African entrepreneurs face significant challenges, including difficulty in raising capital, burdensome administrative policies and insufficient skills and training. Ingressive Capital’s Vice President, Uwem Uwemakpan, says despite these hicthes, entrepreneurship and access to capital contribute to the development of emerging and developing economies across the world,.
More focus has, for years, been given to entrepreneurship and how it contributes to the development of emerging and developing economies.
A case occurred five years ago when over 1,000 investors and entrepreneurs, which included some of the biggest brand founders globally, joined former United States President Barack Obama at Stanford University for a landmark summit on the future of entrepreneurship, including how innovative entrepreneurs can highlight and support the talent, solutions and opportunities that are available.
The message for global communities and governments was that entrepreneurship could flourish in any country, and efforts towards achieving the goal would yield excellent results that benefit all economies.
For Uwem Uwemakpan, Startup Advisor and Vice President of Fund Operations, Ingressive Capital, such imperative has been of significant interest for more than 10 years, which came to the fore in his position as the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme Manager.
Uwemakpan said he was part of the founding team of Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, – a $100 million initiative he eventually managed for five years.
Then, he surpassed the 10-year goal of training, mentoring and funding over 10,000 entrepreneurs selected from across Africa in just five years.
“Globally, more than 200 million try to start about 135 million businesses every year, but just one-third of them will be launched,” he explained.
“We can easily assume that up to 50 million new businesses are birthed each year, which is roughly about 137,000 per day. But the breeding and termination rates are fairly equal, which means that close to 50 million businesses die each year. For countries with stronger economies and government-supported policies that encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, more accessible and faster structural changes encourage more ideas. But for African countries, it is a different reality,” he said.
Unfortunately, this has proven to be true. While experts, including the growth of youth-driven innovation, have added more credibility to the concept, African entrepreneurs face significant challenges, including difficulty in raising capital, burdensome administrative policies and insufficient skills and training.
Entrepreneurs have also identified that the cost of capital hinders company formation and growth, especially the costs of business infrastructure. Small business owners also have to deal with high interest rates, high bank charges, and the inability to manage their finances.
Over the years, financial institutions and organisations such as The Tony Elumelu Foundation and Ingressive Capital are addressing these challenges by providing the necessary training, skills, mentorship and funding.
Last year, Uwemakpan led the Ingressive Capital’s record number of investments, with strategic investments into Carry1st, 54Gene, Evolve Credit, Kwaba, Bamboo, Simbapay, Float (Formerly Swipe), SeamlessHR, Onepipe, Mono and many others.
He also has affiliations for reputable organisations like Startup Grind, SXSW Pitch, Startupbootcamp Africa, Africa Entrepreneurship Awards, Africa Business Heroes, Global Startup Ecosystem and Injinni.
“The first step to ensure that Africa, especially Nigeria, achieves the goal within 30 years is to invest and build entrepreneurship ecosystems that empower African entrepreneurs to be the best they can be,” he said.
Accordingly, Uwemakpan said entrepreneurship is key to Africa’s development, which explains why he has invested his time and resources in initiatives that help African entrepreneurs grow.
Through partnerships with GIZ, UNDP, ICRC, and AFDP, he has trained, funded and mentored up to 5,000 entrepreneurs across Africa. With the understanding that access to useful information will further develop capacity and improve entrepreneurial knowledge, Uwemakpan also co-founded The Spark, a social impact organisation delivering bespoke value that allows small businesses, especially in Africa, to innovate and scale.
For five years, The Spark has been channelling carefully curated resources to local startups so they can meet their goals.
“Our objective is to connect one million entrepreneurs to growth resources to enable them start, sustain and scale by year-end 2022,” he said.
“It has become more evident that entrepreneurial potential is powerful when supported by both the public and private sectors, and also international partners. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey best understood by fellow entrepreneurs, helping, collaborating, and supporting themselves.
‘’Over the years, I have advised thousands of founders across the continent while leading the TEF programme. We also built the largest Startup Grind community following in West Africa, and with the evident talents and skills among young Africans, we can definitely expand and provide more opportunities.’’
His goal is simple: He wants to help entrepreneurs gain the clarity that they need to turn their ideas and passions into profitable businesses. There is a revolution in entrepreneurship on the continent, which has also led to an increase in the number of hubs and accelerators – there are about 650 active tech hubs, including accelerators, incubators, university-linked start-ups, support labs, and co-working spaces, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the need to promote home-grown entrepreneurs and businesses. For Nigeria in particular, opening doors to entrepreneurship will result in more significant opportunities for more citizens to pursue self-employment, thereby reducing unemployment.
The fight to properly harness Africa’s youth bulge into a dividend for the continent is critical, especially as it contributes to economic growth and job creation. It has to be led by experts and investors like Uwemakpan and others who understand the issues and are initiating growth in their spaces. As countries continue to react to the pandemic, with several fueling protectionism and playing and nationalist narratives, African countries must look inwards and provide structural and policy changes on innovation and entrepreneurship to improve growth.
Source: The Nation