In the spring of 2012 I heard the buzzword “Afropreneur”, adopted by Idris Bello .It caught my eyes at first sight. Although, one could deduce what it meant from its syllable, I still wanted to know what it means to Idris. I found out Idris uses the word to describe the bright, independent and tech savvy entrepreneurs using creative thinking and the power of innovation to take over Africa’s economic destiny. Quoting part of his comments from his interview with CNN, he said “But of recent you are seeing a new wave of young men and women who have access to all the global networks, who have studied either within the continent or outside and have this passion for change- these are the people Africa’s change is going to come from, these are the people I call Afropreneurs”.
I met Idris Bello in Oxford, UK in summer of 2012. Unfortunately we were too busy to discuss this.
I am not sure how this happened, just about three months after I first read about ‘Afroprenuer’, I bumped into another buzzword, ‘Africapitalism’. A philosophy coined by one of Nigeria’s accomplished technocrat and businessman, Tony Elumelu. He first iterated the word in 2011.In 2014, the philosophy was buttressed by the establishment of the Africapitalism Institute. On the Africapitalism institute’s website, Africapiltalism was defined as “an economic philosophy that the African private sector has the power to transform the continent through long term investments in strategic sectors, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth”.
These may be mere buzzwords but the thinking and philosophy behind them is phenomenal and that’s what attracted me to them. As an entrepreneur, I strongly believe that only entrepreneurs can transform Africa and that’s the import of this article. These two concepts can liberate Africa and Africans from poverty and leapfrog the continent into an economic hub.
Beyond mere rhetoric, Afropreneurs with an Africapitalist mindsets are the change agents Nigeria and the continent at large need.
A continent battling youth employment at a flat rate of 11.9% in 2012 and 2013 as reported by the International Labor organization needs paradigm shift in its policies to turn the tide.
Government must as a matter of urgency start promoting and supporting entrepreneurship. Policies that put Entrepreneurship to the front burner must be drafted and taken seriously. A study of vibrant economies like United States, China, India, and Germany shows that entrepreneurs contribute immensely to the vibrancy of an economy.
Sub- Saharan Africa has the fastest population growth projected between now and 2050 and the highest youth population in the world. It is paramount that Africa nations begin to factor this into their national and social development planning.
Let’s reel out the statistics for Nigeria. As reported by the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment rate increased 24.20% in the first quarter of 2015 from 23.90% in the fourth quarter of 2014. Unemployment rate in Nigeria averaged 15.97% from 2006 to 2015, reaching an all-time high of 24.20% in the first quarter of 2015. In 2014, CBN, Nigeria’s apex bank reported that 80% of youths in the country remain unemployed. This is obviously a threat to the nation’s economy as well as its development.
With the universities and polytechnics churning out graduates at a rate faster than the rate wind turbine converts wind to energy, this problem will remain unabated unless taken as a matter of national and continental emergency.
Any policy centered around creating employment through the government payroll is like putting band aid on a gunshot wound. Aside from massive direct investment in industrialization nothing else come close to a well thought out entrepreneurship policy. Entrepreneurs are massive wealth creators. They not only create wealth for themselves, they also create the wealth that generates the taxes that fund public services.
A tradition of investing in entrepreneurs should be cultivated. The United States has a tradition of celebrating their entrepreneurs and championing their success. From Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, the story of America has been driven by risk taking entrepreneurs and inventors.
The opportunity for entrepreneurs to thrive is the foundation for a rising economy, a robust middle class, security and stability and broad based prosperity.
In Canada businesses with 5-100 employees are referred to as small businesses. It is instructive to note that 48.3% of Canada’s total work force work for small businesses. According to industry Canada calculations, 86% of Canadian exporters were small businesses in 2009, small businesses accounted for $68 Billion in exports (25% of Canada’s total export value), and small business accounted for 42% of Canada’s private sector GDP.
These numbers indicate the huge role small businesses play within the Canadian economy which is impossible without government support.
The Nigerian government will need to up its game in this regard. Entrepreneurs need government support to thrive. Training, access to resources, funding and infrastructures are important to entrepreneur’s success.
Our youths need to be taught about opportunity recognition and idea generation.
During my visit to Nigeria in 2013, I discovered how every sector of the country is begging for innovation. Opportunities abound everywhere. From mobile payments to e-commerce, Agriculture and healthcare. The list is endless. The potential and opportunities Africa offers can surpass those of developed markets in Europe and USA.
The World Bank’s “Doing Business report 2013”, ranked Nigeria 131st out of 185 countries reviewed. This is not good. Government policies and procedures should not constitute a stumbling block to the entrepreneur.
The ministry of trade and industry has a big and unique role to play in ensuring that all entrepreneurs have access to the support they need. Registering a business should not be an arduous or herculean undertaking. Why would a business that doesn’t intend to operate beyond its locality need to be registered in Abuja?
Government, NGOs, international agencies and regulatory bodies should as a matter of urgency begin to look at the challenges that entrepreneurs face in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. These challenges include access to capital, access to land, license and permits, corruption, courts, Custom and trade registration, tax administration, tax rates, infrastructures and electricity amongst others.
A country of 170million people is a gold mine for entrepreneurs. Only self-employment can revise the unemployment trend, and self-employment doesn’t come easy.
The Nigerian government with its change mantra can make a whole lot of difference if its job creation efforts are concentrated towards entrepreneurship. Government ineptitude towards providing an enabling environment for entrepreneurs is a serious constrain.
In 2011, a World Bank assessment of the impact of government ineptitude stated;
“Taken together, the total indirect costs of poor quality infrastructure, crime and security, and corruption amount to over 10% of sales for Nigerian firms. This is twice as high as in South Africa, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia”.
Only government’s unwavering support for afropreneurs with africapitalist mindset will debase the unemployment numbers.