Africa, the new El Dorado for entrepreneurs

Boubacar Diallo

Africa, a continent with many facets and contrasts, has experienced strong and steady growth in recent years, which offers new opportunities and is increasingly attracting foreign investors.

The continent has thus seen its economy grow by 5% on average over the past 10 years, a performance superior to that of the world economy and this growth is expected to continue according to estimates by economists. The report “African Economic Outlook 2014”, jointly drafted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the OECD Development Center and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) explained in particular that Africa was able to resist in the face of the global economic crisis. This growth appears to be more diversified, driven by domestic demand, the development of infrastructure and the exchange of manufactured goods which are increasingly sustained across the continent.

This continent, which has almost a billion inhabitants, represents a gigantic market. A new middle class is emerging and has the means to consume more and better. Poverty has declined and progress has been made in health and education. But much remains to be done on this continent, which is still weakened by conflicts, corruption, inequality, etc. There are nonetheless increasing initiatives to meet the new expectations and needs of the population, supported by an environment that is increasingly favorable to entrepreneurship. Several countries have in fact undertaken far-reaching reforms to make life easier for businesses.

According to the World Bank, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda are among the ten countries that have improved business regulation the most in the past year.

In this article we offer an overview of initiatives launched in different countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Many projects in the telecom and internet sector …

According to a recent study by MacKinsey, the Internet could contribute to the annual GDP of the African continent to the tune of 300 billion dollars by 2025. This figure corresponds to high estimates based on the youth of the population and the gigantic potential of mobile in Africa , where 67 million smartphones are already in circulation (nearly 360 million will be in 2025). All sectors could be affected within ten years (financial services, health, agriculture, etc.)
The arrival on the African coast of new marine fiber optic cables, as well as an increase in 3G coverage will decrease costs and accelerate internet speed and thus allow more people to connect and consume online services. line.
Among the entrepreneurs who have chosen to position themselves in this niche, let us quote:
– Jason Njoku, a young Nigerian who founded Iroko, an internet film distribution company, nicknamed the “African Netflix”. He is considered by the American magazine Forbes as one of the ten most promising young millionaires on the African continent.
– Régis Bamaba founded in Côte d’Ivoire, Intelgeo, a startup specializing in the Cloud and the creation of solutions and mobile functions. He also created Taxi Tacker, a mobile application whose objective is to combat insecurity in public transport in Abidjan.
– In Cameroon, Dominique Buende, a Franco-Cameroonian entrepreneur created QuickDo in 2011, a startup offering African readers access to books (in digital format and at a limited price) thanks to a network of interconnected terminals coupled with reading lights.

– In Kenya, the telephone operator Safaricom has marketed the mobile payment application M-Pesa. It allows users to make purchases and transfer funds using their mobile phones. Today it has spread across the continent and even beyond.
– In Senegal, Babacar Birane created Baobab Entrepreneurship, a startup aimed at contributing to the development of entrepreneurship through the use of information and communication technologies. The company manages “Concree”, a virtual networking and support platform.

The opening of public data should also offer great opportunities. Burkina Faso is the first country in West Africa to embark on this field.

Just like in the field of new energies

On this continent where the sun is omnipresent but where electricity is often lacking, initiatives are multiplying to meet these needs.
The World Bank and IFC launched the Lighting Africa program to promote the development of modern, accessible off-grid lighting for communities without access to electricity. Individual initiatives are also worth noting:
– Alexandre Castel has installed the first “Energy Station” in Senegal. This station rents pre-charged batteries using photovoltaic panels, which can power LED lamps to light, operate a stove for cooking …
– Douglas Dullo launched the startup “Degree Solar” which is turning life around in rural Kenya by selling solar batteries for mobile phones that offer 6 to 8 hours of battery life!

In this area, entrepreneurs must continue to innovate in order to offer more powerful systems enabling devices to be operated continuously.

Increasingly supported initiatives

To promote the development of these projects, initiatives are launched at national and local level. Thus, fablabs, incubators and coworking spaces are created in different countries to support project leaders. The first African 3D printer was, for example, designed in a Togolese Fablab. This W-Afate project also won a NASA award in 2013!
A Silicon valley is also emerging in Kenya. Konza City also called “Silicon Savannah”, located 60 km from the capital Nairobi is being developed to accommodate startups, investors, researchers … The Kenyan government’s goal is to create nearly 20,000 jobs by 2017.
The pan-African association AfriLabs brings together the most active technological centers on the African continent.

The “startup weekends” are also multiplying. These events allow participants with different profiles to meet, form teams, work on business creation projects which will then be presented to a jury of professionals.

The startup Bus, a new initiative from the United States, has also been launched on the continent. During a bus trip, project leaders called “buspreneurs” design, model and launch their startup. The first “Startup Bus Africa” ​​took place in November 2013 and was supported in particular by businessman Richard Branson. 30 “buspreneurs” including 15 Africans made a 4-day bus trip from Harare in Zimbabwe to Cape Town in South Africa. During this trip, they developed applications or initiatives aimed at solving the problems that people face in this part of Africa. The projects were presented during the Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Youth, a stake for the future

In fact, half of the African population is under 25 years old and this population is strongly affected by unemployment. 60% of the continent’s unemployed are young people aged 15-24. Starting a business therefore appears to be a solution to unemployment.

The New York Forum Institute recently conducted a pan-African study of 5,000 young people. It reveals in particular that young Africans expect their government to be more involved and more efficient in order to facilitate their education and their access to employment. They want to do business, but those who have taken the plunge testify to the difficulties encountered: 56% of those who started their business believe that it has proven to be difficult or very difficult, 46% of them believe that the State did not bring anything and 30% mentioned the difficulty of access to finance outside the informal circuits (family, friends, personal savings) as being the first obstacle.

Initiatives are multiplying in schools to sensitize young people to business creation, for example, within the International Institute for Water and Environment Engineering (2iE) located in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso . Within its Technopole, which includes a Business School, an incubator and a business incubator, 2iE offers personalized support for engineer-entrepreneurs who want to innovate and create a responsible business focused on green growth. In 2013, he organized the first edition of the Green Start Up Challenge, the competition for social entrepreneurship, innovation and green growth in Africa. Moctar Dembélé and Gérard Niyondiko, two students from the school, developed a mosquito repellant soap from local natural ingredients (lemongrass, shea butter, herbs, etc.). In March 2013, they won first prize at the GSVC international social entrepreneurship competition in Berkeley, California.
The “Living the African Dream” initiative aims to promote and disseminate entrepreneurship among young people in Africa through the dissemination of information, good practices and entrepreneurial successes on an internet platform. An entrepreneurship and innovation center is also expected to open in September 2015 in Bamako, Mali.

Women have not been forgotten!

The African Development Bank supports the economic empowerment of African women, notably by facilitating their access to finance such as microcredit.
The African Women Entrepreneurs Initiative helps governments to understand the specific needs of women, the difficulties they face in their business and to better take them into account in their economy.

Several governments have also launched action programs to support them in entrepreneurship.
In Senegal, the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy has just announced that 300 women from the regions of Dakar, Thiès and Saint-Louis will soon be trained in hardware and software maintenance of computers and in entrepreneurship.
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also wants women to be better trained so that they can participate more in the formal economy. It encourages civil society organizations to train them.

Support initiatives are also launched in France

In October 2013, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, alongside the AFD (French Development Agency), launched a competition in Africa to highlight the achievements of those who drive African innovation, called “100 innovations pour sustainable development ”. This program aims to highlight innovations in the field of sustainable development (recycling of raw materials, waste collection, housing construction techniques, education and health) designed by Africans. Four Ghanaian innovators were awarded in March 2014.

TECHAfrique is a project initiated and led by StartupBRICS (blog dedicated to the news of startups in emerging countries) in partnership with Simplon.co (the factory of coders-entrepreneurs united in Montreuil) and Woelab (digital FabLab of Togo). The aim is to localize digital ecosystems in Africa for 4 to 6 months (8 countries in the pipeline), to identify and present the different players through a blog, videos and interviews.

On May 22, was organized in Paris “Startup Africa Paris – Chop My Money”. Ten creators of startups whose activities are based in Africa and / or in France presented their project in front of renowned French investment funds and business angels. The organizers’ objective is “to help entrepreneurs from the African diaspora in France to carry out future projects in their countries of origin”.

The African Business Club (ABC), created in 2003 by students of ESCP Europe, organizes since 2009, ABC Innovation, a competition aiming to highlight the leaders of innovative projects on the continent, whether African or not .

Orange has also been organizing the Orange Prize for Social Entrepreneurs in Africa for several years. It rewards entrepreneurs offering products or services that use ICT in an innovative way to meet the needs of the populations of the African continent in various fields such as health, agriculture, education, energy, l industry or commerce.

Finally, Bpifrance also launched an Africa plan to help companies develop their activities in Africa.

To continue its economic development, Africa will need all the energy and motivation of entrepreneurs concerned with providing new solutions to this rapidly changing continent.
• Some important figures

 

– 1.1 billion inhabitants today – 2.4 billion in 2050 or ¼ of the world’s population.
– Half of the population is under 25 years of age.
– 67 million smartphones in circulation today – 360 million in 2025.
– 5% average GDP growth per year.

Study by the agency France entrepreneur (afecreation.fr)

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