One thing that Africa has no shortage of is entrepreneurs. However, it is in the creation of an enabling environment – a startup ecosystem – that will see entrepreneurs make a real impact on the continents economic growth.
According to the World Economic Forum, two-thirds of Africa’s 420 million young people are currently unemployed. Highlighting a clear need for new solutions to drive employment growth. At the same time, Africa’s young population have an entrepreneurial spirit with early-stage entrepreneurial activity 13% higher than the global average. However, due to insufficient support and infrastructure, the region’s startups are 14% more likely to fail than those elsewhere in the world.
Across Africa, we see entrepreneurs harnessing technology and creating innovative solutions, tackling some of the continent’s most critical issues. From access to water and energy to health services and banking. This entrepreneurial spirit must be harnessed, and the startups created by bright young Africans nurtured and supported.
Mich Atagana Head of communications and public affairs at Google SA has noted that the growth of entrepreneurship in Africa is critical to its survival. If we’re going to develop economically, we need to find employment for the millions of young people who make up the majority of our population. More than 11 million job seekers are entering the market every year. Empowering entrepreneurs and startups is essential to drive employment growth and enable both economic and social development.
However, many tech startups in Africa are facing failure. The main challenges are accessing financing, specifically venture funding, that will help them take their business to scale.
Recently the World Economic Forum launched the Africa Growth Platform, to help Africa’s community of startup enterprises grow and compete in international markets. The platform is all about creating an enabling environment: firstly, by securing commitments from governments to implement policy reforms aimed at stimulating and accelerating business growth. Secondly, it seeks to build a community of investors, that will include private investors, foundations, multilateral institutions and corporate intrapreneurs. Enabling better coordination and pooling of resources that could facilitate larger subsequent rounds of funding. Third, the platform will create and sustain a community of startup businesses themselves, promoting collaboration and sharing best practices.
Similarly, the World Bank launched l’Afrique Excelle to address critical gaps in existing acceleration programs for francophone African entrepreneurs. This segment has been mostly underserved since mature entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa are primarily anglophone. L’AfriqueExcelle is an investment-readiness accelerator program designed to support the expansion of 20 startups from francophone Africa, seeking to raise early-stage capital between $250,000 to $5M.
I believe that these initiatives hold real promise in creating a much need startup ecosystem in Africa. Both initiatives incorporate public-private partnerships at its core. My experience in government and the private sector has taught me that government’s function better with private sector support and vice versa. When the two work together so much is possible.
An excellent example of this is the Caribbean “Climate-Smart Zone” and Accelerator. The Accelerator has created an unprecedented coalition including 26 countries and over 40 private and public sector partners. The goal is to implement climate solutions for resilience, renewable energy, development of sustainable cities, oceans and transportation. This climate-smart zone will not only protect the region but create jobs and a new economy based on climate-smart infrastructure.
I am sure there are many more examples of what can happen when there is a collaboration between government and the private sector. These partnerships can achieve real solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems.