Today, Africa is showing more than ever that it is a continent of growth and opportunity. However, this should not hide the many challenges the continent is coping with: job creation is one of them, and not the least. This is why entrepreneurship is central to Africa’s future prosperity: the entrepreneur is supposed to identify business opportunities and to bring together the factors of production (such as labour and capital) to create the goods or services and to run the company profitably.
This is why entrepreneurs are really crucial in the process of socio-economic development. Long term investments that create a lasting benefit for communities are critical as they bring vitality, new opportunities, business-oriented problem solving, all of which can help Africa deal with some of its development problems. I truly believe that huge opportunities in the coming decade will come from Africans who start businesses, generate jobs and wealth, and capture growth opportunities.
That state of fact should not hide the reality of entrepreneurship in Africa: this is nothing new. Across the continent, necessity is the mother of invention: it has been the case for a long time as traditional circuits always had difficulties to absorb the unemployed. Reusing and recombining is a way of life and, in many cases, the lack of infrastructure gives these inventive young people a “clean slate” for new solutions, that they have to find by themselves. This is why Africa’s entrepreneurs are creating almost every day cutting-edge products and services, enabling them to leap forward in such fields as mobile and information technology, and to develop innovations in agriculture, transportation, healthcare and other vital fields. We must definitely encourage that creativity which is a fantastic thing for our continent, as it is indeed extremely promising.
However, I should insist on the part governments and public institutions need to play : today, entrepreneurs continue to face significant challenges that impede their efforts, including a lack of access to funding, support services, skills training and infrastructure, as well as administrative barriers. This is the first thing and governments and institutions have to engage themselves to find solutions. But what is also important is the fact that no one should consider entrepreneurship as a magic recipe for Africa’s development. It is a part of it but it will absolutely not replace public investment in education, research and infrastructure. It would be a lie and a mistake to assert that. If we obviously need to help entrepreneurs to make their business grow (as they are creating growth, wealth, and jobs), we should not underestimate the important role of public sector. However, so as to make that role efficient and proactive, the notion of good governance must be applied everywhere, at every level. I firlmy believe that it is the only way we can make it.
Thus, Africa’s development must be based on a combination of all interest, either being private or public. Neither of these two sectors can succeed properly without the other, and it is a condition to Africa’s sustainable growth.