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Slightly over 15 years ago, Intellecap was searching for the perfect name for their new initiative. Something that would sum up a platform that would change the entrepreneurial ecosystem for good. They found the Sanskrit word, Sankalpa – resolution, and the Sankalp Forum was born.

Today the annual Sankalp Africa Summit, with its recently concluded 11th Edition, is the largest convening of its type in the region, bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, and other ecosystem actors. In February, 1300+ delegates from 50+ countries gathered in Nairobi to increase knowledge, raise capital, and build networks. ‘I even scheduled a meeting while waiting for an Uber!’ a first-time attendee told me, buzzing with adrenaline. Meanwhile an investor told me she planned to pop in for the Opening Plenary only, but then stayed the whole morning, having conversations with old friends, people she had heard of but not had the chance to meet, and entrepreneurs who ‘restored her faith in humanity’. The spirit of Sankalpa was alive and well.

Each year Sankalp Forum seeks to source, seed, support, and scale impact enterprises. This year’s theme was ‘Catalyzing Impact: Igniting Africa’s Potential for Just Transition’. The Summit facilitated dialogues and fostered potential partnerships, serving as a fertile ground for networking, capital, and knowledge. We used technology as a tool to support throughout in all three of these areas, most notably through the Brella platform to support interactions during and beyond the Summit’s timeline.

Networking: Building and strengthening networks is one of the primary reasons that people attend Sankalp. Although a cliche, the Summit really does provide the opportunity to meet with old friends and make new ones: a staggering 3296 meetings were facilitated over the two days! Just over 40% of attendees were entrepreneurs, and just under 20% offered financing as investors/donors/DFIs/foundations. 15% were business support providers or member network organisations. Every lunch queue, coffee break, and happy hour provided the opportunity to make new connections, learn, and explore innovative ways to make the world a better place.

Capital: Live pitching sessions provided the opportunity for entrepreneurs to get instant feedback and interest from investors. For example, the new ASCEND Program targeted early-stage enterprises, linking them with Angel Investors for potential seed funding up to USD 1,000,000 and offering strategic mentorship. The format was straightforward: entrepreneurs pitched their businesses followed by investor Q&A, culminating in investors’ commitments for follow-up dialogues. Similarly, the “Trailblazers” segment focused on seven standout entrepreneurs ready for Series B funding or beyond, each aiming to secure investments over 10 million USD. The summit provided these enterprises with a platform for interaction with prominent funding organizations, enhancing their visibility and prospects for substantial investment. There were also specially curated Deal Rooms, focused on different themes and geographies such as Climate and Uganda, among others.

Knowledge: The Sankalp Forum is an Intellecap Initiative and part of The Aavishkaar Group, which works to build businesses that can benefit the underserved segments across Africa and Asia. All the work at Intellecap is designed to make markets equitable and inclusive, and our large, diverse staff team are at the cutting edge of development in far-reaching topics – from climate financing, to circular economies, to gender, and beyond. All this means that Sankalp has a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon, ensuring that sessions are focused on emerging issues. For example, Intellecap’s Managing Director for Climate and Agri Solutions hosted a session that brought together senior climate investors to discuss scaling up climate financing and discuss a collaborative approach to the challenge. In addition to Intellecap’s own knowledge base, our knowledge and programme partners designed and delivered high quality sessions relevant to the broader ecosystem.

My name is Liz Corbishley, and I am the new lead for Sankalp in Africa. This was my first Sankalp Summit, and I was blown away by the passion, innovation, and networking I saw in every corner of the event. This year’s winner of the Sankalp Africa Award, the Toothpick Project, was a perfect example of this. The Toothpick Project has developed an innovative bioherbicide solution that fights Striga weed and promotes sustainable agriculture practices (because an unbelievable ‘40 million farms across Africa are facing the biggest problem to food security you have probably never heard of’). They have a solution that is innovative, impactful, and scalable, and deserves recognition and funding.

With the 2024 Africa summit behind us, the team at Intellecap is now pausing and taking stock. We are talking to entrepreneurs, investors, and other ecosystem actors to identify how their needs and interests have changed in the space. In short, we are acting with sankalpa, and would welcome conversation with anyone from the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Global South as we chart our path forward.