“The rise of Nigeria is inevitable. However, how we rise– and how far we go– is entirely up to us. For the last 56 years, we the people have gotten comfortable taking the backseat on our own journey to success. The era when we simply discussed who did what for our country, and when, is over.” – Impactionate
The focus on innovation is emerging as a key theme in the African Union’s long-term strategy Agenda 2063, as Africans are finding better ways of solving local problems on the continent. Africa, particularly Nigeria, is brimming with a rising generation of creative-thinking innovators who are increasingly concerned about solving the country’s problems and are dedicating their time to develop exceptional solutions to help change lives and transform societies. One of such innovations is Impactionate, an online platform that aims to raise funds for social entrepreneurs and businesses running sustainable developmental projects in Nigeria.
A lack of idea has never been the problem, but a lack of funding has, and remains a major issue in Nigeria’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Having realised this, and seeing the success of crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, and the United Nation’s increased commitment to achieving sustainable development goals, Amara Uyanna, Chukwuemeka Okafor, Chinemelu Ezeh and Farouk Umar are leveraging technology to connect medium-to-large scale projects in Nigeria to millions of people who are willing to donate towards various causes, while ensuring transparency and accountability in the process.
As Nigeria celebrates 56 years of independence today, Amara and the Impactionate team are seizing the moment to begin the conversation on successful crowdfunding in Nigeria and Africa. “We realise that a huge component to crowdfunding is awareness and trust; so we are dotting our I’s, crossing our T’s and engaging the necessary people,” said Amara.
Ventures Africa had an exclusive interview with Amara where she talked about the inspiration behind Impactionate and what the team hopes to achieve through it.
Ventures Africa (VA): What sparked the decision to pursue this objective? Did any social enterprise catch your eye?
Amara: In spite of our wealth as a continent, there’s an evident dearth of funding reaching the appropriately targeted projects in Africans. The concept of Impactionate was partly motivated by the success of crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and United Nation’s increased commitment to ensure the sustainability development goals are met.
At Impactionate, we’ll leverage the strength in Nigeria’s population and the zeal of Nigerians in Diaspora to fund projects to ensure sustainable development. Nigerians in the diaspora remitted about $21 million in 2015 alone, which shows there is a worthwhile market that only needs to be galvanised towards the right cause. Furthermore, our government hasn’t exactly proved to be effective since the birth of our country, so Impactionate is here to help people be the change they want to see. With Impactionate, we the people are taking back the wheels.
VA: Is this only opened to donors in diaspora?
Amara: Absolutely not. Part of our goal is for Impactionate to inspire more locals to contribute to the development of our own communities and country. However, we do realise that the diaspora is a largely untapped market that has benefitted other countries tremendously, and we’re going to leverage that.
VA: Why are you well positioned to close this gap in the market?
Amara: At different stages of our lives, we’ve each witnessed unfortunate situations resulting from limited access to funds. Personally, not too long ago, I ran a crowdfunding campaign for a Niger Delta project for a different organisation I work with, Sustainability International. Although we didn’t raise our target amount, the experience was eye-opening for me. A key lesson from that experience was that people will donate to causes that appeal to their emotions or their rationale. But more importantly, people will donate on trusted platforms.
Impactionate has a dynamic core team of four. Our collective experiences include, but are not limited to several years of working on ICT initiatives with the Nigerian government, expertise in technological research, and other experiences in various capacities at Fortune 500 companies such as Google, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. This exposure, experiences, and geographical presence in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Nigeria, strategically provides us with the required synergy to leverage resources and bridge the existing gap between the wealth and expertise of professionals in the diaspora and those of Nigerians residing locally.
“The idea of Impactionate was born from a need to simultaneously improve on our strengths, address our weaknesses and maximise available opportunities … By facilitating transparent crowdfunding of projects by passionate Nigerians, we’ll accountably transform hopes and dreams into positively impactful actions.”
VA: What is the process; that is from getting or selecting projects/businesses to crowdfunding, and project implementation?
Amara: Interested applicants submit a project proposal to the Impactionate team, we check to ensure that the projects meet minimum criteria- depending on the industry. If all requirements are met, and the team vetting is successful, a campaign is created on our website. Once this is done, the project host starts engaging the public in raising funds. They will benefit from our community of passionate agents of change from around the world.
Our campaign type is all or nothing. Teams that successfully meet their target funds can proceed with carrying out their project. To ensure that campaign donors keep to their agreements and to mitigate risks, we will be disbursing funds in stages of completion of a project milestone. At each stage, a progress report is sent to the donors so that they can see satisfactorily that they are part of a good cause, doing wonderful things for their country and society as a whole.
VA: How do you select projects to be featured on Impactionate? Are there specific criteria?
Amara: As you can possibly imagine, there’s an incredible amount of projects that need funding. So, there’s a thorough selection process employed in determining projects to be featured on Impactionate. That being said, yes, there are specific criteria, and these vary depending on the project’s industry. The non-negotiable, central criterion though is a sustainable model with easily measurable goals. Projects featured on Impactionate will, in one way or another, address at least one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG). Ultimately, projects will have to create something that can be shared with others.
VA: Is there a company or model you are emulating?
Amara: Our approach is very similar to Kickstarter as we have adopted some of their strategies such as implementing the all-or-nothing fundraising approach. However, unlike Kickstarter, we are targeting a different market, which is crowdfunding for sustainable development projects largely in developing countries.
VA: How will you ensure transparency and accountability?
Amara: This is the most crucial & challenging aspect of Impactionate. For transparency, a breakdown of the required funds, the sourced funds and the contract signed between the campaign hosts, fundraisers, and supporters will be displayed on the website.
For accountability, Impactionate will employ a project management type approach. Prior to a campaign launch, timelines and deliverables are agreed upon between Impactionate and the project team. Upon successful crowdfunding, funds are disbursed based on proof of completion of agreed deliverables. Furthermore, fundraisers are required to create a report of their project outcomes and milestones; this would be sent to the donors at each stage of the project.
VA: What is the long-term goal of Impactionate?
Amara: Through the successful implementation of crowdfunded projects, Impactionate will earn the trust of the people. We aim to become a hub through which citizens can galvanise and collaborate to bring sustainable developmental projects to reality by means not limited to crowdfunding. We are not “taking” the government’s job away. We are only helping them be more efficient. Ideally, the government wants the development of its people and communities, and Impactionate is here to assist.
Amara and her team already have a few projects lined up to be featured on the platform; projects cutting across the board from agriculture to technological research, and education, projects bound to impact society and regulate positive changes.