SUPPORT | August 28, 2018

GEN Sierra Leone Engages Freetown Mayor in Startup Pitch Night

Photo Credit: GEN Sierra Leone

GEN Sierra Leone’s key strategic focus is to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. The ecosystem in Sierra Leone is fairly nascent, and since GEN Sierra Leone was started in December 2016, a lot of work has gone into raising awareness on the importance of supporting and developing the country’s ecosystem.

As part of this effort, GEN Sierra Leone, Innovation SL and a number of other partners hold monthly pitch nights called “Freetown Pitch Night.” The pitch night is one of several key activities aimed at fostering a thriving startup ecosystem in Sierra Leone.

The Freetown Pitch Night has become the most significant networking event in terms of empowering the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sierra Leone. Freetown Pitch Night provides the necessary platform where ideas and businesses are identified, and connections are made between various stakeholders in the ecosystem.

GEN Sierra Leone is committed to accelerating entrepreneurial growth in the country. To do this, GEN Sierra Leone believes we need an intentional strategy, an infrastructure that is able to make more entrepreneurs emerge, we need to support startups, to connect all ecosystem players and generate more sustainable jobs. This is in essence what Freetown Pitch Night is all about.

On August 1, 2018, Freetown Pitch Night held a special pitch event for the mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the first female mayor that the city has had since 1980. More than 150 people attended, including a number of VIPs and Heads of NGOs in Sierra Leone. The event was streamed lived on AYV TV and was covered the following day in the morning show on Star TV.

GEN Sierra Leone Managing Director, Francis Stevens George (the author) explained that the mayor was invited in part to connect entrepreneurs with the mayor. This connection was also how the event was advertised to the public.

In her opening remarks, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr thanked the organizers of Freetown Pitch Night,  GEN Sierra Leone and Innovation SL for having her and holding such an innovative event. She  explained how Freetown City Council is tackling problems of poor sanitation, housing crisis, rapid urbanization and deforestation by prioritizing four main issues: environmental management, urban planning, revenue mobilization and human development.

The evening’s six pitches included innovative approaches to Freetown’s waste management problem --- including several solutions that create employment, generate revenue and emphasize the potential of recycling.

A panel of experts, made up of Aki-Sawyerr, Kumba Musa from STEM Women/TechWomen, Ram Shankerdaas from GK Shankerdaas Industrial Group; and Harrison Kwach from Welthungerhilfe,  provide feedback and advice to each of the entrepreneurs who pitched.

Since the pitch night, the Freetown mayor is in the process of inviting the entrepreneurs who pitched to her office. The purpose is to delve deeper into their ideas to see whether the Freetown City Council is interested in moving forward with any of the ideas. Aki-Sawyerr has indicated that a number of the ideas and concepts will require feasibility studies to confirm their viability and ability to attract funds.

GEN Sierra Leone is proud of its work with Freetown Pitch Night. The pitch night provides budding entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone the opportunity to pitch their ideas and showcase their businesses. At pitch night, entrepreneurs provide a holistic view of their business to a vibrant Sierra Leonean entrepreneur community, allowing them to market their business, solicit feedback and find potential partnerships. More importantly, it helps the startup ecosystem in Sierra Leone grow and thrive.