Posted by: beninmwangi | February 12, 2007

So Why Is Entrepreneurship Important In Africa?

Recently, the question of why entrepreneurship is important to Africa has been on my mind a great deal. I am voicing this question for anyone who may be reading this post or blog and saying to themselves-yeah that’s great but what about some of the other issues which adversely affect many of Africa’s populations. For me, my thoughts are that entrepreneurship is probably one of the best ways to address some of the challenges that are faced by various African nations. But since I am writing this with you, my readers in mind, your thoughts are just as important-if not more important than mine. To clarify what I meant in that last statement here is something that I came across from Enterprise Africa, which I think comes very close to summing up my thoughts on the topic:

“Entrepreneurship is the true engine of economic growth. Entrepreneurs create value in many ways: providing goods or services for consumers, jobs for employees, vital information to other economic actors, and expanding the local tax base. Economies grow when they create institutions that promote these useful activities while limiting incentives to engage in destructive (rent-seeking or criminal) entrepreneurship.

Before the colonial era, many areas in Africa benefited from extensive trading relations. Gold was shipped from Mali across the Sahara to Libya in exchange for salt and to Egypt for ceramics, silks and other Asian and European goods; Ghanaians controlled much of the trans-Sahara trade in copper and ivory; at Great Zimbabwe gold was traded for Chinese pottery and glass; in Nigeria, leather and iron goods were traded throughout West Africa. Today, Africans are still trading and finding ways to create wealth for themselves and their communities. Whether working locally or internationally, they are taking their unique talents and abilities to the marketplace to satisfy the needs of neighbors and strangers alike. Unfortunately, their powerful stories aren’t well known.”

Source: Enterprise Africa

But again, your thoughts and feelings on this matter are highly important to me. And though many of my readers and I have begun to forge some really nice ties, sometimes it still feels like The Benin Epilogue could do more to deliver the topics that most directly address your needs as it pertains to business in Africa.

So, this time we are doing something a little bit different and I would really appreciate it if you would be able to participate. Below there are two survey links, you may choose either one or you can both. The 1st link is a 1-question opinion poll asking how important you believe entrepreneurship is to Africa’s economies. The link below it asks what is the nature of your interest in entrepreneurship in Africa-is it because you do business there, do you want to start a business there, or are you interested in buying African products for import to another part of the world? It will only take a second and most importantly it will give me deeper insights as to which topics you feel are most relevant to your particular situation.

Thank you very much, my friends, you really don’t know how much your input means to me!

Multiple Choice Question 1) How important do you think entrepreneurship is to Africa’s economies?

Click here to take our Online Survey

-Or-

Multiple Choice Question 2) Why are you interested in entrepreneurship as it relates to Africa?

Click here to take our Online Survey

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Responses

  1. Preach on to the choir!!! 🙂 The quote you used regarding being THE ENGINE for social transformation sums it up neatly.

    Entrepreneurship MUST BE our number one priority…….it frees captive minds, and that is the Holy Grail of poverty alleviation.

  2. Sijui:

    Thanks for putting a smile on my face!

    We are certainly on the same page and it’s always fun reading your comments. On entrepreneurship, to me it represents the best opportunity for communities, families, and individuals to reclaim the control over their immediate lives. This isn’t just for countries like Kenya or Ghana, but outside of Africa also. Countries where the economies are developing are not always able to offer the highest levels of social services to their taxpayers. Whether this is due to social inertia, to external conditions, or leadership the end result is that there should be a contigency plan, not necessarily an official one, whereby in times of need or urgency people are not forced to wait on a government to meet all of their needs. Sijui, like you said I guess I’m preaching to the choir, so this is for anyone else who is reading this also. Through tax base, earnings, and the support structures that often go along with entrepreneurship in Africa-like the susus or merry go rounds (informal banking groups often times used by the market women whereby contributions are regularly made and each person who contributes gets a time to withdraw tose funds)-I think the gap can, with time, be filled. George Ayittey in his book Africa Unchained took it a step further and gave examples of groups like this actually improving their local road or utilities infrastructure….There are just so many possibilities which can arise from vibrant and healthy entrepreneur communities in Africa. To sum it up it’s not really so much about these entrepreneurs just having bigger SUV’s, but the bigger picture is how it can help transform communities!!

  3. some of the best enterprenuers are actually solution providers. in africa, enterprenuers will only be relevant and successful if they answer to a basic call and/or fulfill a basic need. for instance, areas which have been neglected like water provision, food security, energy provision( in fact energy and water are the main problems in africa) roads etc are very good areas of interest. african entreprenuers can concentrate on these areas and make it big. However bottom line, i believe that african business is the way out of all the difficulties we have down here. the oportunities are numerous

  4. Odegle:

    Thanks for stopping through. Yes public good entrepreneurs are wonderful.. Now that you mentioned it thaere is so much that this blog is yet to cover.

    Yep, you are on it, opportunity is knocking in Africa!

  5. Benin,

    Thanks for your interesting blog! I started recently researching for social entrepreneurs in Africa and your blog is a valuable source. I am going to go to East-Africa later this year to research and then support a Microfinance / Social Entrepreneur Project. Plan is early stage at this time but networking is full underway…

    Feel free to have a look at my blog.

    Best!
    Juergen

  6. Juergen:

    Hey, I am planning a trip back again also, towards the end of the year. Maybe I’ll see you there. Anyhow, sounds like a great project is it independent or with a group-just curious, it’s good either way.

    Also, thanks for the kind words!

  7. Benin,

    Entrepreneurship is EVERYTHING in Africa. With a lot of failed parastatals and government organizations we needs entrepreneurship. While parastatals are supported by taxpayers, companies aren’t. This means that for a company to exist, they have to make money. To make money, they have to have working systems. These working systems are what improve efficiency, intelligence and the overall standards of living. So the way forward for Africa is to promote entrepreneurship.

  8. O.K. Benin,

    I responded to your online survey. Didn’t have time to read this latest post but as you well know, I’m on the trail of Anton Wilhelm Amo and Alessandro dè Medici.

    I wonder if Dr. Amo tried to set up an export business when he returned to Axim, Ghana back in 1747? Better yet, I wonder if he tried to breakup the booming export market that was already running at full steam along the Gold Coast of West Africa?

    Diversification, that’s the answer folks. As true today as much as it was back in the 18th Century. Diversify your investments and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

  9. You have a new fan here. I have been tracking enterprise as a means for empowerment on the continent without the need for handouts from NGOs and other noble but misguided agencies who wish to do good on the continent.

    What I think is missing though is detailed tracking of those economies which make it easier for enterprise to thrive and specific examples where it is working.

    Sometimes the term Africa can be so innocuos when we dont break it down into the various countries which make this up.

  10. Black River Eagle:

    Wise words, my friend. I remember reading on your blog
    about Dr. Amo from Ghana who did big things in Germany back in the 1700’s but I have to go back to your blog to read about
    Alessandro dè Medici. Anyhow, it really sounds like you are hot on the trail-keep your eyes on the prize!

    Josh:

    Generally speaking, I agree with you on the parastatals. However, in a very small number of cases some of them may be in a better slightly better position to fill the supply gap in certain areas-like electricity than private companies. But, you have made a great point a vast many have probably wasted far more tax monies than they were able to generate through service offerings. Many have since become privatised. But those that are lacking the working or structural systems and controls, that you mentioned, may still not run very efficiently.

    This is one of the reasons that I like looking at the some of the smaller entrepreneurial companies. Because since they are more able to adapt to changing times and business environments than some of the larger and more government inspired companies. As they grow into medium sized, then to large enterprises they seem to continue the process of adampting to the market and adopting better systems as the situations may demand.

    David M:

    I am so happy to see you here. Sounds like you are doing some very
    remarkable research. Please tell me more about it.

    Yes, you are correct, in many instances the word “Africa” does not do much justice to the individual nations that make up the continent. They are so diverse in so many differnt ways. Yet in a few key areas, there may be enough commonality to warrant general discussion topics such econommic growth and empowerment. This may be due to the similiar time frames that many of Africa’s nations gained their independence or it could be due to the fact that many of these nations after independence chose to go the socialism route and then after the Soviet Union collapse were sort of forced to look more seriously at the free market economic system.

    Typically, for more indepth regional analysis I favor, looking at Africa in the economic blocks that emerged there after these countries gained independence. Not counting the AU, I believe there are roughly 13 economic confederations or unions in Africa, which are grouped according to regions. But the four most prominent of these organizations are the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) in the North, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the South, the East African Community (EAC) in the East, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the West.

    Oh, before I forget, let me thank you for the visit. I have just finished checking out your blogs. They are each very good reads…Hope to see you back soon.

  11. Several comprehensive sources for gauging economic dynamism: annual Africa Competitiveness Report released by the World Economic Forum; the annual Doing Business Report released by the World Bank and the in depth Africa Economic Outlook of the largest economies in Africa done by the African Development Bank/OECD. All available online for free.

  12. Sijui, thanks a lot for those resources. Isn’t information wonderful? Especially when it’s available f\at your fingertips for free!

    Sijui, it’s always a pleasure!

  13. Entrepreneurship is important is Africa, but female entrepreneurship is even more important in alleviating poverty and achieving economic growth. I recently carried out a research on female entrepreneurship in Dakar, Senegal and was amased by the dynamism that senegalese women show. they are simply fighters and show true spirit of entrepreneurship. I believe that women are the backbone of the african economy- why?

    when women start an entrepreneurial venture and begin to make some profit, what is the first thing that they do? they care for their family, especially their children- they send them to a good school, college, university etc and turn them into tomorrow’s leaders, academics, and the brains that will take our countries forward …if not, women just simply work hard to get themselves and their family out of poverty.

    measures should be taken, especially in african rural areas to promote and stimulate female entrepreneurship. empower women; provide them with the tools to start ventures and grow them; their contribution will be a great asset to african economies..

  14. Chantal:

    Great points, I hope that you enjoyed my posts on women in entrepreneurial roles throughout SSA.

    And to specifically respond to your point about measures to empower Africa’s business women 1 that would have an almost immediate effect, at least in two or three countries that I am familiar-Kenya being one with, would be changing the land laws so that unmarried women could have full property rights.

    Your observation in Senegal is one that I’ve also noticed in each of the countries that I have visited.

    Thanks Chantal!


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