GEC Medellin: ‘What’s Next for Africa?’

This blog post is part of a series of  real-time blogs, which review and reflect upon the ideas and discussions which have surfaced during the sessions which GLI team members have been present at during the GEC.

By Jon Harvey & Ellen Peacock


GEC Session Reflection: What’s Next for Africa?

The session explored how Africa is attracting entrepreneurs from a venture capital perspective, and the problems therein. Candace Johnson stated that “everything that the world needs is coming from Africa”. By this Johnson meant that Africa is a place for creating and attracting business.

From our view this is not a bad thing. Africa has long been seen as a developing continent, with an association to charity and aid rather than investment and sustainability. It is important to focus on Africa’s challenges regarding venture capital, rather than on development alone.

Unfortunately for Africa, several problems exist that hinder the attainment of investment from foreign investors. Karim Sy of Jokkolabs Global explained that, unlike perhaps Europe or the Americas, there is no entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa that makes doing business easy. Doing business differs vastly between countries, even those of close geographic proximity, which serves to deter investors.

Another issue concerns the widespread poverty and unemployment problem Africa currently has. With increasing innovation and technology, one audience member argued that this problem will only be enhanced as technology causes current jobs to become obsolete.

However, Johnson counteracts this point by reasoning that 80% of the jobs in the world today did not exist twenty years ago. In twenty years’ time, those jobs in supermarkets and banks will be replaced by ones that as of yet have not materialised, for example in the remote maintenance of Africa’s thriving solar energy sector.

The issue is not that Africa is bad for business. From the talk it could be discerned that countries across Africa, whilst different, have the criteria for an environment that could encourage entrepreneurship. Johnson argues that Nigeria, for example, is perfect for attracting business due to its potential scale for growth. It is therefore faith in business that Africa needs, a commitment to challenging the lengthy bureaucracy that surrounds startup companies, and a more coherent approach across the continent to business.

A statement from Stephen Ozoigbo encapsulates this vision perfectly:

“For those who aren’t Africans: Africa is a young, thriving, rich population. Understand that Africa is not one; Africa does not discriminate. We would love you all to come in there and do some business.”

We are hopeful that an emphasis on venture capital attainment in Africa will lead to effective utilisation, and wealth generated from these investments will filter down to those who truly need it.

About the authors:

Jon Harvey: Originally hailing from Bath, Jon is a Masters student studying Entrepreneurship and Management at Sheffield University. Jon has a particular interest in social entrepreneurship and sustainability, as well as the study of entrepreneurship in the economies of developing countries.

Ellen Peacock: Ellen is a third year politics and International Relations student studying at the University of Sheffield. She is Deputy Head of News at Forge radio and has a strong interest in current affairs. She is also interested in policy analysis and research, particularly in the area of social entrepreneurship.



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