Flame Tree Initiative

Social Entrepreneurship for African Development

The Flame Tree Initiative partners with African universities to foster scalable, socially minded businesses that accelerate regional change. We believe that training, mentoring and launching development enterprises - businesses that confront global development challenges – is a potent way to contribute to the new, innovative era in Africa.

 

Our Approach

In collaboration with Malawi’s higher education institutions, the Flame Tree Initiative challenges the status quo by fostering small, scalable development enterprises that have measurable social and environmental impact.


Training Malawians who have the vision and motivation to tackle national problems increases their ability to employ people while they create markets, link to supply chains, and transfer job skills by distributing products and services that combat the root causes of poverty.

Lucia shows off a baby pigeon raised as part of a large scale, women-run poultry farming initiative near Lilongwe.

Lucia shows off a baby pigeon raised as part of a large scale, women-run poultry farming initiative near Lilongwe.

Mphatso takes a break from planning her women's dairy enterprise during the 2015 DELab.

Mphatso takes a break from planning her women's dairy enterprise during the 2015 DELab.

The Context

Energizing social enterprises generate high impact quickly because they motivate people, employ affordable local talent, require minimal capital, transfer skills, and avoid the pitfalls of large government-driven efforts.  They do all of this while directly confronting critical development challenges in the areas that need it most.

However, the existing ecosystem in Malawi is insufficient. The necessary resources to train people, incubate ideas, network groups, finance start-ups and launch hundreds of development enterprises are lacking. Further, the traditional ways of coping with scarcity are slow, inefficient, and insufficiently innovative. People with great ideas and abundant energy who can mitigate critical problems are stalled.

Given the high population growth rate in countries like Malawi, coupled to the tangible impact of climate change on energy production, persistent health issues and massive underemployment, it is imperative that from-the-ground-up, organic and sustainable enterprises be launched in the next few years.  

The tipping point has arrived.  

Kondwani Ngwira poses in front of the sign for his clinic, PIC International Health Center in Mzuzu with Wayne Decker and Angel Allen.

Kondwani Ngwira poses in front of the sign for his clinic, PIC International Health Center in Mzuzu with Wayne Decker and Angel Allen.

The Solution

The spread of the Internet has created knowledge about what other innovators are doing and, of even greater importance, it has nurtured a change in East African social psychology.  Once immersed in pessimism about long-term poverty and reliance on the development industry, potential entrepreneurs are abundant, self-reliance is growing, and innovation is pervasive.

The Flame Tree Initiative exists to capitalize on these new changes and launch sustainable development enterprises. We do this by addressing African universities' desire to play a stronger role in the development of their country through our three-step program.

Flame Tree Mentor, Jones Ntaukira, speaks about his experiences as a development entrepreneur during the 2016 DELab.

Flame Tree Mentor, Jones Ntaukira, speaks about his experiences as a development entrepreneur during the 2016 DELab.

The DELab

Our Development Entrepreneurship Lab (DELab) is a 6-day intensive program that provides the basics of customized, development-focused innovation. We provide a dual-concentration on business acumen and social impact measurement to create viable social enterprise experts who can use their businesses to launch genuine growth and economic change in East Africa.

Grace Phiri stands in front of her newly opened vet shop in rural Ntchisi, Malawi.

Grace Phiri stands in front of her newly opened vet shop in rural Ntchisi, Malawi.

The DEStudio

Flame Tree incubates the most promising development enterprises that emerge from the DELab, advancing them to a stage in which they are ready to wisely absorb external funds, create partnerships and scale their operations.  In essence, we train people, curate their efforts and conduct due diligence for external partners with interests in areas like funding, scaling, and product expansion. 

A Mzuzu University professor donates an afternoon to mentoring a Flame Tree entrepreneur in his area of expertise.

A Mzuzu University professor donates an afternoon to mentoring a Flame Tree entrepreneur in his area of expertise.

A Network of Centers for Development Entrepreneurship

Partnering with universities, we collaborate with faculty and administrators to embed our programs in new university-run Centers for Development Entrepreneurship, and link those centers into an East African network that can train, mentor and launch hundreds of scalable social enterprises. 

A group of entrepreneurs discuss strategy during the DELab.

A group of entrepreneurs discuss strategy during the DELab.

The Flame Tree Effect

The Flame Tree Initiative has a direct, measurable impact and we create enterprises that sustain that chain reaction. Our impact on issues of energy poverty, agriculture, natural resources and health is generated by the businesses we help to launch, while our impact on women’s empowerment and financial inclusion is direct and potent.  As development enterprises scale, their impacts can be critical both in quantitative terms and in the role they play to inspire a new generation of innovation and entrepreneurship.