2024 F.M. Kirby Impact Prize Finalist Spotlight: The Somo Project

We are thrilled to share why we are so excited about each of the five finalists for the 2024 F.M. Kirby Prize for Scaling Impact. Here we share what we’ve learned about finalist organization The Somo Project (Somo). 

The Problem Somo is Working to Address 

While entrepreneurial ecosystems are growing throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, entrepreneurs from low-income communities continue to lack comprehensive interventions to support their growth and success. ​ Somo, a social enterprise based in Kenya, provides a holistic system of support targeting low-income entrepreneurs with the goal of helping them transform their own communities by launching and scaling their businesses.​ Utilizing data and social relationships, Somo invests resources in micro and small businesses that are the backbone of the African economy, and yet often deemed too risky for investment.

Somo entrepreneurs-in-training. Photo courtesy of Somo.

Why We’re Excited About Somo’s Impact Potential 

While most entrepreneur support programs focus on one or two aspects of the entrepreneurial journey, Somo brings a suite of tools and interventions that support and help transition entrepreneurs through each step of the journey – from initial business skills training to ideation and mentoring to accessing capital and beyond.  Three-quarters of Somo entrepreneurs report improved livelihoods with Somo’s Acceleration program and report an average 3x increase in income (compared to the average income in their communities). Between 2016 and the end of 2023, Somo has gained traction in low-income communities in Kenya and Tanzania, including:  

  • Digitally training ​7​,​358​ entrepreneurs in key entrepreneurial business skills. 
  • Providing financing for 5​19​ businesses started by Somo entrepreneurs. 
  • Supporting Somo entrepreneurs to create job opportunities for over 13,000 individuals. 

The Plan to Achieve Impact at Scale 

Over the next three years, Somo will expand the reach of its intervention through a training-of-the-trainer model, whereby it will identify and train local government and non-profit organizations to run the intervention in their own communities. To achieve the 2027 goal of training 27,000 entrepreneurs and securing financing for 3,000 business, Somo is planning to deploy the following strategies: 

  • Expand to new geographic regions in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. 
  • Engage 16 additional community-based organizations to deliver the intervention throughout these regions. 
  • Continue to refine and bolster tools and support for entrepreneurs and partners. 
Somo entrepreneur using business support tools. Photo courtesy of Somo.

What’s Next for the Kirby Impact Prize? 

CASE will announce the winner of the 2024 F. M. Kirby Prize for Scaling Impact in early Summer 2024.