Participants from five countries took part in the first-ever High Level International Conference on Social Businesses in Togo, organized by the U.S. Embassy in partnership with Ecobank and Alaffia. The event took place on May 11 at the state-of-the-art Ecobank conference center with 200 registered participants, 75 invited guests including government officials and business leaders, and a roster of speakers from the U.S., France, Togo, Ghana, and Benin. The Ambassador, the Ecobank Group CEO, and the Minister of Grassroots Development spoke during the opening ceremony. Two other ministers moderated panel discussions, including one with the CEO of American Fair Trade cosmetics company Alaffia. The social entrepreneurship organization Ashoka and the crowd-funding platform Kiva both sent speakers to participate. Former Assistant Secretary of State John Heffern also addressed the audience via DVC.
The purpose of the event was to promote greater understanding of the social enterprise model. Social enterprises are organizations that use commercial strategies to achieve social impacts rather than profits. The conference was an opportunity to examine social businesses from a global perspective and to highlight opportunities and challenges that social businesses face.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador David Gilmour focused on the huge potential of social businesses to address societal problems. “I believe the social enterprise model is the model of the future, a model that has incredible potential to bring development and prosperity to Togo and the rest of the world,” he said.
The Ambassador also called for the government of Togo to support social entrepreneurs by providing legal recognition to social businesses, by opening up public data, and by investing or partnering with successful social enterprises to help them scale up.