From an African perspective, experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group posit that entrepreneurship has gained the acknowledgment of being a vital aspect in developing cultures and societies.
Over time, entrepreneurship has turned international, with the integration of globally-recognized payment methods, insurance services, telecommunication services, and integration of global markets setting global investments in motion.
Entrepreneurship across the continent has been there for centuries, with evident economic advancements and adjustments springing up regularly.
Better livelihoods, production and supply of products and services benefiting societies and improved welfare through the opening up of opportunities for more individuals have been among the various fruits of entrepreneurship ubiquitous globally.
However, it has not been a smooth journey, especially in Africa.
The most recent eye-opener on Africa’s entrepreneurship landscape was from the Trans-Africa Investment Summit held in Kampala, Uganda, between October 26th and 29th this year.
Investors, financiers, business and organization owners, managers, founders, and leaders met not only to network and showcase their businesses but also to re-listen to Africa’s entrepreneurial story, re-evaluate it, and re-write it as a way forward to the achievement of better business-related policies, laws and regulations and timely approaches for starting and managing successful businesses in Africa.
The diverse minds shared the challenges they have faced in their entrepreneurial journey, from traveling around Africa to financial constraints, unfair business grounds, untimely approaches, cumbersome policies, and regulatory requirements.
History has it that the continent’s wealthiest fellows have accumulated their wealth through entrepreneurial enterprises run at the individual, family, or corporate levels.
However, have the African investors trusted the African market and investment grounds as able vehicles to take them to an entrepreneurial achievement and fulfillment, or do they still invest and want to invest more abroad?
If you want to travel within the East African Community (EAC), for instance, you need a Passport, Visa (for non-EAC citizens), or Alternative travel documents for East Africans.
Other requirements for East Africans are a Certificate of Identity/Interstate Pass, Proof of yellow fever vaccination, and a Full Covid-19 vaccination certificate (or valid Negative PCR Test). That is according to the EAC website.
A borderless Africa
Aren’t these documents, some of which take a long time to process, an avoidable impediment?
First, the delegates noted the need for a borderless Africa in terms of investment. Traveling in Africa has never been as easy as national governments paint it.
It is both hectic and expensive, yet necessary in entrepreneurship.
Removing the cumbersome visa required when traveling from outside the East African Community or its member states, as per the draft communique they issued after the summit, would make it easier to travel within Africa and do business seamlessly.
To see Africa’s economic landscape through their eyes, The Scholar Media Africa reached out to several delegates who participated in the conference.
“As they did for this summit, scrapping the visa makes doing business easy. I suggest that we must have a visa-free Africa in all countries.
Also, Africa should enact parameters of trade instead of numerous laws and regulations, which tempt entrepreneurs to prefer trading abroad where the ground is relatively level,” says Ephraim Recondah, the Managing Director Manaven Trading Ltd, Zimbabwe.
Some countries do not have direct flights to most other African countries, some being their neighboring countries!
In the case of Recondah, “I had to go through Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, then connect to Entebbe International Airport in Kampala, which is challenging and time-consuming,” he explained to The Scholar.
“There is need for African nations to abolish visas by Africans to enter each other’s nations. If this must persist then let it be visa on arrival. This will facilitate better trade and other relations,” reads the communique in part.
Role of governments
Value addition by national governments to raw materials is paramount, yet not final.
According to the delegates, training the personnel and employing them within Africa to offer services and produce finished goods for local use and exports is the way out.
United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) recently conducted a two-year study on entrepreneurship and released a book titled Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
It surfaced that the state’s role is on the top list of foundational elements for entrepreneurship to be a catalyst for economic growth.
A state’s ability to ensure a steamrolled playing arena for businesses and create an appropriate judicial, institutional and regulatory environment to support a competitive, entrepreneurial culture is paramount in Africa’s entrepreneurship.
Through the draft communique developed from the delegates’ insights, which is set to be finalized and submitted to the Chair Africa Union, the African businesspeople aired their concerns about the state of traveling in Africa, slow yet complicated certification procedures, and how these significantly impede the realization of an enabling investment environment.
Certification and licensing of products, services and inventions, which has been a problematic and delaying affair, should be seamless and easier for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, facilitated by government regulators, according to the investors.
They stressed the essence of activating more and better intra-Africa trade relations, leaning to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
Adopted in July 2019 and already signed by 98.2% of African countries, the AfCFTA agreement accentuates the need “… to achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the Member States of the African Union,” as specified in the AfCFTA Rules of Origin Manual, as of July 2022.
Governments, therefore, have the task of triggering more robust negotiations and fast-track the implementation of the Agreement as a whole if Africa is to have an open field for all Africans to invest.
“Governments from all African countries should be lobbied to sponsor at least three business-people to go and sell their services; this must be considered in future summits around the continent,” said Mr. Andries Komana, the World Economic Forum (WEF) State Coordinator Southern Africa chapter- South Africa.
Mr. Komana is also the Chairman Komaas Group of Companies, South Africa, focusing on mining and training, spreading its wings into diverse economic paths.
Diversely, Africa is the wealthiest continent on the planet, but her potential lies untapped by African entities and governments. Foreigners are constantly eyeing her wealth.
South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya are Africa’s five wealthiest markets in Africa. Tapping the fullness of Africa’s treasures would see Africa, if working as a single Economic Bloc, have 3.4 trillion USD circulate in business circles.
“Over the next decade, many of Africa’s current development challenges will become bankable business opportunities on which our youth, women and others can capitalize,” reads the AfDB White Paper titled Entrepreneurship and Free Trade: Africa’s Catalysts for a New Era of Economic Prosperity (Volume I).
Africa has to envision a near future where the youth will be the driving force of African businesses. If governments don’t sufficiently train these youngsters, they cannot blame them for incompetent approaches to entrepreneurial opportunities.
“The time is ripe for African governments to switch to academic curricula which train learners to self-employ and no longer seek employment within or outside Africa, through a continental policy promoting that,” says Recondah.
The Africa Report points out that Africa houses approximately 650 tech hubs, which increase daily and stand way above the given figure, depending on different hub definitions.
They include accelerators, incubators, university-linked start-up support labs, maker parks, and co-working sites and are the main ingredient in Africa’s economic pie.
Two-thirds of these hubs, however, have a staff of below 10, accentuating the need for more input from every future-oriented mind to make them thrive and effectively serve their clientele.
Introducing more innovation hubs and establishing and equipping technical training institutes would also help solve unemployment while boosting the entrepreneurial sector.
“Africa must talk,” says Mr. Komana, adding, “We intend to preach entrepreneurship culture to our people and start trading with each other in different countries. I know what you don’t know, just the way you know what I don’t, and we can learn from each other.”
He champions countries to list their projects and seek partnerships with other African countries for mutual growth, learning and easy-to-track intra-Africa trade.
“Let us skill and re-skill the youths in Africa with skills relevant to industries. Together we can do more,” he urged.
Commenting on the success and timeliness of the Summit, Prof Robinah Nanyunja said, “We delivered a successful Trans Africa Investment Summit last month in Kampala, Uganda, with high level businesses and investment contacts who are key drivers of entrepreneurship and innovation across Africa.”
“Resultantly,” she rejoins, “trust for collaboration and partnerships have already been established just a week after the summit. We are proud to be the catalysts behind this. Efforts are destined to increase and multiply in the next few months.”
Prof Nanyunja is the Founder and Chair of Pilot International, a Private Sector social enterprise registered in Uganda promoting Global Sustainability & Investments in over 100 countries globally, and Chair WEF Uganda, a WEF branch business conglomerate of all interested entrepreneurs.
Participants reached out to by The Scholar famed the event, urging that Africa needs more such summits, which have been learning and linking avenues, partnership tables, and exhibition opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders.
“It was a great opportunity to network and create business opportunities in different countries. Such summits should be organized more often in different countries in Africa,” said Bosco Somi, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer Sky Digitals Kenya.
Clarion call to African Union
Undoubtedly, therefore, Africa still punches below her weight economically.
Like a deflated balloon, her potential lies untapped. Investors prefer investing abroad to avoid the many barriers within Africa.
Investors say more intentional efforts, approaches, regulations, and an enabling environment for economic freedom and Free Trade Area are urgent and necessary; the right recipe if Africa is to emancipate herself from self-imposed shackles and limitations in the entrepreneurial quarters.
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