The role of entrepreneurs in developing the African economy

Against the backdrop of 4IR, entrepreneurship is critical to unlock job creation and foster economic growth. So, how can African countries promote entrepreneurship?

  • Facilitate entrepreneurial thinking through accessible education that instils an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Empower entrepreneurs and enterprises to compete internationally
  • Create avenues of financial support
  • Create enabling economic conditions and policies
  • Ask entrepreneurs and SMEs what they need through sustained dialogue, that focuses on job creation

What is the impact of entrepreneurship on society?

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) unfolds, the potential for economic growth in South Africa – and Africa – is on the rise. This is despite SA’s unemployment rate increasing to 29% in 2019. According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, “the digital revolution unlocks the opportunity to build an entrepreneurial state, where government’s own appetite for risk and innovation inspires large-scale entrepreneurship.”

And while the National Development Plan, recent Jobs Summit and the Youth Employment Service (YES) have all begun to address the issue of unemployment, it is clear that enterprise development and entrepreneurship are crucial factors that will help catalyse economic growth. In fact, the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, held from 4-6 September in Cape Town, South Africa, introduced a new initiative that aims to help Africa’s entrepreneurs and start-up enterprises develop and compete in international markets.

What do you need to become an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneurial mindset

According to the African Economic Outlook (AEO) report, published by the African Development Bank (AFDB), close to 22% of Africa’s working-age population is starting new businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 20 employees and less than five years’ experience now constitute the largest providers of formal employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Media outlets such as Forbes have spotlighted the entrepreneurial potential of Africa, with lists such as Forbes’ 30 Most Promising Entrepreneurs in Africa 2018.

Although these organisations have shown that entrepreneurs are set to play a vital role in the major challenges facing African prosperity – including job creation, the digitisation of all industries brought about by 4IR, climate change, security, globalisation and women’s empowerment – the WEF #AfricaGrowth entrepreneurs survey still points to a lack of business skills training at educational institutes as one of the obstacles stopping entrepreneurship on the continent.

Start-up education

“The time has come to change the narrative when it comes to job creation,” says De Wet Schoeman, the Programme Director for Entrepreneurship at USB-ED. “We need to encourage youth to use their skills and talents to create their own opportunities and ventures to hatch further employment.”

To enable this process, USB-ED’s Young Minds Entrepreneurship Programme provides school-leavers with an opportunity to analyse themselves and the economic environment to discover their ambitions and practically achieve their goals. The programme focuses on entrepreneurial behaviour and business skills that are critical to helping build a culture of entrepreneurialism. “Programmes such as this one can have a positive impact in influencing and upskilling young people to create employment and opportunities that can stimulate growth in Africa’s economies from the grassroots level up,” adds Schoeman.

For more information on USB-ED’s programmes that help drive Africa’s entrepreneurial objectives, click here.

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