UTG-Etown Social Enterprise Launch
3 October 2016
This fall, the UTG (University of The Gambia) students have officially launched their first collaborative Social Enterprise. Under the supervision of Dr. Momodou Jain (UTG Physics), the student managed Recharge The Gambia initiative publicly announced themselves in a ceremony at the University’s Law campus. The Gambian national television network provided broad exposure.
Mentored by Dr. Kurt DeGoede (Engineering) engineering and international business students from Elizabethtown College developed the technology and business plan for the enterprise. Over a period of 3.5 years, 20 Etown students have utilized their capstone projects to advance this and related initiatives. During that time, the teams have made 3 site visits to The Gambia and numerous Skype meetings to work side-by-side with their UTG partners and foster intercultural understanding.
In our most recent visit, Dr. Dmitriy Krichevskiy (Etown Business) accompanied the team. Dr. Krichevskiy consulted with the UGT team as they finalized their business plan and defined management roles. With boxes of supplies, carefully constructed organizational chart, and a year’s worth of performance targets, the students embarked on the hard work of moving from concept to a functional enterprise. The UTG students manage the enterprise as a small business, gaining valuable skills as budding entrepreneurs. The Elizabethtown College Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking and the Elizabethtown College Faculty Grant program provided financial support for this trip.
On this trip in August 2015, we also brought over supplies for 250 solar phone chargers. Individual donors funded the purchase of these supplies (http://sponsor.etown.edu). The UTG team further collaborated with SWE-GAM Limited a local PV (photovoltaic) supplier and contractor, who manufactured and donated the needed backing board for each phone charger. The donated materials and a privately funded micro loan provided the start up with the working capital to launch the initiative.
A network of students has begun selling the units and organizing a campaign to distribute the chargers throughout the rural districts of the nation. The $10 purchase price provides a more affordable alternative to the charging solutions currently available to rural Gambians. The not-for-profit business model channels all revenues into funding the supply chain, assembly, and distribution of future units. The enterprise sustainably recovers all material, labor and management expenses for each unit sold.
The partnership between UTG and Etown continues, collaborating to develop solutions to other social needs in West Africa through additional social enterprise solutions. New solutions will be developed in a parallel model, with successful pilots spinning-off as independent enterprises as they expand into additional markets.