IDEA4Africa was conceived after fifteen years of working to stimulate and catalyze young entrepreneurs in four Sub-Saharan African countries: Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.
IDEA4Africa is enabling people to participate in entrepreneurial activities and programs, and is allowing for educational efforts to extend to the training of local educators, business people and governmental agencies and offices, spreading the entrepreneurial mission farther and deeper into communities.
The organization is a result of years of forging relationships and best practices for teaching, mentoring and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in those countries. It is the direct result of the work, passion and commitment that started in the year 2000.
Over the course of sixteen years, Dennis Hanno and his students and colleagues have developed programs that made a significant difference in the lives of youth in four Sub-Saharan African countries. Although IDEA4Africa is not connected with any higher education institution, the organization was created from previous relationships Dennis had established during his tenure at UMASS Amherst and Babson College.
With support and funding from individuals who share our development goals, IDEA4Africa creates social and economic progress in Rwanda and other Sub-Saharan African countries in the coming years.
2000 Business Center in Ghana
Dennis Hanno, Dean of Undergraduate Affairs at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Amherst, was introduced to Reverend Robert Andoh of Ghana. Reverend Andoh expressed interest in opening a “business center” with computers, internet access, and knowledgeable business advisors in Takoradi-Sekondi.
Dennis Hanno, took seven UMASS business students to Ghana to help plan and design the business center in the year 2000.
During their trip, Dennis and his students realized that the business center was too advanced for the community at that time – community members lacked the skills needed to operate the center, use the computers, and implement the knowledge shared by advisors.
Upon their return to UMASS, the group decided to build an educational program to ensure that community members had the skills they needed to use the center.
2000 – 2006 Business students teaching business skills in Ghana
Each year, between 2000 and 2006, Dennis and his students and colleagues visited Takoradi-Sekondi during their winter break to teach a week-long workshop.
After much success in the individual schools, the program organized an interscholastic/regional business plan (or rocket pitch) competition to conclude the week-long course.
2007 The Nyansa Project
In 2007, Dennis joined Babson College as the Dean of the Undergraduate College. Many UMASS students and faculty expressed interest in staying involved in the programs in Ghana.
To continue this work, Dennis and UMASS Professor Larry Zacharias started The Nyansa Project, Ltd, an independent nonprofit.
Keeping the initial vision of building a “business center” in mind, Dennis and Larry built the Nyansa project’s vision of ensuring that schools who had participated in the entrepreneurship program received computer labs. Staff members were also trained in computer use so they could then train their students.
2008 – 2014 Work in Ghana
Work in Ghana began in 2008 when Dennis took his first group of Babson students to Ghana. Over the next six years, students, professors, and staff continued to travel with Dennis, and the number of high schools participating in the program grew to forty.
Dennis realized that the Ghanaian students were more influenced by the curriculum that was being taught than by the computers that they had been donated. After three years, Dennis and the Nyansa Project Board, allowed the organization to lapse.
Dennis was then turning his entire attention to curriculum development and new connections in Rwanda at the Byimana School of Sciences. The Biyamana School became, and continues to be, a training ground for the kind of education that is most needed at the High School level. Dennis and his students and colleagues are still working at The Byimana School running “Academies”. Each year Brother Stratton welcomes Dennis and his group who teach a week long course on Entrepreneurship and Leadership skills to all the students at the school.
Our board member, Mike Herlihy, and his wife Penny, are also active at the Biyamana School. As teachers are the delivery system and ‘engine’ of education, they work to enhance the teaching experience by introducing classroom tools that aid in education and enable the teachers to get more work done in each session.
2010 Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center
Dennis engaged a team of undergraduate student consultants who had proposed an entrepreneurship center in Rwanda to be run by graduate student fellows. The mission of the center and fellowships was to:
– Cultivate an entrepreneurial culture throughout the country
– Connect entrepreneurs with resources
– Create networks of support for entrepreneurial ventures
– Train others to teach the entrepreneurial curriculum in their communities
In 2010, The Entrepreneurship Center in Rwanda was funded. It became known as the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center or BREC.
2012 Creating the From Ideas to Action Workbook
Dennis assembled a team of students, alumni, and staff, all involved in the work in Ghana , to create the curriculum workbook titled “From Ideas to Action.” This text was made available online and was shared with workshop participants and potential teachers in host nations’ schools.
The curriculum became the cornerstone of the program, whose focus was making a positive difference in the socio-economic trajectories of the host nations.
As the curriculum evolved and its reach grew, government officials, educators, and business leaders from other Sub-Saharan African nations reached out to Dennis to bring the work being done in Ghana and Rwanda to their countries. The program designers began to address the challenge and opportunity of scalability.
2011-2013 BELA in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda
In 2011 the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy (BELA) was formed in Rwanda. Motivated students from around the country were invited to attend a week-long “Academy” focused on understanding themselves, diving into the needs of their community, generating business ideas to solve community problems, and learning the basics of business and entrepreneurship.
In 2012 BELA was brought to Arusha, Tanzania. In 2013 the BELA program expanded to Kampala, Uganda.
Dennis realized that he had to develop a more viable model, logistically and administratively, for long-term engagement with the communities and host nations.
2015 IDEA4Africa, Ltd. was established
In 2015, IDEA4Africa, Ltd was established in Boston, Massachusetts soon after Dennis became President of Wheaton College.
The new organization is enabling more people to participate in the entrepreneurial activities and programs, and is allowing for educational efforts to extend to the training of local educators, business people and governmental agencies and offices, spreading the entrepreneurial mission farther and deeper into communities.