This article was originally published on Qazini.com
It is impossible to imagine Africa without entrepreneurs. It would probably be a place of misery,
defined by immense unemployment, severe hunger, and abject poverty. Basically a chain of problems
with limited or zero solutions. Of course these problems are still affecting us, but entrepreneurs
constantly work hard to alleviate them. That is why it is necessary and a matter of urgency to create
sustainable businesses for a resilient future.
There are a few of things that entrepreneurs need to practice to be successful in their businesses.
They range from prioritizing purposeful brands, consistent learning, being innovative and gender
inclusive and building your skills. Take a dive into these factors, insights borrowed from the African
Entrepreneurship Forum held by the Shared Value Africa Initiative, earlier this year.
Purpose over necessity
African entrepreneurs need to reflect on whether they are building businesses out of necessity
or purpose. While it might seem necessary to start a business out of circumstance, African
entrepreneurs need to focus on the future. Businesses built on a foundation of profits hardly
make it past five years of operation. On the other hand, purpose-led enterprises are likely to
withstand the test of time. For Africa to thrive and achieve new heights of prosperity, African
entrepreneurs need to rethink their purpose, their ‘why’ of establishing businesses.
Entrepreneurs need to aim for those that are sustainable and substantially propel the
economy forward – and what propels an economy forward – delivering products/services that
add genuine value to and benefit society.
According to the African Development Bank, African women are the thread that holds together
the fabric of the African economy, accounting for a majority of small and medium sized
businesses in Africa. Yet, women are excluded from entrepreneurship opportunities. Women
mostly lack capital, and as a result of this lose motivation, to remain competitive in
entrepreneurship. In order to strengthen the African economy, women should be given access
to entrepreneurial opportunities – financing and entrepreneurship skills.
Africa is a consumerist continent, but most of the consumed products are largely imported,
including its food. This leaves African entrepreneurs sinking in losses and sometimes leads to
collapse of their businesses. There are consumer claims that African products are of poor
quality. As much as it is important to appeal to every African to buy ‘made in Africa,’ the
businessmen and women have a role to play — in ensuring that what they produce is of high
quality. They also need to embrace and be intentional about innovation and exhaust locally
available materials before going international (importing). The goal needs to be tailoring
African solutions for African challenges.
Entrepreneurship goes beyond mere trade. Sustainable entrepreneurship means providing
sustainable solutions to consumers. It matters that African entrepreneurs begin to develop
enterprises that impact lives. Incubators and hubs are thriving in Africa, with an intention to
leverage the skill set of entrepreneurs. It’s a good initiative that should be lauded.
Unfortunately, the aftermath is mostly bombarding entrepreneurs with information without
actionable steps. To effectively coach African entrepreneurs, they similarly need to redefine
entrepreneurship. In an interview consisting of business leaders, conducted by the World
Economic Forum, to highlight what makes businesses successful, Bhakti Vithalani, Founder
and Chief Executive Officer, BigSpring said that, “In an increasingly accelerating world, the
skills gap is becoming a skills crisis. Moving people from ‘test ready’ to ‘job ready’ is what
drives us at BigSpring.” As you train entrepreneurs, are you preparing them for the ‘real’ job of
running and growing a thriving, sustainable business?
The Forum also highlighted that the African entrepreneur seems to suffer from in imposter
syndrome. When self-doubt kicks in to the extent that customers can detect your lack of
confidence, customers lose trust in you. Confidence gives you an upper hand in competing
with other entrepreneurs. Believe in your product/service and pitch it to the world with
confidence. It’s important to remember that confidence also comes from believing in what you
are selling – which is in turn directly related to the ‘why’, the purpose of your business.
African entrepreneurs are already building and will continue to build long-term businesses that are
growing the continent. For those entrepreneurial minds looking to start a business, or questioning the
viability of their business, consider incorporating these five metrics of entrepreneurship. It’s also
important for entrepreneurs to remember that challenges and failure are normal in running a business
– this doesn’t make it easier, but it is a reality.
As an entrepreneur be open and ready to (very often) take a step back and (re)evaluate your
business and your own: purpose, inclusivity, innovation, benefit to society, and your confidence/belief
in what you are offering. At the end of the day, money is the outcome or result of doing something
that adds value to your customer, and your customer is society.
Shared Value Entrepreneurship Forum, 19th August 2022.