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The entrepreneurial flame is burning bright in Africa

         Date: 2012-11-09

           Tag: Africa, entrepreneur

Summary: A new breed of young African entrepreneurs seek to control their own destinies. Starting with the basics: Many enterpreneurs build their businesses from the ground up

The entrepreneurial flame is burning bright in Africa. In October, Accra, Ghana played host to the Third Annual African Leadership Network's (ALN) Entrepreneurship in Africa Summit, bringing together hundreds of business people from across Africa and the world to interact, share, listen and take action.

Opening a window to the reality of doing business in Africa, entrepreneurs at the summit were presented with the initial findings of a survey conducted consulting firm in six African countries, showing entrepreneurship success was possible despite a raft of challenges.

Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm that sponsored the survey in collaboration with ALN, Africa's premier network of young, dynamic, and influential new leaders on the continent, said the countries taking part in the survey, titled "Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa," were Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.

Malik Fal, a Managing Editor for Omidyar Network Africa, told TOAFRICA.NET that the challenge facing the next generation of entrepreneurs is to create prosperity against all odds.

He said the survey showed that African entrepreneurs are succeeding despite not being politically connected, demonstrating a changing mindset toward prosperity. The shift from being entrepreneurs of necessity, working for themselves because they cannot find formal employment, is being made by young people aspiring to go into business for themselves, with 57 percent of those surveyed seeing entrepreneurship as a viable career choice. This could ultimately translate into high-impact entrepreneurs, meaning those who create jobs.

Government leaders in Africa are failing to build national identities, instead promoting allegiances to tribes and ethnic groups, said Fal. Borders, national anthems and national flags are no longer enough to inspire young people, who now clearly want jobs and opportunities. And armed with technology and an aspiration for Western standards, youth today is pushing governments to move faster and develop private sectors.

Fal said the big question is how Africa can get its entrepreneurs to ultimately create jobs, generate wealth, expand the tax base and make a social impact.

While the will to succeed among those surveyed is alive and bristling, a lack of access to financing, inadequate infrastructure (most notably electricity), insufficient skills training, limited affordable and accessible business support services and burdensome administrative policies were among the obstacles included in the survey findings that held back high-impact entrepreneurship.

Sixty percent of respondents said the cost of capital hinders company formation and growth; only 23 percent believe they can afford the costs associated with using existing infrastructure; 59 percent said colleges and universities do not devote enough time to teaching entrepreneurship; and 55 percent feel that there aren't sufficient business support services available for new and growing firms.

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