Impact Makers Advisory Board (IMAB): Championing Innovative Financing for Youth

On March 21st, 2024, Digital Opportunity Trust hosted a virtual session called “Impact Makers Advisory Board (IMAB): Championing Innovative Financing for Youth” during the 68th Commission on the Status of Women. The #CSW68 event marked the launch of the next iteration of the Impact Makers Advisory Board (IMAB), with over 100 global attendees gathering to concentrate on sustainable entrepreneurship and livelihoods for young women and men MSME business owners, as well as leaders of youth-led and youth-serving organizations.

What is IMAB?

In July 2021, a groundbreaking initiative emerged from the collaborative efforts of DOT young entrepreneurs and the funding community in Africa and the UK. This initiative, known as the Impact Makers Advisory Board (IMAB), was conceived as a dynamic community of practice dedicated to fostering mutual learning and resource-sharing. Its primary objective? To build trust and close the funding gap between  youth-led enterprises in Africa seeking access to vital financing and the funding networks that support them.

Since its inception, IMAB has rapidly evolved, guided by a clear vision and unwavering dedication to its mission. From its co-design phase to its official launch, IMAB has consistently demonstrated its commitment to fostering collaboration and innovation within the entrepreneurial landscape of Africa.

Pillars of IMAB: 

Championing Innovative Financing: Non-traditional approaches to raising and allocating funding for MSMEs to drive sustainability e.g Crowdfunding, Asset financing, fintech partnerships etc.

Supporting Partnerships Development: Providing access to new networks of funders or contacts with access to resources essential for growth of MSMEs.

Offering Thought Leadership: Shaping the narrative, influencing trends, and driving transformative conversations through panel discussion, keynotes, forums contributions, podcasts, blogs etc.

Serving as a Catalyst for a Community of Practice (CoP): Fostering collaborative engagement, knowledge-sharing, and the exchange of best practices 

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Meet our IMAB Members

At its core, IMAB is fueled by a diverse cohort of individuals committed to driving impact and empowering the next generation of African entrepreneurs. Its members include philanthropists, funders, impact investors, and young social entrepreneurs. Together, they form a powerful alliance focused on bridging the gap between small-scale entrepreneurs and potential funders.


The Double Bind for Youth Entrepreneurs: What Age and Social Impact Has to Do with It

Closely aligned with the theme of the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68): Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty, strengthening institutions, and financing with a gender perspective. The significance of IMAB lies in its capacity to tackle critical challenges facing young entrepreneurs in Africa, particularly regarding access to financing. By championing innovative financing approaches, supporting partnership development, offering thought leadership, and fostering a vibrant community of practice, IMAB not only empowers young entrepreneurs but also contributes to the broader goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment, serving as a catalyst for change within the MSME financing ecosystem.

Youth-led social enterprises often struggle to secure funding due to various barriers, including a lack of collateral, personal savings, or proven experience. Additionally, investors and donors may be unfamiliar with their unique legal structures and hybrid business models, highlighting a gap in traditional financing systems. Innovative financing expands beyond conventional donor support to drive sustainable development outcomes – an approach that compliments traditional funding streams to maximize finance for development.Who better to spearhead this innovation than the imaginative minds of our youth? It’s time to embrace the fresh perspectives and innovative solutions they bring to the table!

Event Summary 

The CSW68 virtual event, heard from many youth voices including our newly formed IMAB on three key themes for MSME financing – empowering women entrepreneurs through inclusive finance, harnessing digital innovation to enhance MSME financing, and the importance of building strategic partnerships for MSME innovative financing, and showcasing successful collaborative models involving financial institutions, government agencies, and the private sector. These discussions underscored the significance of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity in addressing MSME financing challenges. 

DOT’s Regional Vice President, Africa, Violette Uwamutara, emphasized the power of youth, “Youth are resilient, creative, innovators, action-oriented, and tech-savvy. They have experience, passion, and first-hand knowledge and insights rooted in the needs and challenges of their communities. They are best positioned to develop locally relevant solutions. Trust that when youth have access to capital, they will invest it back into their communities.”

What’s Next for IMAB?

Looking ahead, IMAB, is poised to kick-off operations in the coming months, and is focused on supporting the sustainability focus  of DOT’s Going Beyond Project. With a renewed commitment to driving impact and scale, IMAB remains dedicated to empowering youth-led enterprises and propelling them towards success.

IMAB stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in addressing the financing challenges faced by youth-led enterprises. With its dynamic approach and unwavering dedication, IMAB continues to pave the way for a brighter future for young entrepreneurs in Africa and beyond.

About Digital Opportunity Trust

Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, with locally-managed offices in Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Rwanda, and Tanzania and working with strategic partners in Ghana, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is a youth-led movement that mobilizes and inspires all underserved and disadvantaged young people with digital literacy, 21st-century skills and the self-confidence that will enable them to thrive in an inclusive digital economy. For more information, please visit

About Impact Makers Advisory Board

IMAB is made up of philanthropists, impact investors and young social entrepreneurs whose goal is to convene stakeholders to support and uplift youth-led enterprises in Africa to incubate quickly towards impact and scale.

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