Students and social entrepreneurs as a team: solutions to Africa's challenges

Better access to medicines in Ghana, locally produced hygiene products from Rwanda and better sales channels for small farmers there, as well as an online education platform for young people in South Africa - ideas like these from African social entrepreneurs are accompanying students at the Ingolstadt Faculty of Business and Economics at the Catholic University. The action learning program in cooperation with the Bayer Foundation is an integral part of the "Entrepreneurship and Innovation" focus in the master's degree program in business administration.

"Students are expected to evaluate the business models of the start-ups and identify room for improvement," explains Prof. Dr. André Habisch, who coordinates this focus of study. The African partner companies are founders whose business purpose serves the United Nations' sustainability goals in a special way and have been awarded the title of "Social Impact Start-up" by the Bayer Cares Foundation for this. The KU students are networked with these impressive personalities and together they develop new impulses for the business models within two courses. Some of the students pursue the topics further in their final theses. For the first time, the association "Social Innovation through Academic Education" SISTAC e.V. is now honoring selected master's graduates for their innovative ideas.

One of them is Stefan Fuchs, who cooperated with Marlon Marker as founder of the South African online platform "zlat". This is aimed at (unemployed) young people who are rewarded for social commitment with a digital currency. Volunteer services and measures for individual further education & training. The company's goal is to provide basic socio-economic security to Africa's youth, some of whom are destitute and without prospects, to promote knowledge building, present opportunities to gain initial work-related experience, and thus provide access to opportunities for social advancement. Fuchs developed a certification process for the platform to train users in job-related skills. "Due to the Corona pandemic, we were not able to conduct any of our learning programs that we normally offer in person for the youth. In this situation, we were able to immediately implement the micro-learning model Stefan proposed: we issued more than 500,000 micro-certificates to youth across South Africa within six months," reports Parker, who has already been recognized as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Master's student Marco Miglietta dedicated himself to another social enterprise. From a seminar, he continued the cooperation with the online platform BISA, which was founded by the Ghanaian software developer Raindolf Owusu. This offers people in remote regions the opportunity to ask doctors for advice via smartphone. In the seminar, Miglietta and fellow students first developed ways to expand the pool of contact persons - for example, by including retired German doctors or experienced medical students before graduation. For his master's thesis, Miglietta has now looked at how the platform can also improve the supply of medicines. "In Ghana, it is much more complicated to obtain medicines. Not every pharmacy has a preparation available, prices are not transparent, and counterfeit drugs are in circulation," Miglietta explains. Together with Owu's team, he has developed a new platform that customers can use to contact pharmacies online, probably as early as January.

Two other projects receiving the SISTAC award are based in Rwanda. Student Van Tran has collaborated with Sanit Wing, a company that produces avocado-based hygiene products. The company's founder, Alex Nshimiyimana, was responding to the fact that hygiene products had previously had to be imported at great expense. He also wanted to make a contribution to combating youth unemployment through domestic production. Tran built a website, online store, and social media presence for Sanit Wing to open up more sales channels for the company.

A connection to Sanit Wing came again through the project of Lennart Gondermann, who was involved with the agricultural startup Real Green Gold. This produces avocados and fruit itself, but also offers small farmers market access. The long-term goal of Real Green Gold is to offer the goods in certified organic quality in order to create a unique selling point compared to the competition, and at the same time to raise sales margins to enable better living standards for producers. In his project, Gondermann was able to develop a monitoring system for the international requirements of organic farming certifications after a profound market and company analysis by Real Green Gold. The result is the Excel-based tool "OCMS" (Organic Certification Management System), which can be used to manage, evaluate and control the development of smallholder groups towards organic agriculture.

The presentation of the first SISTAC awards will take place on Friday, December 18, starting at 6 p.m. as an online event. In addition to Professor Habisch, the founders of the "Social Innovation through Academic Education" association include Florian Holste, managing director of the Ingolstadt-based management consultancy Achtzig20, and entrepreneur Dr. Bernd Abraham. To attend the award ceremony, free registration is required in advance via The event can be found there under the search term "Sistac".