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OPINION: African 'techpreneurs' key to development

OPINION: African 'techpreneurs' key to development.

Africa's young technology entrepreneurs are key to solving Africa's economic and developmental challenges. However, while the youth has the potential, governments must commit to, and enact, targeted education policies that support future generations of young entrepreneurs and help create a culture that is supportive of entrepreneurship.

Core skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, confidence and resource mobilisation are vital to deliver entrepreneurship and leadership training directly in secondary schools. The crux of the matter is that African governments can foster or nurture the entrepreneurial spirit to solve developmental challenges.

Some African countries are facing the challenge head-on and making great strides to make the structural and other adjustments in order to harness the entrepreneurial spirit. A country like Rwanda has recognised the potential of ICT as a tool for socio-economic development and the Rwandan government has played a leading role in promoting ICT as a transformational tool.

Nigeria has an estimated 37 million micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and their contribution to economic growth and job creation is significant. However, many of these smaller businesses struggle to gain access to the capital they need to grow and prosper as they lack traditional collateral such as land and buildings.

In May 2016, the Central Bank of Nigeria launched a modern online collateral registry with the support of the World Bank Group. The registry will allow low-income earners and small-scale entrepreneurs to secure loans against movable assets such as machinery, livestock, and inventory.

In Ghana, the collateral registry has facilitated $1.3 billion in financing for the small-scale business sector since it was established in 2010 and $12 billion in total financing for the business sector using movable assets as collateral. The benefits of the collateral registry—enabling businesses to leverage their assets to obtain credit for growth, improve assets liquidity especially short-term assets, and allow asset diversification as well as cost reduction and the promotion of prudent lending—will now be extended to Nigeria.

In Senegal, a recent three-day workshop, organised by the Goethe Institute and mJangale, a Senegalese after-school programme aimed at improving student literacy, numeracy, and foreign language skills taught participants to use MIT App Inventor —a drag-and-drop-tool which allows users to create a basic phone app. The aim was to introduce young people to computing and make them more knowledgeable about the environment. In small groups, the students developed apps focusing on environmental issues, in the format of their choice —a game, quiz or platform—to look up potentially unfamiliar terms such as "endangered species."

Power of entrepreneurship

According to the chairperson of the Next Einstein Forum, African countries have been slow to adopt digital technologies in education. More advanced equipment in schools—from computers to scientific laboratories—will broaden the students' horizon and better prepare them for the job market. Building environmental apps enables students to learn about technology and the environment easily and use the knowledge to improve the environment.

The ideas young African entrepreneurs come up with are many and varied. The Forbes List of 30 Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2016 gives us an indication of the depth of creative and innovative ideas coming out of Africa which demonstrates that impressive results have been achieved.

I sincerely believe that entrepreneurship is the best way to grow local economies and employment. Some of the things African countries can do to enable aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs to succeed include:

  • creating a youth entrepreneurship eco-system that includes gearing the school curriculum towards entrepreneurship;
  • adapting programmes which are not necessarily geared for the youth;
  • absorbing or including young people with entrepreneurial flair into government programmes;
  • encouraging the corporate sector to nurture entrepreneurs within their companies—gaining business experience is vital.

Young entrepreneurs can create wealth , alleviate poverty and provide employment. However, we need to create an enabling environment for them to do so.

* By Laurent Lamothe, president and founder of LSL World Initiative.

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