Entrepreneurship — A Pathway to Sustainable Development in Africa
Without adequate entrepreneurship education and business support, Africa faces a very uncertain future.
This might sound like a bold statement but here are some interesting statistics about Africa:
- Nigeria is expected to be the 3rd most populous country by 2050 with a population of over 300 million while several other African countries are projected to have more than doubled their population in the same time period.
- Africa, in general, is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050.
- 41% of Africans are currently under the age of 15 and 60% of the continent is below the age of 25.
- Currently, 9 out of 10 working African youth are poor or near poor and over the next 10 years, only one in four of Africa’s youth are expected to find a wage job at best.
- The youth population in Africa is expected to double, to over 830 million, by 2050.
- In Nigeria alone, over 40 million additional jobs will be needed between now and 2030.
Africa’s youth population is growing at such an alarming rate that trumps any existing initiatives to adequately cater for them. Something needs to be done urgently and I believe entrepreneurship is the only sustainable option.
I recently came across a definition of entrepreneurship which has since become my favourite. It comes from a Harvard Business Review article on the subject where Professor Howard Stevenson defines it as “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled”. I love this definition because it differs significantly from the dictionary definition which is “the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.”
According to this definition, being an entrepreneur isn’t necessarily about starting companies but about having a mindset that’s driven by the perception of opportunity regardless of the resources currently at one’s disposal. This puts entrepreneurship squarely within reach of everyone whether in government, business or academia, and that’s the mindset we all need to imbibe if we’re to solve some Africa’s biggest challenges, especially those that come with our huge population growth.
Because of Africa’s many challenges, taking responsibility to create the right future seems like the only viable option. For the true entrepreneur, seeing opportunity and harnessing them, often in the midst of challenges, becomes a way of life to secure their future and the futures of several others. Entrepreneurs don’t wait for the government to make investments in infrastructure. To them, the recognition that 600 million people in Africa don’t have access to electricity should be a spur to innovation, not a flag of caution. The men who built America knew this and built great empires that history celebrates till date.
There is more to be said about experiencing problems firsthand as it often puts us at an advantage when working to craft a solution. An important part of Human-Centered Design, for instance, involves understanding the problem in context thereby leading to highly effective and usable solutions. Also, attempting to solve their own problems is what led a lot of startup founders to eventually launch a company and this is often a good sign that investors look out for in companies they potentially will fund. Thinking of problems this way makes it clear that the best solutions to Africa’s challenges will need to come from within the continent, by entrepreneurs who are able to frame them as opportunities waiting to be harnessed. Being born in Africa isn’t that bad after all.
If entrepreneurship is that important, how then can we ensure that more Africans acquire the entrepreneurship skills required to build Africa’s future? Having experienced firsthand how our educational system fails to prepare graduates for a lifetime of problem solving, this is one question that drives me to contribute to various initiatives that help groom and support Africa’s next generation of innovators.
In my career, I’ve had the opportunity of working with amazing organisations doing really impactful work. I, however, believe the way to sustain this impact lies in rapidly scaling the technology entrepreneurship success stories we’re seeing in Africa by investing in exceptional human beings who can go on to solve relevant problems, build on and replicate the successes of companies like Andela in various other sectors while creating several more jobs in the process. That’s the work that gives me the most joy.
An important step for me in this quest was joining Andela, a company that scales high-performing distributed engineering teams with Africa’s most talented software developers. At Andela, I am tasked with designing and managing entrepreneurship programmes to equip Andelans with entrepreneurial skills and to support developers who plan to launch companies, join startups, or work in larger technology firms after completing their fellowship with opportunities that position them for success in an entrepreneurial career.
Simply put, I have a mandate to support Andela’s massive developer talent pool in acquiring entrepreneurship skills, and I am particularly excited about this challenge because I believe we have the opportunity to identify and invest in the next generation of problem solvers that would build the future of Africa. The fact that many of them already have exceptional technical talent to do so makes the challenge even more interesting.
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