Harnessing Entrepreneurship

With Africa’s population set to soar over the next ten years, it is vital that entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to thrive

The world’s population is set to grow by 1 billion by 2025. Africa, the second most populous continent, should see its population rise from just over 1 billion to nearly 1.5 billion people. How would Africa feed an additional 400 million? How would the continent fi  decent jobs for the people coming into the labour market, not to mention the current unemployed? Besides food and jobs, the implications for infrastructure– education, health, housing, water, power and transportation – are staggering.

One thing is certain. While global economic growth will predominantly be generated in emerging economies, the projected growth rate in most is insufficient to meet the needs of the growing population and simultaneously lift masses out of poverty. The forecast is that emerging economies, collectively, will expand by an average of 4.7% per year (more than twice the developed world’s 2.3% rate) between now and 2025. China’s economy has already slowed down considerably, with some analysts putting the growth rate at half of the latest official figure of 7%. India has also experienced a strong contraction. Sub-Saharan Africa is therefore expected to average 6% annual growth.

What is required to deal with this major challenge?

One key solution is entrepreneurship. There has been growing interest in the subject with greater recognition of its importance. Today, entrepreneurs are hailed as role models in society. They dominate the Forbes and Sunday Times rich lists. Many have influenced economies, even the world, with their enterprises and offerings. Several have been exemplary in philanthropy. This notwithstanding, much more remains to be done to harness entrepreneurship, especially in developing countries. For instance, although Africa has many entrepreneurs, it continues to lag behind others in terms of trade, foreign direct investment, competitiveness, business start-up and growth. Most so-called entrepreneurs are actually necessity or survivalist business people – typically running micro- enterprises, generating just enough to support themselves and operating in the informal economy. Necessary, yes but it is hard to think of a country that has developed on the back of these. To transform economies and create jobs, one needs growth-oriented enterprises including agri-businesses. Research in the UK and EU has shown that 4% of fast-growth small and medium-sized enterprises account for 50% of net job creation.

With less than ten years to go before another billion people arrive, there is little time to waste.

With less than ten years to go before another billion people arrive, there is little time to waste.

It is arguable that, in most developing countries, there is not enough support for entrepreneur- ship development and that most intervention programmes do not work or have failed. Moreover, what passes for entrepreneurship education is really a disparate collection of business studies. The style of teaching is fl wed, focusing not on learning but on inculcating personal entrepreneurial competencies. Intrapreneurship – entrepreneurship in large organisations including the public sector – has received even less attention. Yet, the skills and characteristics required for success in business are also required here. Certainly, an important aspect of economic growth is the key individuals who promote change and initiate development activities. These persons are needed in both private and public sectors. For public servants, who are entrusted with the provision and management of basic services and the entire economy, intrapreneurship is critical.

With less than ten years to go before another billion people arrive, there is little time to waste.

David Okwara

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