n 1975, SIFE was founded in the United States as a global, not-for-profit education organization to help improve the quality of life and standard of living around the world. The aim was to do this by teaching the principles and values of free market economics to students around the globe. SIFE organizes, trains and motivates these university students who, operating in teams, teach others an understanding of the principles and values of free enterprise.
Defining free enterprise in terms of free market economics, entrepreneurship, personal and financial success skills and business ethics, SIFE organizes teams of university students who are guided by faculty advisors. These students are called Free Enterprise Fellows.
SIFE says that its principle is simple. "Through teaching others, SIFE students gain a practical understanding of how market economies work. They gain the opportunity to make a lasting difference in their communities and to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills."
By conducting educational outreach projects throughout the academic year, these teams of Fellows ultimately engage in a system of global competitions where they present oral, audio visual and written summaries of their work to be judged by leaders in business.
SIFE is organized into five international regions: Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Europe and The Americas. Competing nationally and finally globally in the SIFE World Cup these students are given the opportunity to reach their full potential by helping others reach theirs. Life skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication and project management are learned in a unique way that cannot be gained in the classroom alone. And they gain these skills while making a positive difference in the lives of others.
According to the SIFE Africa web site, SIFE students, among other things, teach youngsters the importance of getting a sound education, developing the right attitude and acquiring the skills necessary for success. They teach small business owners and entrepreneurs how become more successful by helping them to solve real-life problems. They improve communities by teaching citizens (employers, workers and consumers) a better understanding of how free markets work in a global economy.
SIFE currently has national programs in eleven African nations. Those nations being: Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. National Competitions are held in each of these countries annually.
Working with students in 1,800 universities in 46 countries globally, SIFE has sponsored over 5,000 community-based business development and training/educational projects. All of these projects was designed and implemented by university students under the supervision of a faculty advisor and professional managers from local businesses or financial institutions.
When I began doing research for this article, I thought that it would be nice to list all of the universities in Africa that participate in SIFE. Then I learned that approximately 130 universities in the eleven African countries I listed above. So the best I can do for you, dear reader, is to give you the link to the web page where the full list of these universities is presented.
The SIFE projects and comptetitions could not take place without the support of the generous corporations; 50 of which are Africa-based companies and financial institutions.
During the academic year, the SIFE teams develop and implement micro-business, or education and training projects that promote and/or teach (1) free market economics (2) entrepreneurship (3) business ethics and (4) personal and financial success skills.
According to the web site guidelines are provided to help suggest projects. These guidelines encourage the students to conduct projects that:
"- promote open and competitive economies;
- create micro-businesses sustained by profits;
- increase access to the economy;
- improve economic or financial delivery services to the underserved;
- teach employment skills and basic market economics, especially to women, girls, and the poor;
- link skill development and know-how with employment, income generation, and poverty reduction;
- teach or advocate transparency and ethics in business and public life;
- establish private-public partnerships to stimulate economic development, opportunity, and growth, and so on.
Each project is also required to have a media outreach and public relations component to promote the project's training, themes, and accomplishments--as well as to promote the notion of teamwork, volunteerism, and good corporate citizenship. Long-term impact is also urged."
It is not difficult to imagine the impact that SIFE is having in the African communities in which its projects are being conducted. The efforts of the SIFE students have a profound effect on at-risk youth, students of all ages and small and large businesses, turning these university students into heroes in their own communities.
SIFE believes that its programs can positively impact GDP, unemployment, and many other aspects of the economy, contributing to the success of the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
The site also states that: "(w)hile the SIFE World Headquarters provides leadership training, career opportunities and world-class competitions, all at no fee to thousands of students each year, SIFE continues to need business and community partners interested in giving of their time, talent and treasure to further SIFE around the African continent and the globe. It's an effort worthy of commitment.
The list of SIFE Africa projects (like the list of SIFE Africa universities) is too long to list here, but I would like to give just a few examples of the types of things that they are doing.
The students at the University of Uyo SIFE in Nigeria launched the "Operation Kill Unemployment" program "organized for graduates, students on college break, and married women. Unemployment among these groups is very high and so to combat this problem, UniUyo SIFE taught program participants how to start, finance and manage micro enterprises such as bakeries, fruit juice extraction, and poultry. The 117 participants learned skills required for successful entrepreneurship: identification of a need, production, financial management, ethics and business social responsibility."
"United States International University-Africa SIFE in Kenya conducted several entrepreneurship training sessions for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and the youth of Kibera (one of Africa's largest slum dwellings). USIUA SIFE students saw the need to train these people in the following areas: entrepreneurship opportunities in various industries, requirement of entry into self employment, business performance, how to meet government requirements, diversification, risk management, business ethics, and financial independence. After the training sessions, an analysis was conducted and 70% of the trainees were able to make positive change to their businesses."
"University of the Free State SIFE in South Africa worked with orphaned street children from the Heidedal center. UFS students introduced the Cashflow for Kids board game, designed to teach about money, investing and accounting. Instead of right or wrong answers, the game encourages problem-solving and decision-making skills. Cashflow for Kids teaches children about personal entrepreneurial communications and financial management skills needed to successfully compete in the business world."
I'm sure you get the idea, but if you would like to see lots more projects go to:
http://www.sifeafrica.org/africa_projects.asp and you will see a much more complete list of the projects.
I know that the article is getting just a bit long, but I would like to say that not only are the SIFE teams in African universities working on problems in Africa but some of the other universities are doing so as well. For example, the SIFE team at Nottingham University in England conducted a project entitled the "Tanzania Book Project" which focused on sending educational material and school equipment from England to Tanzanian schools in the summer of 2005. These educational materials included
School Supplies (pens, paper, chalk, etc...)
Sports Equipment (sports kits, footballs, etc...) and
I could go on and on about SIFE and SIFE Africa, but I am going to leave it to you to go to their web sites and learn more, because they are worth the commitment.