Speakers at the Sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit have been urged to focus on families that live below the poverty line.
American educationist Shannon May said participants at the summit should remember the largest market for entrepreneurs to enhance innovation in Africa is the population living on less than $2 (Sh202) per day.
May is the co-founder of Bridge International Academies in Kenya.
The academies are low-cost schools and are among six finalists for the 2015 World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha, Qatar.
May will speak at the GES on Sunday in a panel discussion titled “Building a Double Bottom Line – Addressing Global Challenges via Entrepreneurship.”
May said almost 70 per cent of Kenya’s population lives on less than $2 per day.
She said failure to serve these markets causes businesses in Africa to only access 20-30 per cent of the population living on more than $2 per day, or the elite five to 10 per cent that live on more than $4 (Sh404) per day.
May said models that reach mass market such as Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile money transfer are among Africa’s successful ventures.
“These companies not only attract foreign investment, but increase livelihoods and contribute to the overall economic development of the continent.
The greatest challenge for entrepreneurs targeting poor families is the lack of market research,” she said.
May said poor families are normally looked as a way of attracting donors, not as customers.
She said supply-side pressures such as donor-country politics or personal interest often drive donations, rather than deep data on the demand-side.
May said Entrepreneurs must see the poor as customers and people with capital, choice and dignity.