of industries—to strengthen and grow their operations. AEC is all about supporting young Africans building businesses that hire other young Africans.

Founder Julienne Oyler shares one of AEC’s organizational values, that “people are the source of all great things. We believe that if you invest in young people to create solutions for their communities, not only will they come up with more relevant solutions, but they will also be committed to the long-haul for lifting up their communities from within.”

AEC accelerators and incubators are tailored for a range of entrepreneurs who want to do just that:

  1. Inkomoko: AEC’s signature business development program in Rwanda
  2. Anza: starting and scaling social businesses in Tanzania with the same Inkomoko model
  3. African Innovation Prize: for students
  4. AEC Rwanda Trustee: low-cost loan funding
  5. SPRING: an East-African accelerator focused on innovations for girls

The Wind Beneath Young Startups’ Wings

AEC accelerators partner with young entrepreneurs to build their skills, expand their networks, and grow their businesses so that they may employ others. Since launching in 2102, AEC has worked with more than 250 businesses, they’ve already helped create more than 3000 jobs, providing gainful employment to local people while contributing to the country’s economic and social development.


The three Cs: AEC builds the capacity of entrepreneurs through strategic consulting and hands-on skills trainings so that they are ready to take their businesses to the next level; capital leases to entrepreneurs, giving them the necessary funding and tools they need to expand their businesses; and connections to each other and to a global network of experts and mentors, building a community to drive catalytic change.


Akilah and AEC

As partners, AEC has employed four Akilah interns and provides ongoing pro-bono services to eight winners of Akilah’s Business Plan Competition. Two Akilah students launched a restaurant, FOREVER PEACE, that’s already creating local jobs.

Photographs and video courtesy of The Akilah Institute and African Entrepreneur Collective


LEARN more about Akilah’s work to empower and educate East African women here, and African Entrepreneur Collective’s support of over 250 young entrepreneurs, here.

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DONATE directly to Akilah Institute here and to African Entrepreneur Collective here.


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