Why Africa’s visioned start-ups must embrace strategic collaborations

An internet café. Despite high rates of unemployment in most African countries, getting a jo should not be the end of the vision, but a start to gaining stamina to start and run entrepreneurial enterprises and employ others. To thrive, businesses must be willing to collaborate. PHOTO/Courtesy.
  • Africa needs a wider understanding and access to skillsets to employ oneself through education.
  • Start-up companies need to take into consideration and familiarize themselves with business politics.
  • Transformative knowledge is only achieved if an individual is open to networking and meeting new people from different backgrounds and cultures.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) says more than 72 million youth in Africa are neither in education, employment, nor training, with the majority of them being women. 

ILO further clarifies that nearly 13 million young people in Africa are unemployed. 

Ahead of the 2022 Transforming Education Summit, António Guterres, (UN) Secretary General, said Africa’s outdated curricula and outdated teacher training and teaching methods leave students without skills to navigate today’s changing world.

“Any country that is not actively conducting a root and branch overhaul of their education systems today risks being left behind tomorrow,” he warned. 

Raphael Obonyo, in his article, “Preparing young Africans for jobs of the future”, explains how Ruth Rono, who graduated with first-class honors in 2015 in Kenya, tried in vain to find a job and was eventually forced to take unskilled jobs.

The situation is similar in Lesotho as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) explains that the country’s unemployment rate has stagnated at over 22% of over her 2 million citizens.

Maganda Tabingwa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tanya Innovations Africa, in an episode of ‘The Global Talk Show’, portrayed the African youth mentality typically as a job settler syndrome. 

“The formula is basic; a young man goes to university, finds a job in the city, gets married, builds a house in the village and that is his success story,” he said.

Tabingwa then posed the question that if a young African’s vision and mission is set on getting a job, living in the capital city, working within their country, and eventually going back to their village with this kind of success mentality, then to what extent are African youth entrepreneurial skills limited?

Providing clarity on Tabingwa’s question, Hanne Nuutinen, Executive Director of K-Pentag USA, Finland and Africa, noted the need for support and push systems that allow access to information, enlighten and expose young narrow-minded African youth to explore opportunities outside their comfort zones. 

“Africa needs a wider understanding and access to skillsets to employ oneself through education,” she said.

Education and entrepreneurship

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development meeting report of 2011  titled Entrepreneurship education, Innovation and capacity building in developing countries, explains that many least developed countries do not incorporate or mainstream entrepreneurial education into their poverty reduction strategies. 

Yet, there is a strong need to expose the youth to business and entrepreneurship at an early stage because this builds positive perceptions and attitudes about entrepreneurship.  

“Entrepreneurial learning should be integrated into the curriculum, rather than only being offered as standalone courses, in order to change the mindset among students.

For instance, in primary education, the adoption of school books, interactive games and online tools has proved to be particularly useful. 

As is the case with award-winning DisneyKauffman online game that teaches young people aged 9 to 14 about the excitement and opportunity of entrepreneurship,” the report clarifies.

Apart from this, the report suggests a strong commitment by governments in terms of policy and resources, seeing that governments oversee most schools, universities, and training programs.

However, it advises that countries need to define relevant impact indicators in accordance with set objectives and targets of the entrepreneurship education policies.

Building on to the notion of education as a critical driver for entrepreneurial change, Nuutinen disclosed an initiative by K-Pentag to build a leadership, entrepreneurship, and sustainability curriculum with one African University to equip young minds with entrepreneurship skills. 

Challenges in entrepreneurship

Nuutinen, even as she supports the idea of introducing entrepreneurial skills from as early as kindergarten, states that the concept of operating in silos is pulling back African businesses into succeeding and, after that, enhancing Africa’s economy to its greatest potential. 

She notes that Africans have a lot of power through their various cultures and backgrounds that can be exploited and intertwined to produce the best of entrepreneurs.

“The world is a gem in an oyster. People are people, and even though I have noted how Africans possess the joy of life, narrow-mindedness is limiting their ability to utilize their expertise extensively so much that they are oblivious to opportunities outside their comfort zones.

“We need to care only about the next person’s perception of the world and identify how they resonate with us in order to collaborate; let it be a ‘let me help you where you lack expertise and I will do the same’ playbook,” she says. 

The IMA financial group, in addition, describes how the silo mentality leads to duplication, lack of integration, missed opportunities and individualism, articulating that as the corporate world keeps changing, collaborations within different cultures to support cross-functional interactions can help boost business innovations.

Even more so, Nuutinen notes that the lack of support by governments for small, upcoming, as well as existing businesses prohibits growth. 

Michael BoylesMarketing specialist and contributing writer for Harvard Business School Online, in his article “Understanding how politics can affect your businesses”, supports Nuutinen’s idea.

He clarifies that regional laws and regulations can determine how a company operates or whether it can benefit from international expansion.

Beyond getting a job and settling, it is important to build thriving businesses. PHOTO/Banana Hatahata, Scholar Media Africa.

He articulates that for this reason, start-up companies need to take into consideration and familiarize themselves with business politics.

“Governments have the power of value creation. That is, the process of creating goods and services that are worth more than the resources used to produce them,” he writes.

Power of collaborations

Nuutinen gives an example of how Finland is taking advantage of collaborations within start-up ecosystems by identifying the weak points within an organization.

“When start-ups collaborate and advocate for financial or legal support from government, this becomes a better advocacy strategy than when one start-up tries to gain government support,” she says.

This move is supported by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development meeting report, as it points out that developing a network across sectors to nurture partnerships helps create an environment of trust and cooperation in the local ecosystems and beyond.

With this, Nuutinen highlights that transformative knowledge is only achieved if an individual is open to networking and meeting new people from different backgrounds and cultures.

“Be it a farmer, the aged, the young, all these backgrounds and experiences contribute to the success of a new business because they offer wide perspectives of the need of a particular vicinity,” she emphasizes.

Additionally, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), in the “Effective Cross-functional Collaboration in a Changing World of Work Report 2022”, articulates that collaboration helps navigate through times of crisis and future business trends.

“When businesses come together, more is achieved because each one learns more about what the other party can bring to the table. Therefore, business affairs are carried out in a timely fashion,” says the report.

In the spirit of collaboration, Nuutinen highlights that K-Pentag is looking into empowering approximately 150 African leaders through mentorship programs, business consultations, and workshop training programs.

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“As a young business aspirant, I lacked a solid network and mentorship to change my business approach. For this reason, I wish to pass on this knowledge to young aspiring African leaders and business aspirants,” she concludes.

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Ms. Hatahata is a Freelance journalist From Lesotho covering stories mostly on sustainable development. Her contact :mpho.toni@gmail.com


  1. Famine and war are very lucrative business and we live in a capitalist society where profit matters not humanity. What happened to the 1974 World Food Conference declaration that by the year 2000 no child should go to bed with empty belly? What happened to the 2015 SDGs to reduce poverty by half? If there is a will, there is a way. Unfortunately there is no will to end famine and have peace in this world.


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