NICE International is a new social venture that has developed a business model to distribute development products and services through a network of solar-powered ICT centers operated by local entrepreneurs on a franchise-basis. Its first next-generation NICE Centre in Tabokoto, The Gambia, was inaugurated on 8 October 2012 and aims to be the first of 50 centres to open throughout The Gambia, Tanzania and Zambia in the coming years.
This network of NICE Centres aims to create opportunities for social and economic development for one million people, making the social business one of the most ambitious of its kind.
The NICE Centre in Tabokota is a pilot project, to offer a wider range of services that focus on technology solutions for education, work and business. Moving beyond their former concept as a place offering access to the internet, entertainment and basic education services, the new NICE Centres are better adapted to the reality of a country where internet access is becoming more common.
Examples of services are internet-connected work spaces and tools for students and entrepreneurs, an education room for IT and business training and a shop with IT and energy products. Different areas of the NICE Centre can be rented for meetings or events. All services and prices in NICE Centres have been designed to target people at the lower end of the economic pyramid, in particular youth, women and local entrepreneurs.
Omar Njie, Managing Director of NICE Gambia, said: “The first-generation NICE Centres, which we have been operating in The Gambia since 2006, have already proven the impact that access to IT services has on our communities. The next-generation NICE Centres proof that we, as a country, have evolved and that people need more than just access to energy and internet. We need entrepreneurship and services that support it.”
The upcoming 50 NICE Centres in Gambia, Tanzania and Zambia are financially supported with a EUR 2.5 million grant from the European Union and co-funded by private investments of Rabobank, FMO and Schneider Electric.
Once the 50 NICE Centers are up and running, it is NICE International’s ambition to build a network of 250 NICE Centres in 10 African countries by 2020, making it one of the largest social businesses operating in the continent.