Ian Lorenzen is the Executive Director and Partner at GrowthAfrica, one of Get in the Ring’s ecosystem partners promoting our activities on the continent. GrowthAfrica has been running for 20 years in Kenya and has since then grown into offices and activities in Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Ghana.
What is the origin of your organization?
Ian Lorenzen: “GrowthAfrica was founded in 2002 with the goal of creating economic growth and jobs, through fostering and facilitating B2B partnerships between Scandinavian companies and companies in Africa. GrowthAfrica was not always an accelerator : we waited for the right time so we ran a small business doing loans and microfinance from 2007 to 2011. But our goal was always to help high potential ambitious entrepreneurs who wanted to create big businesses that could involve a lot of people and in turn, contribute significantly to the growth of our economies and society at large. So, we started the accelerator program in 2012. We are now running a yearly 6-month support program in six countries, with 35 employees in total supporting entrepreneurs.”
What is unique about GrowthAfrica?
“GrowthAfrica has now run acceleration programmes for 10 years, growing from 1 programme a year to now 5-6 programmes a year. Acceleration is the core of what we do. We have spent a lot of time and efforts developing and continuously refining our methodology, process and curriculum. Unlike many of our peers, we deliver our programs with our own full-time team. With our multiple locations we are building a pan-African accelerator aimed for scale and reaching as many entrepreneurs as possible.”
What domains do you focus on?
“We have always been very industry agnostic. We see this changing as we are evolving. Right now we are running a program on climate and “green” and see a lot more effort in this area in the years to come. Agribusiness remains the single biggest sector across our current activities. There’s a lot of emphasis on female entrepreneurs and we have a track record of 36% of women entrepreneurs in our programs from the day we started.”
What is your proudest achievement at GrowthAfrica?
“We have been around for 20 years and have been able to pivot twice to grow our activities and impact. We got through COVID with the full team intact however difficult it has been. Having grown into six countries across Africa we now have a platform that we can build and grow from.”
Can you tell us about one bold female founder driven solution you know of within your network?
“As part of one of our first cohorts, we had the female founded jewellery-tech business called Soko. They use technology to connect female Kenyan jewellery artisans producing handmade jewellery with global customers and markets.
Soko has a great social impact as they provide job opportunities to women in marginalized areas. The company built their own tech and logistics platform allowing women to sell their jewellery end-to-end, uploading photos of the products, and then customers would be able to buy them wherever they were. Pivoting the business model allowed for Soko to also cater for the B2B retail market.”
Why did you choose to partner with Get in the Ring?
“Partnering with Get in the Ring provides us with an amazing opportunity to strengthen our Dutch and European relations. We have strong shared values with Unknown Group and a common vision of changemaking entrepreneurship that makes a partnership a natural step to reach and support more African entrepreneurs.”
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How do you think your network can contribute to the Bayer Foundation Women Empowerment Award?
“We work directly with female entrepreneurs who could be eligible and match those criteria and for whom this could be a great opportunity and valuable experience. We want to bring the right opportunities to our network and this is one of them.”
What is your next big event?
“This year is the 20th anniversary of GrowthAfrica and we are running our next flagship acceleration program in five countries starting June. We are selecting the participants for the 5 country cohorts at the moment, and it is very exciting. We will support businesses located in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia and Ghana for the 6+24-months acceleration program!”
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