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Becoming the best loser as an entrepreneur

Kizito Okechukwu

Kizito Okechukwu | February 14, 2024

Host nation Cote d’ Ivoire winners of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) competition.

Photo: Host nation Cote d’ Ivoire winners of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) competition.

Entrepreneurs are one of the craziest creatures on earth. Frantically enough, they keep believing, even when they cannot see how they’ll survive the arduous path facing them. They hit many roadblocks, have numerous doubts and eventually either fail or succeed in their venture. Some say that it’s the starting period right up until full failure or closure that determines and builds the entrepreneur.

Many of us were glued to the television for the past month watching the African Cup of Nations (Afcon), which was hosted by the Ivory Coast. During the opening ceremony, I called on a few friends to ask if they will be watching this spectacle. Lo and behold, many of them did not know that the Afcon was even happening. I dared them to watch Africa’s best football spectacle and then some of them finally did. I was super impressed by the opening ceremony and the speeches, even from the Conferederation of African Football (CAF) president, whom I think deserves lots of accolades for his achievements. From the quality of the pitches, to the broadcasting, the professionalism of officials and even the excellence of the games, which had a good number of spectators in the stadium to justify the organization. I felt quite at home watching Afcon and thanks again to the CAF team for staging an event that Africans can be proud of.

For the first time, there was also a substantial amount of prize money up for grabs. The winners bagged a whopping USD7million, runners up USD4million and semi-finalists USD2.5million, amongst other contenders. This is almost a 40% increase from the prize purse at previous Afcons. Everyone I engaged with on Afcon had nothing but praise for this year’s showcase. Some did complain about why the CAF President was at all games? This is leadership. He did not just squeeze himself in his hotel room, but actually made an effort to attend all games. This is the kind of leadership that we need in Africa.

Back to my entrepreneurship piece. The eventual winners Ivory Coast just made it through the group stages of the competition and were nearly knocked out. They got back in because they were among the four highest ranked third-place nations in the group stage after Morocco beat Zambia 1-0 in the other group to send the Ivorians to the last 16. Whilst in the last 16, they played against Mali and with one man down scored an extra time goal to progress to the quarter finals. Their journey, even as hosts, has been one of perseverance, of resilience and just not giving up. The Ivorians remind all of us what it takes to be an entrepreneur, even being a good loser and learning from mistakes.

Their final against the Super Eagles of Nigeria was one of determination. The Eagles beating them in the group stages was not a deterrent for them. In the finals, they had better ball possession for the 90 minutes of play and even when the Eagles scored in the first half, they did not give up, but persisted up to the final whistle. The story of Sebastian Haller, who recently recovered from testicular cancer and scoring the winning goal should inspire all entrepreneurs.

As entrepreneurs, yes we will sometimes lose the fight but never the battle. Entrepreneurs should be the best losers just like the Ivory Coast team. The key is getting right back up and fighting harder. Commitment, perseverance and resilience are crucial.

In the words of Netflix Co-Founder, Mark Randolph, “Persistence isn’t easy. It means screwing up, dusting yourself off, and having the courage to head back into battle.”

Thanks to the Ivory Coast for hosting a true spectacle of the ‘world’s most beautiful game’ and to the CAF president Patrice Motsepe and his team – well done and great work. We look forward to seeing more improvements in Morocco in 2025.

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane, Africa’s largest startup campus; co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.


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