I grew up in a very hardworking family, my dad was a pastor who spent his time studying the bible and tending to the needs of his flock, my mom a recently retired civil servant with the MOD (Ministry of Defence) was committed to making sure her children get the best educational training, and my ton of relatives who were hustlers in every sense of the word. I remember one of my uncles relocating to SA to sell Traditional materials to the Nigerian big wigs, and another moving to South Korea all in search of the dream (to succeed).
One thing was quite evident in all their endevours, they all felt the government had failed them, had failed to provide the necessary infrastructure to enable they and their family’s growth, had failed to empower them to live better lives, had failed to build on a period of supposed economic wealth from the oil boom. However, I am not one to place blames, I’ll rather focus on- what can we do to change this reality
This is why I embraced Africapitalism. What exactly is Africapitalsm? is it just a play of words? Why is it so important, and how can we build on this concept to move Africa from being the poverty centre of the world to that of prosperity?
Africapitalism is a concept formed and driven by my mentor – Tony Elumelu. Africapitalism is the belief that the private sector plays a vital role in the development and prosperity of Africa, not foreign aid, not the over reliance on government. That through deliberate and long term investments, the private sector can create economic prosperity and social wealth. Africapitalism is the belief that everyone of you seated here, you and I, is responsible for Africa’s progress.
My name is Uwem Uwemakpan and I am passionate about building thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems that will help our African entrepreneurs to grow and scale. I am passionate about helping these entrepreneurs find their winning edge, building the entrepreneur while working on their businesses to identify creative ways to optimise their processes, use technology to enable their business and be sustainable in the long run.
Why exactly am I passionate about building this ecosystem? I am passionate because no economy in the world has grown without collaborative communities. Collaboration between people is the lifeblood of business, as entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the economy – so you see the relationship?
Create and build collaborative communities and ecosystems around Africa and watch the quality of entrepreneurs and business improve, which then spurs the economy to grow. Yes Africa has the advantage of human capital, which has now directly influenced the number of people seeking social growth through entrepreneurship.
But contrary to popular belief, the most entrepreneurial countries in the world are not those that have the most entrepreneurs. And I am going to quote from a study done by GEN. – The highest self employment rates are in low-income countries such as Nigeria and Zambia. This is because low-income economies lack the human capital and infrastructure needed to create high-quality jobs. The result is that many people sell soft drinks and run subsistence businesses but there are few innovative, high-growth sustainable startups.
In entrepreneurship, quality matters more than quantity. To be entrepreneurial, a country needs to have the best entrepreneurs, not necessarily the most. What the best startups/businesses do is important, and to support their efforts and get the best out of them, a country needs a well-functioning entrepreneurial ecosystem.
How can we create entrepreneurial ecosystems that work:
- Market and promote partnerships and collaboration with smes.
- Create an entrepreneurship culture
- Invest in R&D
- Support entrepreneurs in corporate philanthropy, a key example is the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme
- Sponsor skill building communities/associations/initiative, like the ones I manage – Startup Grind, The Afropreneur Podcast and Grinders Table
- Allow spinouts of cooperage developed ideas that the company cannot pursue
- Encourage mentorship
- Host social events with entrepreneurs
With a deliberate investment in building collaborative ecosystems and not operating in Silos, entrepreneurs will not only have the support they need to build sustainable companies through mentorship, access to funding, access to markets etc, they will also learn how to manage failure, as this is a big part of the entrepreneurship journey.
To support and optimise these ecosystems, we must also realise that not every concept practiced in the west will work in Nigeria/Africa. We must be innovative enough to identify the local nuances and use them to further build these communities. Innovation is about optimisation, optimisation is about making processes better. One example of how I used ‘local’ technology to build an ecosystem online and offline is a peer-to-peer mentoring model I introduced into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. Cross border ollaboration has gone up, engagement levels are high and their businesses are improving.
We have also discovered that as these ecosystems and small businesses thrive, that region begins to develop despite the government (Africapitalsm at work). For example, a Farmer with 100 acres of land in Akwa Ibom through partnerships and funding develops the road from his farm to the market. Few weeks after, people begin to see the possibilities in that area, and another entrepreneur decides to start a school there because of the road access. Soon after a property developer also starts building houses there, and then pipe born water and electricity is provided. This the the push-pull effect of how entrepreneurship brings about development even without the government.
As I close, I want to leave you with 3 charges:
- Our economic prosperity is dependent on the success of the entrepreneurs grinding everyday, we must ensure we are supporting them in anyway we can, mentoring them, patronising them, giving them feedback, partnering with them etc
- We must embrace a culture of collaboration, not everyone is a competition. We have to stop working in silos
- Quality thrumps quantity in the long run
My name is Uwem Uwemakpan, and I am passionate about building ecosystems that help entrepreneurs and businesses grow and scale. Thank you!