The idea of
starting a business and owning a startup has sprung up in recent times within
the African continent. Whereas entrepreneurs try to find solutions that would
reduce poverty through social enterprise, some Africans are basically searching
new ways to make lives easier through technology and other financial means.
Gone were the days when people graduated from school to actually join a
workforce in their country whiles working for years just to earn a decent
salary and for security. Today, even the gainfully employed have had to leave
their well-paying jobs to start or cofound a company. What fascinates me
anytime I hear of a new budding startup is the intriguing titles of the
founders—let’s leave that for another day. In short, there is rising interest
in the area of entrepreneurship. Then, comes the educational and schooling
bubble where people attend school to acquire certificates which do not end them
up with a good job. There is so much rote learning lately. But there’s a more
particular reason for this article—to decipher reasons why Africa needs more
entrepreneurs. It’s a necessity if we want to see significant and massive improvements
on the continent. Following are sample views:
Institutions: most of the institutions within the region only focus on providing a particular kind of education which is strictly based on learning by rote. Individuals climb the educational ladder and aim at achieving book knowledge which does not provide the necessary skills necessary to create an economy. Others have termed or current system of education, as a scammer. This is because most people’s dreams of acquiring a decent job after school only becomes an elusive imagination and never gets materialized. Our schooling system is only producing job-seekers and not job-creators. Only a few universities and educational system provide the necessary and high quality skills training that can shape the future of the nation .Notable among them is the African Leadership Academy(ALA), Ashesi University, just to name a few.
Initiatives: In as much as the level of entrepreneurship in Africa may be low, innovative programs to spring up entrepreneurship have sprung up. Such initiatives aim at bringing out the best within African innovators. Most of such projects either validate a business idea or prepare businesses to acquire venture capital investment. No matter the value of such programs, they make a very remarkable impact in the lives of young Africans and need to be commended for that. Most initiatives have made millionaires of young people who had the slightest idea of where they’re going to on the entrepreneurial journey. The United States Government has made remarkable strides in recent times. The Mandela Washington has created massive influence among Africa’s social entrepreneurs. The Anzisha fellowship, which is an initiative of ALA and the MasterCard Foundation for some years now, has been the leader in providing young businesses with the requisite training and capital to boost their businesses. Most recently was another initiative by the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which aims at providing 100 Million dollars to Africa’s entrepreneurs. TechnoServe’s ENGINE Programme is also making remarkable progress in building businesses especially in Ghana.
Investors: My work as an entrepreneur and business developer hovers around VC and investments. One of the VC firms that I work with, iYa Ventures, based in New York, focuses on channeling North American capital towards investment opportunities in Africa. Till date there are similar diaspora investors coupled with African Angel investors that are willing and hungry to invest in African startups and businesses. In the year 2014, an encouraging number of startups successfully raised funding for their business. One most recurring challenge that startup founders proclaim is the lack of finance to boost their businesses. But I have a different view here. With my involvement in the Startups and investment scene in Africa, I see hungry investors, both local and foreign who are very willing to put inject funds into budding businesses. The only problem they usually face is whether they’re investing in the right business or not. Most founders do not do their homework well, to place their startups in the right position for investment. There are a lot of things that an investor looks out for before making the decision to invest in any business. Some areas include viability, team work, scalability, customers, profitability, etc. which most founders are not aware of hence, cannot attract the needed funding. This is the reason I keep encouraging every startup to have at least one mentor, an expert in their field of business to guide them throughout every phase of their entrepreneurial journey.
Worsening economies: Some countries within Africa have been named among countries in the world with the worse economies. Reports from Forbes and CNN Money indicate that not only are these countries becoming worse-off by the day, but less significant amounts of work is been done to improve upon these standards. Worse economies were measured in terms of the level of production in each country, with respect the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as overall standard of living. Africa is a very huge continent with 54 different countries, and each country’s success or economic progress is essential to contribute to the growth within the continent.
In a nutshell, due to a failed schooling system, increasing number of entrepreneurial initiatives and investors, coupled with a worsening economy, there’s a dire need for the production of more entrepreneurs. Individuals need to discover their passions and carve a niche within their markets to bring out new and better innovations that would shape the African continent. In my view, here are a few things to consider:
STEM and Basic Education: Right from the basic stage, individuals need to have a mind change whiles been educated in the various schools. There is the need to teach students the essence of entrepreneurship whiles focusing on their individual traits.
Local Goods: In a bid to encourage a robust economy. Countries should encourage the production and consumption of locally manufactured or produced goods and services other than importing such basic necessities from foreign countries. This would cause GDP to increase which earns foreign exchange for African counties and increases revenue to governments in the form of taxes and levies.
Encourage Women Entrepreneurship: Women are vital in the development of any nation. Each country should therefore encourage female entrepreneurship through innovative initiatives. Already, there is the Africa Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), another U.S. State Department programme as well as other budding programmes.
Government Intervention: The government can also intervene to make entrepreneurship attractive by investing more into the private sector and instituting checks to ensure that local products are consumed. This would help in the long run.
There are endless opportunities in Africa. It’s up to us to find them and create massive economic impact through them.