“Grow my business to a million dollars? No thank you, I’d rather stick to the two stores I’ve got!”
The spirit of entrepreneurialism, with its promise or reduced youth unemployment and economic renewal, is certainly gathering steam across Africa. But true entrepreneurship-led transformation will require a mindset shift amongst Africa’s small business owners.
From South Africa’s Silicon Cape to Kenya’s iHub-centered Silicon Savannah movement – from Ethiopia’s burgeoning textiles industry to Nigeria’s ubiquitous Nollywood film industry – there are visible signs of the growing profile of African entrepreneurs. Government programs abound: YEDF in Kenya, SEDA in South Africa, and YOUWIN in Nigeria to mention a few. New incubators are rising every day and private initiatives like Generation Enterprise and InChallenge are training promising young entrepreneurs. Fittingly, in his foundation’s first white paper on Africapitalism (PDF), Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu declares that “value creation through entrepreneurship is Africa’s unique path forward — distinct from emerging markets like China with its state-run enterprises, or Korea with its ‘Chaebol’ conglomerates, or India with its large family-run businesses”. As if to support his claims, Nigeria’s NYSC national service program, which trains over 300,000 graduates each year, has been recently retuned to offer training linked to entrepreneurship. Africa’s entrepreneurs, more connected than ever to new ideas, are being told that this is their time to shine.