44 45 POSITIVE IMPACTS Since entering Mauritania in 2012, Kosmos has supported a range of social investment projects designed to: • Bring electricity to communities near Ndiago through the installation of solar energy infrastructure • Improve the livelihoods of small- scale fish processing businesses in Ndiago • Protect the environment in Diawling National Park • Support research and increase knowledge of marine biodiversity offshore Mauritania • Support a graduate degree program in Mauritania on managing the impact of the extractives sector • Teach English to vocational school students to improve their employability, and • Provide meals to needy families during Ramadan. In 2017, these projects were transitioned to BP as they assumed operatorship of the exploration blocks and GTA project. In 2018, Kosmos and BP signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the construction and initial operation of a Distance Learning Center to improve learning capabilities in Mauritania’s oil and gas industry. Once complete, the center will enable the Mauritanian Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Mines to use the latest technology to host courses taught by experts from around the world. This will provide Mauritanians with the opportunity to develop specialized skills without having to either travel abroad or bring specialized instructors to Mauritania. The Center will ultimately be turned over to the Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Mines who will assume responsibility for its sustainability. Kosmos Innovation Center Expands into Mauritania In 2018, we expanded the activities of the Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC) into Mauritania with the first annual Mauritania Innovation Challenge, an initiative modeled on a successful program implemented by the KIC in Ghana. Like Ghana, Mauritania faces high youth unemployment but has many talented entrepreneurs and provides significant opportunities for motivated business leaders with the skills to start their own companies. The Mauritania Innovation Challenge is a competition in which young entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of expert judges who then invite a sub-set of the participants to enroll in a KIC program offering business skills and leadership training, including coaching and mentoring, as well as support to develop prototypes of their products. We received more than 170 applications for the program. Following a rigorous review of the online application process and individual interviews, Kosmos selected the most promising 25 businesses to participate. After several months of individual coaching and training in entrepreneurship, the field of participants was narrowed to 12 businesses which then competed to win admission into a year-long KIC incubation program, as well as initial seed funding to help them launch their businesses. The winners developed innovative business ideas in a range of areas, including construction materials, solid waste removal, electronic money transfer, food delivery, office space, and distance education. Kosmos is providing seed funding to four of the companies, with Banque Mauritanienne pour le Commerce International, a large Mauritanian bank, and SEPCO, a waste management company, supporting two other businesses. In addition to running the Mauritania Innovation Challenge, we also supported the broader development of Mauritania’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by bringing together experts and decision-makers in the public and private sectors. In December 2018, we hosted a workshop in Nouakchott for policy makers, financial institutions, incubators, academics, small businesses, and international development agencies to discuss how to best encourage and support the next generation of Mauritanian entrepreneurs. The event identified a number of suggestions to help entrepreneurs, such as: • Establishing dedicated financing instruments and mechanisms • Fostering collaboration between microfinance institutions and commercial banks • Creating a credit bureau to alleviate the information asymmetry between entrepreneurs and financial institutions with the establishment of a credit scoring system • Improving the capacity of existing incubators and other entrepreneur technical support organizations • Improving the technical support capabilities of micro-finance institutions • Developing incubators in local universities • Facilitating access to public tenders by micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and • Developing incentives for integrating young entrepreneurs in the supply and distribution chains of large enterprises. Our work to promote entrepreneurship also includes supporting events organized by key partners, including the World Bank. In 2018, we sponsored the World Bank’s “Entrepreneurship Marathon” by awarding a $5,000 prize for the “best innovation” in their contest for promising start-ups. Supporting Communities in Need In addition to our work in entrepreneurship, we also continued to support communities in need by distributing food kits to 100 disadvantaged families during Ramadan, as well as donating clothing to Institut Marie Diallo, a nonprofit in Nouakchott that cares for orphaned, abandoned, and abused children. The Mauritania Innovation Challenge provides the opportunity for young people to develop the confidence and skills they need to become entrepreneurs through a series of classroom modules and competitive pitch competitions. The Mauritania Innovation Challenge takes entrepreneurs on a proven eight-step journey to develop a market-ready product or service. In the Mauritania Innovation Challenge, participants pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges and stakeholders in Nouakchott. The most promising ideas receive further technical assistance and potential seed funding to continue their growth journey.