This simple word is all about a power shift that has been long coming. It is about Africans taking responsibility for their home, something that we have not been able to do for a long time.
Africa’s power has always been concentrated among those who best survived the brawl to the top. Once there, the newly-established political elite found it so comfortable that those left behind were forgotten. Then another route to rise emerged – entrepreneurship. It has no bias, no qualms with gender while rewarding hard work. It is finding a way to rebalance the power that has for so long been held by African aristocrats. Best of all, it is real.
Entrepreneurs such as Evans Wandongo, Juliana Rotich and Njideka Harry have stepped up to create change. There was no waiting for aid, pity or lengthy discussions. Another stand-out entrepreneur is Saran Kaba Jones, founder of FACE Africa, a firm that funds and implements sustainable clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects in sub-Saharan Africa utilising local labour, materials and resources.
In a 2005 report by the CATO Institute it was argued that entrepreneurs were facing daunting constraints. They were prevented from creating wealth by predatory political elites that controlled the states. African political elites used marketing boards and taxation to finance their own consumption. Six years later, The Economist published a report on the rising few who influence countries not through politics but through their brains – the innovative.
The likes of Jones, Wandogo, Harry and Rotich have been successful in achieving something that seemed impossible even less than a decade ago.
Why is entrepreneurship so important? That is because it disrupts the status quo and creates new and more efficient ways of achieving goals. Some argue that successful entrepreneurship exacerbates local inequality, but this is not the case with African entrepreneurship. African entrepreneurship is not born of the ordinary capitalists’ goal for superior wealth. It is founded out of necessity.
Jones’ FACE Africa was a product of the Liberian conflict. Its aim is to help others reclaim the means to build a better life and prosper. Similarly, fellow Africans have used the tool of entrepreneurship to reclaim the power taken from their people. Undoubtedly, the result of successful entrepreneurship is sometimes superior wealth, but those who make it to the top create opportunities for others.
One example is the philanthropist Tony Elumelu – founder of Heirs Holding and coiner of the term Africapitalism. His efforts are aimed at re-establishing Africa as an investment opportunity, no longer dependent on aid. Through his foundation, he is also building an army of budding entrepreneurs, improving access to finance for start-ups and providing policy advice for the public sector.
Now the question is how Africans see this change moving forward, whether this tool, entrepreneurship, is truly what it seems.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
African Affairs Expert
Source: Tony Elumelu- Heirs Holding