Kenyans use spirit of ubuntu to scoop top prize

Thursday, November 3, 2005

A Kenyan social enterprise, Honeycare Africa, was named the top small- to-medium-sized business in Africa in Johannesburg last week.

This is the first time in the history of the Africa SMME Awards that a non-South African company has been named the winner.

According to Professor Nicholas Biekpe, head of the Africa Centre for Investment Analysis (ACIA) at the University of Stellenbosch Business School and host of the event, the emergence of Honeycare as the winner is indicative of ubuntu in Africa.

“The spirit of ubuntu is alive in many African countries and these social enterprises see themselves as extensions of the community,” he said.

Honeycare has an explicit sustainability agenda. With various stakeholders, the company encourages small-scale farmers, most of whom live below the poverty line, to start beekeeping as a sustainable source of income.

This has led to the company’s emergence as the winner of the Renewable Energy and Environment category and the Africa SMME of the Year award.

Honeycare links with donors and micro-finance institutions to provide beekeepers with loans to acquire beekeeping equipment, training and extension services as well as a guaranteed market for their honey.

The company then processes, packs, markets, distributes and sells the honey under unique brand names.

In close overall second position and winner of the Food and Beverage Production category was Ultimate Sports Nutrition (USN). USN founder Alb? Geldenhuys correctly anticipated a surge in the need for sports drinks.

The company has an extensive product range, including food supplements for professional sports people and sports drinks aimed at a wider mass consumer market.

The overall third position was taken by the winner of the Tourism and Transport sector award, Mandla Wilderness, an eco-tourism business on the shores of Lake Niassa in Mozambique.

A conservation area surrounding the lodge provides employment and opportunities in a sustainable manner.

The category for Non-Profit Organisations was introduced this year. ASAFE (Association pour le Soutien et l’Appui ? la Femme Entrepreneur), a development organisation from Cameroon, won the category.

The organisation grew from an educational institution to one that offers entrepreneurs support services, including micro-finance.

For excellence in journalism covering small business issues on the continent, South African Stephen Timm of BigNews, a Cape Town newspaper, won the Africa SMME Journalist of the Year award.

Godwin Nnanna of Business Day, Nigeria, came second, with Siaka Momoh of the same newspaper receiving honourable mention.

Biekpe believes the development of best practices in the sector could greatly alleviate poverty.

“Once a few key issues are in place, small businesses can thrive with relatively little effort. Yet we find that little is done to secure these enabling deliverables.”

Factors that need to be addressed are excessive red tape when registering a business, lack of access to information and poor rule of law.

These were among the topics discussed at ACIA’s Africa Development Finance Conference which preceded the awards evening.

For more information contact Jako Volschenk at or visit

Editor’s note: Check out the activity capsule on Honeycare.

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