What Works: Afrique Initiatives
Attempts at Combining Social Purpose and Sustainable Business
WRI's business case studies go deeper into some of the most promising projects represented in the Digital Dividend Clearinghouse, providing detailed description and analysis of each business model, the market segment in which it operates, its successes and challenges, potential replicability and scalability. If possible, the study also documents the social impact of the venture.
Digital Dividends contracts teams of MBA students, under supervision of business school faculty, to research and write our business case studies, as they are uniquely suited to provide unbiased, professional assessments of the business models at low cost. Using MBA students has the added advantage of helping to interest a generation of future business leaders in microenterprise and global development issues.
Brussels-based Afrique Initiatives operates two distinct services in the city of Saint Louis, Senegal: Pesinet, a not-for-profit health care organization, and St. Louis Net, a for-profit IT services company. The two entities share IT infrastructure developed and maintained by Afrique Initiatives, but have evolved different business models. Pesinet's model, while successful, is non-profit and therefore requires continued subsidy; St. Louis Net, meanwhile, is beset by a series of business challenges and is struggling to succeed. Afrique Initiatives' mixed results may reflect the difficulty of starting an enterprise when the impetus comes from an external - rather than an internal and entrepreneurial - source.