New Telegraph

Mang: Inadequate funding, skill gaps hindering startups in Africa

Entrepreneurship is the back- bone of global economy; how do you rate entrepreneurship ecosystem in Africa? The entrepreneurship eco- system in Africa has been evolving rapidly in recent years, and gradually gaining global recognition with a promising outlook. African entrepreneurship is on the rise. The continent has a growing pool of young, innovative, and ambitious entrepreneurs who are ready to create solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the continent.

There is also a rising number of female- owned start-ups and small businesses that deserve new opportunities for success. In addition, there is an increase in startup incubators and accelerators, venture capi- tal firms, and angel investors, providing a fertile ground for entrepreneurship to thrive.

However, there is still a need for more investment, mentor- ship, and policy support to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to flourish.

What are the factors against the growth of entrepreneurship in Africa?

Despite the progress made in the entrepreneurship eco- system in Africa, there are sev- eral obstacles for start-ups. For example, inadequate access to funding and markets. In ad- dition, there is a significant skills gap, with most entrepre- neurs lacking the necessary management, marketing, and financial skills required to build successful businesses. This is where we think Af- rica’s Business Heroes Prize Competition (ABH) could make a difference and better support the growth of Afri- can entrepreneurs. ABH is Pan-African, inclusive, sec- tor-agnostic and grassroots- oriented.

Every year since the first edition in 2019, 10 most outstanding African entrepreneurs are selected to compete for a share of a US$1.5 million grant. Apart from the grant, ABH provides training and networking opportunities as well as exposure.

Funding has been one major challenge to entrepreneurial development in Africa, how do you think this is surmountable?

Funding remains a signifcant challenge to entrepreneurial development in Africa. To tackle this challenge, entrepreneurs must explore alternative sources of funding beyond traditional venture capital firms and angel investors. This includes crowdfunding, impact investing, and grants. Governments and development agencies can also support entrepreneurship through funding initiatives, tax incentives, and policy frameworks that support the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Additionally, initiatives such as ABH have been created to provide funding, mentorship, and training to entrepreneurs. ABH is on the mission to inspire, train and support entrepreneurs in Africa to build inclusive business models that can create development and economic opportunity for the continent. We have seen more than 72,000 ABH participants from 2019 to 2022. 40 former top 10 ABH finalists have won grant funding totalling up to US$6 million, and all entrepreneurs who made it to the top 50 have benefited from invaluable entrepreneurship training, networking, and mentorship opportunities.

With your experience about entrepreneurship in Africa, to be a substantial entrepreneur, what does it take, what does a prospective entrepreneur need to have before going into it?

Africa is full of untapped opportunities. We see many new businesses spring up every year and many go on to thrive despite the odds. To be a successful entrepreneur in Africa, one must possess certain qualities such as resilience, creativity, adaptability, and a strong work ethic.

In addition, a prospective entrepreneur needs to have a clear understanding of their target market, the problem/s they aim to solve, a well-defined business model, and network. A good grasp of financial man- agement, marketing, and lead- ership skills is also essential. It is also important to focus one’s business plan on efforts that truly meet people’s needs to create prosperity and im- prove people’s lives. Entrepreneurship is the greatest tool to create social impact and touch the lives of millions of Africans in a sustainable way.

Apart from providing fund for entrepreneurs in Africa, in which other ways does your organisation help building entrepreneurs in Africa?

In addition to providing US $1.5 million grant funding annually to African most out- standing entrepreneurs, ABH participants also benefit from access to targeted and practical business training programs, mentorship from global business leaders, exposure and recognition through media and the ABH Show, as well as networking opportunities with entrepreneurs, venture capi- tals and investors from across Africa. ABH aims to build a sup- portive ecosystem that fosters entrepreneurship and enables entrepreneurs to overcome the challenges they face.

Additionally, we partner with other stakeholders to promote entrepreneurship education, skills development, and ac- cess to markets among other opportunities. We support entrepreneurs to not only showcase their talent and business ideas but also inspire others to seek entrepreneurship as a career path.

What is your roadmap experience in funding entrepreneurs in Africa?

ABH has a robust roadmap experience in funding entrepreneurs in Africa. We use a rigorous selection process to identify the most promising entrepreneurs and provide them with the necessary resources and support to build successful businesses. Over a 10-year period, the program will recognize 100 African entrepreneurs and provide grant funding, train- ing programs, mentoring and networking support for the broad African entrepreneurial ecosystem. 2023 marks the mid-point of our 10-year commitment to this competition since its launch in 2019. And we remain focused on creating a vibrant and sustainable ecosystem that not only builds successful businesses but also drives growth in local communities.

What are the criteria to qualify for Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition (ABH) grant?

ABH strives to be an inclusive initiative for African entrepreneurs. Applications are open in English and French currently to entrepreneurs from all African countries, all sectors, and all ages. The initial screening criteria to qualify for ABH include having a business that is registered and headquartered in Africa, and has been operational for at least three years.

The competition is open to entrepreneurs from all sectors, and the selection process is based on criteria such as innovation, social impact, and business vi- ability. The applicant should also have an African national as a founder and have demon- strated market traction which we validate via their revenue history. Globally, what are the trends in entrepreneurial ecosystem? Globally, the trends in the entrepreneurial ecosystem are shifting towards a more inclusive, diverse, and sus- tainable ecosystem. There is a growing recognition of the role of entrepreneurship in driving economic growth, job creation, and innovation. In addition, there is a focus on supporting women and underrepresented groups in entrepreneurship, promoting social entrepreneurship, and leveraging technology to create scalable solutions.

What is the prospect of entrepreneurship in Nigeria and Africa as a whole?

The prospects for entrepreneurship in Nigeria and Africa are promising. The continent has a young and growing population, abundant natural resources, and a dynamic market. Moreover, there is in- creasing support from govern- ments, international organizations, and private sector actors to promote entrepreneurship. However, challenges such as access to finance, regulatory environment, and infrastruc- ture need to be addressed to unlock the full potential of entrepreneurship in the continent. Initiatives like ABH are playing a crucial role in addressing these challenges and fostering a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs in Africa.

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