Africa must encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship

William Gumede Correspondent
Since independence from colonialism, African industrialisation, development and growth have been stunted because most governments have not explicitly encouraged entrepreneurship.

In fact, most African governments and countries have either actively discouraged or were indifferent to entrepreneurs, and rarely fostered supporting institutions, policies and environments for entrepreneurship.

Given that most African countries after independence inherited economies without much advanced industry, skills and financial resources, entrepreneurs, who could add value to raw materials, leverage technology to come up with new methods of production, introduce entirely new industry sectors and manufacturing products, were desperately needed.

Although we often assume an entrepreneur sets out his or her stall independently, an entrepreneur could operate inside and outside organisations, and could operate in the private, public sector and non-profit sector.

Within an organisation, whether a state-owned or private company, an entrepreneur could, for example, create a new product or a new way of producing a product. Robert Hirsch points out that entrepreneurship within an organisation could also involve coming up with a new ground-breaking organisational structure or delivery model that changes the industry. But an entrepreneur could also be setting up a non-profit organisation, which provides a new service or create a new product of value to consumers.

Hirsch, a leading researcher on entrepreneurship, says the entrepreneur spends “time and effort”, takes risks and creates something new of “value”. And subsequently reaps the rewards – or fails.

In many African countries, genuine entrepreneurs, who through their own time and efforts, money and taking risks, make it, are often not only outside the inner circle of the leaderships, but they are also often viewed with suspicion by political leaders, citizens and even civil society.

Many African…

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