Jack Ma’s $10 Million prize for African Startups

Jack Ma’s $10 million prize for African Startups.

Any person remotely business-minded knows that the name Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group, is instantly synonymous with entrepreneurial royalty. He’s living proof that starting, scaling and sustaining a business is one of – if not the – toughest jobs in the world. The journey is often riddled with frustrations, challenges and failures. And that’s before you’ve even cashed your first pay cheque.

Therefore, I reckon Ma created a fantastic philanthropic initiative called the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) worth US$10 million, which focuses on supporting the continent’s startups.

 

Photo (Disrupt Africa): Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group.

To put Ma a little more into perspective, in his book, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Galloway, an entrepreneur and professor at NYU Stern, provides a perceptive analysis of the four-horse race to become the first trillion-dollar company (if memory serves, I think Apple did hit it sometime last year, but then dropped off again). With a casually incisive style, he uncovers how each of these companies has deployed iconic leadership, technology, fearless innovation, and lightning execution. Galloway positions Alibaba among a few other companies as the possible fifth in the race. The history of Jack Ma’s perseverance and dogged, never-say-die attitude which led him to success is truly remarkable, starting with shortcomings in school to a barrage of rejected job applications, which I’m sure, many of us probably also faced, yet perhaps lacked his entrepreneurial tenacity.

Now, research into the entrepreneurial space questions the validity of necessity- driven entrepreneurs. But the fact is that they exist and most times if these entrepreneurs couple a deeper understanding and a bigger picture vision of the opportunity they are pursuing, is what the world needs more of – more Jack Ma’s. I bet the world needs both necessity and opportunity driven entrepreneurs. I must acknowledge that I argued differently in my 2013 MBA thesis but knowledge and experience over the past six years has advanced my current views.

Every year for the next ten years, the ANPI will host a pitching competition across Africa, after which ten finalists will compete for US$1 million in prize money. The Initiative aims to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future. The ANPI has banded together a strong ecosystem of players to support both technology-driven and traditional businesses.

The ANPI Structure

The ANPI is led by the Jack Ma Foundation in partnership with:

Nailab – an East African accelerator in Kenya and a lead partner to the ANPI

NINE – a West African partner and the largest incubator network in Nigeria

RiseUp – a North Africa partner and a platform that connects startups with resources

22 on Sloane – a Southern African partner and the largest startup campus in Africa

 

The Advisory board of the ANPI includes Jack Ma, Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board and Ban Ki-moon, the 8th Secretary General of the United Nations.

The Jack Ma Foundation (JMF) is a charitable organisation founded in 2014. The foundation aims to promote human development in harmony with both society and the environment, while

its mission is to work towards a world of bluer skies, cleaner water, healthier communities and more open thinking.

By 2030, the ANPI hopes to identify and shine a spotlight on 100 African entrepreneur heroes who will inspire the continent. From day one, its approach has been community-based and focused on inclusiveness; to be truly for Africans and by Africans.

ANPI Core Application Criteria

  1. Open to entrepreneurs who are nationals from any of the 54 African countries
  2. Open to all industry sectors
  3. The youth and women entrepreneurs are strongly encouraged to apply

ANPI Key Activities and Dates

  1. Applications Launch: 27th March 2019
  2. Deadline for applications: 30th June 2019
  3. Announcement of the top 50 regional finalists: August 2019
  4. Announcement of the final 10 finalists: October 2019
  5. Grand Finale pitch event: November 2019

22 on Sloane is proud to be launching the Southern African prize Initiative at its campus on Wednesday 27th March 2019 at 12h30. To attend the launch, please visit: https://anpi.22onsloane.co

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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The Eruption of Disruption

The Eruption of disruption

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MARCH 11, 2019

Last week I attended a disruption symposium in Sandton hosted by Absa. The guest speaker was Salim Ismail, a Canadian entrepreneur, founding executive director of the Singularity University and the lead author of Exponential Organizations.

Just to set the scene, disruption is not only a new buzz word in the 21st century, it’s real, happening and rapidly gaining momentum. Its primary objective is to create a new market and value system using innovative methods that aim to derange or disrupt the status quo in an existing market.

The question now is why do some organizations fail? Research shows that 70% of small businesses or start-ups fail within 2 to 5 years of operation. Research also shows that many large businesses or corporations that were relevant in the 20th century will be redundant in the 21st century.

Photo: Salim Ismail speaking at a disruption symposium in Sandton, hosted by Absa.

So why is this? More often than not, organisations fail not because of increased market competition and other external forces, but rather because they failed to innovate internally. Organisations love their comfort zones, are highly protective of their territory and find it difficult to change or adapt introspectively. When individuals become disruptive, their positions within the company are affected. Imagine if those that failed (or are failing) to exist tried to harness change? Maybe our world would be a better place. On the flipside, maybe it’s for the better that they do not, because then we’re almost forced to create new wealth, embrace new thinking and fresh technology to improve our lives.

We need to accelerate the use of disruptive technologies that can help improve our lives. Let’s take Elon Musk with his proactive, forward-thinking and anticipatory mind-set for example, which is all about where will the world be in ten years? This visionary approach saw Musk develop SpaceX, electric cars and even the Hyperloop. So where will banking, transportation, education and even energy be in ten years?

Coal is now regarded as a toxic pollutant, a climate-change foe and fast-becoming a redundant energy source. Yet here at home, we’re still pumping billions into financing coal-based solutions and plants because jobs will be lost if we don’t – and this is just not seeing the bigger picture at all. The truth is, that in 12 years from now, all energy will be solar-driven. Energy which has been scarce is about to become abundant and it will change everything. A quarter of the farms in California are now solar-powered. Chile, as poor as it is, generates so much power that it’s sharing it with its neighbours for free. Battery is also another invaluable source, as Musk proved with his Tesla range. Also waste to energy is gaining momentum and it’s another energy mix to consider.

To improve and accelerate the use of technologies we must do four things: digitize, disrupt, demonetize and democratize. There are many institutions that will face disruption, even including marriage – where predictions and technology will make it possible for people to live and stay married for longer with an injection or something. No one expects to be married for more than 50 years, so does that make marriage redundant from the get-go? Disruptive technology will change everything from the institution of religion, stock markets and democracy to the criminal justice system and voting systems.

Technology enables us to live in a world where everything is open, there are no boundaries and there is no bureaucracy. When a company moves digital, three things happen – marginal cost moves to zero, domain explodes and problem space shifts.

The existing policies we have now form an immune system. We cannot resist technology and cannot regulate it. In the automotive industry, ride-sharing and self-driving cars will take over in the next eight years. Any entrepreneur, even an inexperienced one, can enter an industry and disrupt it. Uber is ‘deliberately’ breaking the law and waiting for the policymakers to catch up. Even companies the size of Facebook, which get fined for data protection breaches know that the fine is a mere slap on the wrist and they’ll just keep pushing to conquer the world. According to the writer Lance Ng, Facebook’s new ambition is to be the biggest bank that ever existed by creating its own cryptocurrency to be used on WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) to facilitate transactions between users. Collectively, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram (all owned by Facebook) have 2.7 billion users.

If Facebook decides to back the value of its digital coin with a basket of foreign currencies, then it could potentially become the largest central bank in the world – because that’s what central banks do; print money backed by their country’s economy and foreign currency reserves. Not only will this become monumental in the world’s economic history, it is also going to become a serious and rapid threat for the existing giants in the financial sector.

Technology has even made it easier for us mere mortals to design our own cars and build them off the shelf, so no more need for engineering school. The education system will be heavily disrupted – spending five years at varsity will be a thing of the past, as a year learning critical market-relevant skills will be ample. We now have more unicorn companies than ever before, about 320 to be precise, worth over US$1billion dollars that never existed ten years ago.

Back to guest speaker Salim Ismail, who wrote in his book that “new organisations are ten times better, faster and cheaper than yours”.

His business advice to bring your company/organisation up to speed includes the following salient points:

  • Transform leadership: ensure diversity, good skills and education, board management
  • Inspire EXOs at edges: Disrupt but do this outside your firm by partnering with incubators, accelerators and hacker teams (more reason to partner with the likes of 22 on Sloane startup campus)
  • Invest or partner with adjacent EXO
  • Leverage or expose data
  • Hire a Black Ops team
  • Set up a Google X equivalent

So how did we fail or how are we going to fail? We are failing both gradually and suddenly. Company lifespans are reducing significantly. I think maybe it’s not just technology, it’s also about our inability to predict, plan and produce for the future. We need to build exponential organizations. Ask yourself, what would Elon Musk do?

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Togo Powers Up For Progress With New National Development Plan

Togo powers up for progress with new National Development Plan.

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MARCH 4, 2019

Last month, I had the invaluable opportunity to meet Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe. We discussed on how best to embrace and exploit the passion and potential of his country’s youth towards building an inclusive entrepreneurial nation for all. Critical to this, is ensuring that its young entrepreneurs become global founders and can compete with their peers on both the continent and around the world, while creating much needed jobs locally.

Recently, I returned to Togo for the launch of its much anticipated National Development Plan 2018-2022. Dubbed ‘Togo First’, the plan sets strategic goals for economic and social development, as well as for growth over the period 2018-2022.

At the launch, the President acknowledged the need to redistribute wealth and become more inclusive, reiterating that all who work for the wealth must also share in the wealth. He also called for renewal and a firm commitment to achieve, without delay, the necessary transformation and construction of a new, revitalized Togo that all citizens will be proud to live in and leave for the generations to come.

The plan focuses on three key deliverables:

  • Create a world-class logistics hub and a business/entrepreneurship centre of reference in the region.
  • Develop poles of agricultural processing, manufacturing and mining.
  • Consolidate social development and boost inclusion mechanisms.

 

Photo: President Faure Gnassingbe speaking at the launch of Togo’s National Development Plan 2018-2022. 

By implementing the plan, the Togolese government aims to create 500 000 jobs by 2022 and achieve a GDP growth of 7.6%. It also seeks to attract USD$7billion from the private sector to help achieve this goal. Recently, the country held the first China-Africa business forum, as China has become a highly significant and vital role player in economic development across the continent. Evidence of this is the Debre Birhan industrial park constructed by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in Ehtiopia at a cost of more than USD$71million The park spans some 75 hectares, has eight industrial sheds ready to accommodate prospective investors and is expected to create job opportunities for over 1000 Ethiopians.

Togo is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to its new and inclusive economic uprising. It also plans to hold an EU-Togo business forum in June to attract various investors and development partners from the European region.

Carlos Lopes, the Chief National Adviser of the NDP, hailed the development of Togo over the past few years. He said that although development is clearly evident, the country also needs to focus more on transformation and inclusiveness.

Africa must mobilize technical, financial and managerial resources in order to meet its developmental needs and also create strong infrastructures to lessen external dependencies. What’s more, we must draw inspiration from existing and new technological innovations because the advantage that Africans have is that we’re

‘late-comers’, so we simply have to ‘copy and paste’. By this I mean that most of what we’re trying to do has been tried and tested by various other nations, showing models that work and those that don’t – so job done. Let’s implement the existing off-the-shelf solutions that suit us.

At the NDP launch, I was pleased to see the inclusion and participation of entrepreneurs. Koudou Komi Dovi, an agro-processing entrepreneur producing rice and beans, shared his journey of becoming an entrepreneur and what more the government can do to support many of the country’s unemployed youth. One recommendation was to develop impactful training programmes that will equip young people to meet the needs of the job market.

In a nutshell, Togo’s NDP to build a prosperous country for all will focus on creating an invigorative investment climate, increased employment, better healthcare and social development.

During the launch, there was a palpable sense of collegiality, collaboration and optimism amongst various stakeholders. Yes, Togo’s NDP is ambitious, yet I believe it’s achievable, as long as the stakeholder commitment stays strong and never wanes.

To close, I borrow from the President’s speech in which he mirrored my sentiment and encouraged all stakeholders to work together to achieve the NDP’s objectives by saying that “big rivers are made of small streams….”

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

 

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Africa Netpreneur Prize Announces Regional African Partners

AFRICA NETPRENEUR PRIZE ANNOUNCES REGIONAL AFRICAN PARTNERS

JACK MA FOUNDATION | MARCH 4, 2019

The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) has appointed NINE from Nigeria, RiseUp from Egypt, and 22 On Sloane from South Africa as the official Western, Northern, and Southern Africa regional partners, respectively. The three organizations will work closely with Nailab, the continental and Eastern Africa partner, to promote the Prize in their respective regions.

The ANPI is a prize competition for African entrepreneurs, founded by the Jack Ma Foundation. For the next ten years, the ANPI will host a pitch competition across Africa culminating in a finale where ten finalists will compete for US$1 million in total prize money. The Prize aims to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future.

 

Photo: Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma speaks with Kago Kagichiri Co-Founder Eneza Education & Derrick Muturi Chief Executive Officer of grocery delivery enterprise, Herdy, at Nailab during his visit in Africa.

 

The regional partners will mobilize aspiring entrepreneurs across the continent through grassroots outreach. Nailab Founder and CEO Sam Gichuru said, “We are excited to work with these reputable and mission-aligned partners who will help us bring the Prize to all corners of Africa, as well as discover and spotlight a new generation of entrepreneurs from across the continent. Together with our partners, we will support both technology-driven and traditional companies with a special focus on small businesses, grassroots communities and women-founded enterprises.”

Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board and a member of ANPI advisory board, noted that the regional partners will help support the Prize’s inclusive and community-based approach and praised the Prize’s strong focus on women entrepreneurs. “There are so many undiscovered entrepreneurial heroes, women and men alike, who once unearthed can become game-changers of the African entrepreneurship landscape. I am happy the Africa Netpreneur Prize has decided to make women a priority.”

The southern partner, 22 On Sloane, is a legacy project of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa (GEN Africa) and home to the largest startup campus on the continent. The organization seeks to nurture the development of new industries by supporting disruptive startups. The northern partner, RiseUp, is the creator and organizer of the MENA region’s largest entrepreneurship event, RiseUp Summit. RiseUp is a platform that connects startups with needed resources from across the continent. The western partner, NINE is Nigeria’s largest network of Incubators supporting the growth of entrepreneurs.

“We look forward to supporting the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative in its mission to empower entrepreneurs from Africa. 22 On Sloane has received support from world leaders and a network of more than 15,000 partner organizations which has enabled us to catapult the growth of many businesses, and is indicative of the strong entrepreneurial potential we have across the continent to thrive globally,” said GEN Africa Chairperson Kizito Okechukwu.

Abdelhameed Sharara, CEO of RiseUp noted, “We are looking for against-the-grain entrepreneurs who will provide visionary solutions to today’s most important challenges. We define an entrepreneur as anyone who’s willing to take on innovation and challenge the norm. This Prize will be an important catalyst to support budding entrepreneurs from across the continent and give them a platform for effective innovation.”

“We are excited to discover vibrant enterprises that would benefit from the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative. We believe that the Prize finalists have the power to inspire the continent with their commitment and dedication, as well as show the potential of our African Entrepreneurs,” said Bankole Oloruntoba, Founder of NINE.

ANPI will officially call for applications starting from the 27th of March to the 30th of June 2019. All ten finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices, and resources.

For more information about the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, please visit: www.netpreneur.africa

 

 

 
 
 

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4IR’s Impact on the Creative Industry

4IR’S IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | FEBRUARY 25, 2019

Think of all the creative ‘gods’ that have been a significant part of our life over the years – favourite actors, actresses and directors, bands, singers, musicians, models, fashion designers, authors, poets and artists. Each of these connected with us because “their true value is their ability to generate something real and tangible, simply by unlocking the creative potential that exists everywhere in all communities and societies on our planet”, explains Caroline Norbury MBE, founding Chief Executive of Creative England. President Mitterrand, speaking about the French film industry also famously said “These are not just commodities; they are creations of the spirit.”

The deity bestowed upon our creative gods is massive with religious-like social media followings and making money which, at times, is incomprehensible, yet their influence on us is powerfully palpable; how we think, what we wear, watch, eat, drink and listen to – a song by a low-key artist from some town or village will probably not be memorable, but if exactly the same song is ‘dropped’ by Kanye West, we’re all over it!

Last week Friday, the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and her Deputy Pinky Kekana hosted over 200 creatives in a round table engagement at the 22 on Sloane start-up campus in Bryanston. They were joined by the Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu.

This focused on how best the creative industry can leverage the advent of the 4IR and included local musicians, artists, actors, producers and many other creatives.

 

Photo: Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

As alluded to earlier, the true value of this sector is that most, if not all their work, borrows from their real personal experiences, all the emotional influences, both happy and sad, from within their communities along their life’s journey, which deeply resonates with all of us, young or old (and often subliminally, whether we realise it or not). Think of South Africa’s very own multiple award-winning Trevor Noah and how many people watch his Daily Show and how is he, as a brand, influencing the minds of his millions of daily viewers?

Recently, British actor Nicholas Pinnock visited South Africa to film a TV commercial for one of the country’s top financial brands, which coincidently promotes the fact that amidst all the 4IR-hype, the company still offers solutions constructed by real people for real people. He said he did it because he loved the script as it mirrored his mission, which is to understand and connect with people because that’s what he does for a living.

Also, think of South Africa’s ‘infamous’ Rasta, the artist who is renowned for painting deceased famous people or controversial figures. I bet his work is not just for fun, he must have had a personal connection with his subjects.

Let’s look at the 4IR challenges facing the creative industry, starting with the technical journey and how it can impact it. Years ago, we bought music on CD’s and rented videos on VHS from our corner store Blockbuster. Now everything’s changed. One can literally watch movies and series on the device of your choice (TV, tablet, laptop or mobile) from various streaming providers, such as Netflix, StreamShark, YouTube, Facebook and Periscope (and that’s really just naming a few). Also, gone are the days of lucrative album deals for muso’s because now you can just download or listen to your music (often just your favourite track rather than the entire album) from Spotify, ITunes, Deezer, Mixclouds, grooveshark and yes, loads of others for a mere pittance. Today, arguably many artists make the most of their moolla from live concerts. For authors, it is believed that AI will write the first best seller and produce the best movie, it will write the script complete with stage instructions. AI will also help with music composition and sound tracks. Gone are those days you seat in studios cracking your brains. The machines are coming, and we have to ready for it. AI technology can now even make descriptions of what you instruct it to do. Just check out the website: www.thispersondoesnotexist.com – I came across it last week.

To get yourself seen or heard (or both) you’d need to travel and audition live. Now you just shoot content with a smartphone and upload it in seconds onto one of the various social sharing digital platforms to be viewed across the world with a click, while you chill out and cash in.

Yes, digital has made the industry more accessible for creative content providers, but it’s also creating a content overload environment (for all forms thereof) forcing the content consumer to constantly separate the wheat from the chaff, which takes time. My family have access to DStV premium and Netflix and I’m sure between us, we haven’t consumed even 1% of the offered content. I bet many people find themselves in the same quagmire.

Amidst the 4IR, ‘change is the only constant’ rings truer than ever before and many creative players will find it difficult to cope. With the competition increasing rapidly on a mind-blowing level and more people having easy access to the industry, the revenue generated in the industry will also continue to decrease because there’s so many players vying for their piece of the pie, except for the sacred cows.

Another difficulty the industry faces especially for young creatives is access to capital and for the various financial institutions, venture capitalists and investors to take them seriously. That’s because there is no way to actually value the industry, or rather the value of the industry is based on perceptions or your ability to convince your content consumer to like your product and keep supporting you. It is estimated that the creative industry is worth over USD$600billion. On the upside, the digital world has collapsed all barriers. So any young creative, anywhere can become a YouTube sensation in literally ten minutes. One can also easily experience a safari tour without really being at a safari tour. The work of the guys from latest sightings now makes it easier for anyone to take a video when they are at a safari and post it online.

Still on the upside, it’s important to note that out of all the labour sectors, the two that will be least affected by the 4IR are the IT and Creative sectors. In addition, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the top three skills needed in the labour market by 2020, will be Critical Thinking Skills, Complex Problem Solving Ability and yes, Creativity.

For my closing, I chose a short piece which really hits home for all the young, hopeful and creative South Africans out there. According to the Leaders in Motion Academy (LIM), “Without an understanding, nurturing and skilling of the cultural and creative industries in our economy, South Africa runs the risk of skilling our creative and multi-talented youth for jobs that will no longer exist in the next twenty years. Alternatively, South Africa could be on the cutting edge of empowering a workforce of young, emerging creatives that will find employment and innovate new businesses in the vast digital networks and markets that cross borders, the holders of the ‘currency’ of the future.

There is also a widely held view that modern economies that will undergo a Fourth Industrial Revolution successfully will not be those that worship machines, but those that support human creativity”.

The Machines are coming but building and nurturing the human element and creativity will only make it even better.

 

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

 

 

 

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Updates on the Africa Netpreneur prize initiative

UPDATES ON THE AFRICA NETPRENEUR PRIZE INITIATIVE

JACK MA FOUNDATION – NETPRENEUR PRIZE AFRICA | FEBRUARY 20, 2019

Application process opens on March 27, 2019 to entrepreneurs across the continent: NAIROBI, Kenya – February 18th, 2019 – The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) will officially call for applications starting from the 27th of March 2019. The ANPI is a US$10 million Prize competition for African entrepreneurs, founded by the Jack Ma Foundation.

Each year for the next ten years, the Prize will host a pitch competition in Africa where ten finalists from across the continent will compete for US$1 million in total prize money.  The Prize, which is supported by its continental partner Nailab, is focused on empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs, with a focus on small businesses, grassroots communities and women-founded enterprises.
“The Netpreneur Prize Initiative has brought together a strong ecosystem of players to support both technology-driven and traditional businesses. We look forward to unveiling the full slate of regional partners and to receiving applications from promising African entrepreneurs in the coming weeks,” said Sam Gichuru, Founder and CEO, Nailab.

 

PHOTO: Jack Ma with African entrepreneurs

All ten finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices, and resources.

“By 2030, we hope to identify and shine a spotlight on 100 African entrepreneur heroes who will inspire the continent. From day one, our approach has been community-based and focused on inclusiveness; to be truly for Africans and by Africans. To realize these goals, we are excited to work with Nailab as our implementing partner in Africa and multiple African partners across to continent,” said Beth Yu, Executive Secretary-General, Jack Ma Foundation.

Core values of the Prize will be reflected in the application criteria including:

1. Open to entrepreneurs who are nationals from any of the 54 African countries
2. Open to all industry sectors
3. Strongly encourage young people and female entrepreneurs to apply

Key activities and dates for the prize are:

1. Applications Launch: 27th March 2019
2. Deadline for applications: 30th June 2019
3. Announcement of the top 50 regional finalists: August 2019
4. Announcement of the final 10 finalists: October 2019
5. Grand Finale pitch event: November 2019

For more information about the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, please visit: www.netpreneur.africa

NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
About Jack Ma Foundation Jack Ma Foundation (JMF) is a charitable organisation founded in 2014 by Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group. The foundation’s aim is to promote human development in harmony with both society and the environment, while its mission is to work towards a world of bluer skies, cleaner water, healthier communities, and more open thinking. From education to environment, to public health and personnel development in philanthropic sector, the foundation intends to awaken social consciousness and responsibility to cultivate an innovative and sustainable model for a better world.

About Nailab
Nailab is an accelerator that offers a “Launch out” program for entrepreneurs and “Launch in” program for those seeking employability in the digital economy. Through programs lasting 3 – 6 month long, the accelerator has designed initiatives that help cater to personal and or business transformations, ensuring an increase in knowledge in both soft and technical skills as well as access to opportunities such as seed and growth funding or market access. With its main focus being the support of entrepreneurs that are looking to optimise the use of technology to deliver better services and products, Nailab works with different organisations from Government, development aid, foundations and corporates that are youth centric to help design programs aimed at catalysing innovations, entrepreneurship and job creation.

 

 

 

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The Africa We Want

The AFRICA WE WANT

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | FEBRUARY 18, 2019

Championed by our very own former African Union (AU) chair Madam Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the African Union Agenda 2063 is a vision that should live constantly in the hearts and minds of all Africans. Now the more I peruse its content, the more I’m convinced that the continent’s economic future lies solely in the hands of its youth.

Three weeks ago, I travelled to Togo and had the unique opportunity to meet privately with President Faure Gnassingbe at the State House. Our discussions included the opportunities that exist for young African entrepreneurs and how best to leverage the potential of Africa’s youth to grow the continent and his country. He envisions a youth that is in touch with tomorrow, a youth that is entrepreneurial in spirit and a youth that believes that the future of its country is in its hands.

My visit to Togo also included interacting with various ecosystem stakeholders, such as structures that are supporting the development of startups and small businesses. In addition, the Principal of the University of Lome shared the proactive reason for revising its curriculum. Introduced this year, the new curriculum’s content is now in perfect alignment with a ‘real-world environment’ as opposed to teachings which hold little value for working-related opportunity and its benefits.

This is a strong, down-to-earth, reality check approach I really applaud. The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution forces us to revisit the way we see the world and ensure that available opportunities in the market matches the skills that our youth are equipped with.

 

Photo: The President of Togo, H.E Faure Gnassingbe and Kizito Okechukwu, co-Chair  
GEN Africa 22 on Sloane at the State House in Lome Togo.

What’s more, I was very pleasantly surprised at just how many young Togolese are self-starters, shaping their own destinies and driving positive change in their respective communities. The co-operative mind-set seems to thrive in this country, seeing people come together and build futures for themselves. This is the type of Africa we all want. Africans knowing that the future can only be secured and enjoyed by working together.

The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA), which the African Union expects to formally launch in July, encourages member states to liberalise trade relations with each other, reduce trade tariffs among African countries and develop mechanisms to monitor the application of non-tariff barriers by some member states. Yet I would also like to see more integration of African nations. Sure, we have progressed quite rapidly on the visa regime (I cannot remember the last time I had to apply for a visa before visiting an African nation) and some countries now have visas on arrival, but the issue of integration should also focus on the commuting of Africans. This still remains a challenge where Africans have to air transit via Europe in order to come back to Africa, or have to air transit to two or three other African countries before reaching their final destination. This should be better coordinated, with maybe a railroad network that criss-crosses the continent for freedom of movement. It is encouraging to see that last week, The African Development Bank and the Economic Community of West African States Commission (ECOWAS) have signed an agreement for a study into a 1000 kilometre highway linking Cote d’Ivoire’s commercial capital Abidjan, to Lagos in Nigeria, marking a new step in building regional integration and trade.

The proposed Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway, a six-lane (3-lane dual) motorway, will connect the countries via Ghana (Accra), Togo (Lomé) and Benin (Cotonou).

African entrepreneurs should be given a prime attention on the agenda of Africa’s development. Those that develop market-worthy ideas should be given the opportunity to test them with their peers in other African countries and collaborate with them towards making their ideas a reality. Capital and programmes should also be provided to support their initiatives, similar to what the French government is doing on Digital Africa project by allocating some 60M€ to support young African digital entrepreneurs. We need more African agencies to follow suit.

“Strength in numbers” should be Africa’s mantra for sustainable economic power, now and into the future. So we need to collaborate. Disintegration will only divide us and not unite us. The Africa Investment Forum (AIF) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has also set in motion the drive to promote investments, develop Africa and ensure that the future shines bright across the continent. Talking stats, it’s predicted that Africa’s population will increase to over 2.5 million by 2050 and the continent will also have the youngest population on the planet. it is imperative that startup role players and enablers are better coordinated to facilitate job creation and opportunities for small and medium sized businesses. Over the next five years, almost half of the world’s fastest growing economies will be located in Africa, growing at an average rate of 5% or higher. The African business-to-business spending will reach USD 4.2 trillion in 2030, an increase from USD 2.6 trillion in 2015. Business funding will be about USD915.3 billion in agriculture and agricultural processing, USD666.3 billion in manufacturing, USD784.5 billion in construction, utilities and transportation, USD665.1 billion in wholesale and retail, USD357.6 billion in resources, USD249.3 billion in banking and insurance, and USD 79.5 billion in telecommunications and IT.

This growth in domestic consumer demand combined with more business-to-business spending will allow both large businesses and SMEs to gain the most under the AFCTA. As the profile of African businesses grows on continental and world stages, African household consumers may be more inclined to buy African products and services to support continental development and growth.  However, this will depend on how well businesses are able to engage in the deal’s implementation.  Very limited reliable data reflects how various ecosystems enablers build and contribute to this diversification.

The AU agenda 2063 should be seen as a unique opportunity to recreate the African narrative and ensure that we rid ourselves and young go-getters of the dreadful “great ideas going nowhere” syndrome. So let’s focus on encouraging high levels of support, cooperation, youth entrepreneurialism, investments and wealth creation.

Lastly, we must discourage the precedent set in Nigeria last week where the General elections was postponed hours before it was scheduled to start. For a country with over 190 million people and 40% youth unemployment, where at least 11 million jobs are needed each year to curb the unemployment crisis, the postponement and lack of readiness brings distrust and flies in the face of all the work being done by various agencies to attract global investors closer to the table.

Kizito is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.

 
 

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    Bryanston, 2191
    Johannesburg, South Africa
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© 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Network

SONA 2019: Talking to start-ups, the future fuel for our economy

SONA 2019: TALKING TO START-UPS, THE FUTURE FUEL FOR OUR ECONOMY

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | FEBRUARY 11, 2019

As South Africa celebrates its 25TH anniversary of freedom, President Cyril Ramaphosa used last week’s State of the Nations Address (SONA) to prompt citizens to continue building a society in which all South Africans live in harmony and enjoy their inalienable rights to life, dignity and liberty.

During his address, I picked up a few salient points that might interest the entrepreneurship ecosystem, particularly the start-ups, while acknowledging that his speech – or rather the work of government over the coming months/years will be underpinned by the following five points:

Accelerate inclusive economic growth and create jobs; Improve the education system and develop the skills that we need now and into the future; Improve the conditions of life for all South Africans, especially the poor; Step up the fight against corruption and state capture; and strengthen the capacity of the state to address the needs of the people.

 

For start-ups and the entrepreneurship ecosystem, this is where SONA hits home:

  1. Government announced an economic stimulus package last year, which was set to put the economy back on a recovery path. This includes initiatives to create jobs, more support for township enterprises and emerging farmers.
  1. Remember the inaugural South Africa Investment Conference that was held last year? It’s back again this year. South Africa’s inflow of foreign direct investment increased from R17bn in 2017 to R70bn in 2018. Provinces will also be tasked to compile lists of potential investment deals in the provinces. I think investments in high impact start-ups should feature prominently in this regard. 
  1. The World Bank’s annual Doing Business Report currently ranks South Africa 82 out of 190 countries. The President wants to get South Africa to the top 50 by 2022. I believe this will help attract more investments, yet government must remove as much stifling red tape as possible for small and medium sized enterprises to start and scale.
  1. The Competition Amendment bill will soon be signed into law. This is part of government’s efforts to increase investment, foster greater inclusion, create more opportunities and to curb the challenges the economy faces where the structure of such was designed to keep assets in only a few hands. I believe this will potentially open doors for new, smaller businesses to compete and to have a reasonable share of the market. 
  1. The agreement on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area offers great opportunities to place South Africa on a path of investment-led trade and to work with other African countries to develop their own industrial capacity. I believe this will not only help with Africa’s integration plan, but get Africans to see and grasp opportunities that can be found if we work together.
  2. The Buy South Africa programme will be supported to increase the demand on local goods and ensure that government and the private sector procures such. I know Proudly South Africa has been championing this initiative and we should find more viable reasons to support local goods. Also, why not lower the VAT rate in shops to below the foreign rate on all locally produced goods?
  1. Government will expand small business incubation programmes and township digital hubs will be established in four provinces and then expand to the rest. I believe this is a step in the right direction. Perhaps the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) can help government establish GEN hubs across the country. The hubs should be equipped to ensure that they also provide quality technical support services to the community they serve.
  1. Support for small emerging farmers will be increased. This will help escalate exports and ensure that underutilized and unproductive land is put back into development. There are so many opportunities for agri-entrepreneurs and even the African Development Bank (AFDB) has a significant fund in the agri-sector.
  1. The eVisa regime will be implemented this year to increase destination marketing and tourism. I still highly recommend that South Africa should introduce start-up visas for high impact start-ups across Africa. This will help attract and nurture African talent in South Africa, encourage partnerships between us and other African countries and ensure job creation locally.
  1. The ocean economy is still a big potential. Investments have been made mainly in infrastructure development, marine manufacturing, aquaculture and the oil and gas sector could be making a massive comeback with the recent breaking news of the discovery of an abundance of new natural gas pockets off the Mossel Bay coast, potentially worth billions.
  1. Government has committed to contribute R100bn into the infrastructure fund over the next ten years, which will be used to leverage financing from the private sector and development financial institutions.
  1. The Early Childhood education programme will be migrated from the social development department to the basic education department. This will help ensure a firm foundation and making this integral to the education system. I always say we have to capture the kids when they are young. This also helps to develop and increase their entrepreneurial potential and helps them to compete with their peers globally.
  1. In line with the government’s Framework for Skills for a Changing World, it will be expanding the training of both educators and learners to respond to emerging technologies/4IR, including the internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence. Several new technology subjects and specialisations will be introduced, such as technical mathematics and technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences and aquaponics. To expand participation in the technical streams, several ordinary public schools will be transformed into technical high schools. This was undoubtedly my favourite take-out from SONA and one which I am ecstatic about.
  1. To ensure that government effectively, and with greater urgency, harnesses technological change in pursuit of inclusive growth and social development, the President has appointed a Presidential Commission on the 4IR. Comprised of eminent members hand-picked from different sectors of society, the Commission will serve as a national overarching advisory mechanism on digital transformation. It will identify and recommend policies, strategies and plans that will position South Africa as a global competitive player within the digital revolution space.

The President concluded his address with some inspiring quotes from Theodore Roosevelt, who served as America’s 26th President.

As we approach these tasks, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

All-in-all, an inspiring and motivational address I thought. But now that the talking’s done, it’s time to walk the talk and deliver on promises to ensure that the new dawn doesn’t simply fade away into a dark oblivion, but remains a shining and guiding light  for all South Africans.

Only together can we make sure that this truly becomes an exciting time for South Africa and the rest of the continent. We must also remember our proud African mantra, “when one succeeds, all succeed!”

Kizito Okechukwu is the Co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.

 

 

 

GEN AFRICA, 22 ON SLOANE

  • Corner William Nicol Drive & Sloane Street
    Bryanston, 2191
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Email: residency@22onsloane.co

GEN GLOBAL

  • 1133 15th St, NW
    Washington, DC 20005
    United States of America

© 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Network

Too big to fail?

Too big to fail?

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | FEBRUARY 5, 2019

This is a term we’re definitely going to hear on a regular basis. Sure, it’s always easy to craft an opinion piece like this and analyse or critique large businesses, i.e. their modus operandi and working structures. But today let’s face it, the environment is becoming way more complex than ever before, across the globe.

The advent of the 4IR with sublime digital innovations, increased competition and not fully understanding their consumers’ buying needs and habits, is plunging many businesses into a dark and gloomy quagmire, as they simultaneously back-pedal and fast-track quick-fix and one-size-fits-all remedies, caught off-guard like deers in the headlights, trying desperately to enhance the customer experience, while struggling to remain relevant and sustainable. Now it’s important to note, that not only do large ‘legacy’ businesses face this dilemma, all do – even the few I manage.

 

‘Only the fittest survive’, claims the age-old cliché. In today’s business world, this survival translates into disrupt or be disrupted, participate or become extinct.

Let’s take Edcon, a retail giant in South Africa (who can forget their first Edgars card, the perfect buy now, pay later tool to top-up your wardrobe). Edcon now has over 200 stores and employs over 20 000 people, yet one of their challenges is that their tangible in-store merchandising model became clumsy and confusing to shoppers, many turning away for a different experience – most often to online shopping, as foot traffic in many mall stores continues to rapidly declines. Even with just this in mind, the notion was always that Edcon is too big to fail, as this would have serious repercussions on its thousands of low to middle income employees. Edcon failed to look ahead and now the company is apparently seeking almost R3bn for recapitalization.

Moving to the much-scrutinized public sector, just last week the World Bank’s Country Director, Paul Noumba, said Eskom is too big to fail. Yes, it’s public knowledge that the company had its governance challenges over the past nine years, yet many analysts say the company is also massively overstaffed, as well as management-heavy. But trying to retrench even at other SOE’s like the SABC and SAA for plausible economic survival, never goes down well with so many interest groups. Yet in their defence, they are trying to protect every job amidst our economically crippling unemployment rate. It’s a catch-22 situation.

More to my point in this article is that, importantly, companies still hasn’t fully embraced world-proven innovative and disruptive solutions and business models to help them out of the red and into the black. Many predict that Eskom will soon be divided into distribution and generation. Eskom is currently over R100bn in debt and is also seeking recapitalization, while the debt owed to it by a vast number of mismanaged municipalities still remains at a staggering amount.

So where to now? As a collective business community, in both the private and public sector, we need to develop new design thinking models to participate, anticipate and activate to ensure that our companies are pro-active, starting today, because the reality is that our environment has been severely, yet positively disrupted and will continue to be in the years to come.

A concept I would like to put out there, is that perhaps government should consider drafting a Disruption Policy, which forces companies to understand how their industries are being disrupted and present a plan on how to understand and embrace this for their survival. Maybe an Ombudsman could ensure that companies commit to it and plan ahead, because not doing this instantly puts jobs on the line.

In my humble opinion, I see many companies ceasing to exist over the next ten years or so, as most will still just go with the flow.

No business is too big to fail and none can afford to face the perils of an Edcon. Remember Blockbuster, Kodak, Polaroid and many others when market-relevant redundancy hit their business like a sniper’s bullet?

They never saw it coming…

So take heed, now’s the time for us to adapt or die. And it’s going to be an exciting journey.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.

 

 

 

GEN AFRICA, 22 ON SLOANE

  • Corner William Nicol Drive & Sloane Street
    Bryanston, 2191
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Email: residency@22onsloane.co

GEN GLOBAL

  • 1133 15th St, NW
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© 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Network

Are we ready for Globalisation 4.0?

ARE WE READY FOR GLOBALISATION 4.0?

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | JANUARY 28, 2019

Like most entrepreneurs and business-minded people, I enthusiastically followed the sessions and outcomes at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. The theme for this year’s forum was Globalisation 4.0. In a nutshell, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is aptly defined by Professor Klaus Schwab in his book as “a technological revolution that is blurring the lines between the physical, the digital and biological spheres”. The 4IR is marked by technology breakthroughs in several things such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, blockchains and many others.

From a broader perspective, the 4IR invigorates open connection between technology and markets. It is heavily knowledge-based and requires new sets of competencies. The 4IR predicts and ‘anticipates’ how the market and the way we live will be disrupted by a digital revolution. MinHwaLee et al in their piece on 4IR published on Journal of Open Innovation also highlighted that due to disruptions, which have become visible in nearly every sector, including the labour market, the 4IR poses both a threat and an opportunity to various nations and societies. In order to eliminate the threat, countries must embrace the 4IR and rather concentrate on finding opportunities to boost efficiency and productivity that will open new markets and drive economic growth. Few years ago, at one of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summits (GES) held at Stanford University, Mark Zuckerberg sharing a stage with President Barack Obama predicted that connectivity and digital transformation will revolutionise the way we do things.The recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) portrayed an emerging world economy that is increasingly based on the transfer of data instead of physical goods. Of importance to me, being the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa, was that the GEN Global President Mr Jonathan Ortmans had the invaluable opportunity to meet with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the WEF.

 


SUPPLIED:
GEN President Jonathan Ortmans meets South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Not only did they exchange ideas, they also discussed the impact of the 4IR in the entrepreneurial space and how start-ups can take advantage of the opportunities presented by it. Start-ups are still the most crucial and powerful problem-solvers, solutions-providers and job-creators of tomorrow and any country which fails to empower them, does so at its economic peril. These four investments will set us apart among various countries as the 4IR dawns on us: the ability to develop young coders; the synchronisation through the internet of computing devices in our everyday lives allowing us to send and receive data (IOT); and aligning this with machine intelligence that helps to predict, work and react like humans (AI) and the adoption of 5G mobile technologies that will help improve our network efficiency, productivity, decrease latency times with bandwith expected to reach 1GB per second.

Arguably one of the world’s most successful self-starters, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, opened his session at the WEF in style when asked whether he encountered fears or doubts over the course of building Alibaba. His response was magical. “Of course I was scared and had doubts. But I believed someone, if not us, would win. There are no experts of tomorrow, only of yesterday.”

He added that “in business, never worry about competition, never worry about the pressure. If you worry about pressure, don’t be a businessman. If you create value, there is opportunity. Today the whole world worries. That means there is great opportunity.”

So what keeps Jack Ma awake at night? “Nothing! If I don’t sleep well, the problem will still be there. If I sleep, I have a better chance to fight it.”

Taking into account the above, to respond to the 4IR from a national and institutional perspective, it is important to note that the waves of innovation and new paradigms will bring about development, deployment and exploitation of technologies.

However, the initiation and growth of these areas are strongly affected by the creative characteristics of organizations and, more specifically, our youth. Indeed, at the centre of the creation and growth of any technological solution, there are always the aspirations, curiosities, the creativity, competencies and passion of the people who have imagined, prototyped and tested a technology.

As a country, we need to acknowledge that successful countries bred from the 4IR will be those that recognize that, as much as they must become more technologically advanced, they also need to recognize the centrality of people (its citizens) and that the most human-based distinguishing factors will increase their importance as key value drivers affecting the creation and delivery of value.

In Africa, we have to brainstorm and develop strategic avenues to get our youth involved in the 4IR, while simultaneously creating appropriate platforms that will guarantee their participation in the highly lucrative and game/life changing digital revolution. Of course, creating an environment of this nature and magnitude is never going to be a walk in the park. It needs sustained dedication and commitment from all stakeholders. The good news is that lots of young people in townships, at various incubators and even in our start-up campus at 22 on Sloane are already developing some ground-breaking innovations in gaming, robotics and other digital disciplines. BUT – how do we ensure that this environment and its economics can provide them with the much-needed access to commercialisation?

In closing, the 4IR future does look quite bright for start-ups and I’d like to share a few success stories that’s just taken place this year. Last year, we had the opportunity to partner with Facebook and WhereIsMyTransport startup team in hosting their ‘First Connect Series of Hackathon’ at 22 on Sloane where WhereIsMyTransport aims to improve daily city travel by mapping both formal and informal modes of transport and making its data available to cities, transport operators and passengers across the world. The company has raised $1.85M in a Series A funding round, backed by mobility-focused venture fund Liil Ventures and prior investor Goodwell Investments, a Dutch/South African impact investment firm.

Andela, the company building distributed engineering teams with Africa’s top software developers, also announced the completion of a $100M Series D funding led by Al Gore. The round was led by Generation Investment Management with participation from existing investors, including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, Spark Capital and CRE Venture Capital. The most recent financing brings Andela’s total venture funding to an impressive $180M. Andela simply recruits developers in Lagos and various other African cities, trains them and connects them with Tech firms in US and Europe.

Proof that the 4IR is officially open for business and everyone’s invited, we must take lessons from Jack Ma quote, “there are no experts of tomorrow, only of yesterday”, there is so much opportunities for young people to build for tomorrow. What they need is access and platforms to show their real potential.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane, Africa’s largest start-up campus. 

 

 

 

GEN AFRICA, 22 ON SLOANE

  • Corner William Nicol Drive & Sloane Street
    Bryanston, 2191
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Email: residency@22onsloane.co

GEN GLOBAL

  • 1133 15th St, NW
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© 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Network

Education and Entrepreneurship should be key in African elections

education and entrepreneurship SHOULD BE key AS africa MOVES TOWARDS FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS.

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | JANUARY 14, 2019

As the African National Congress (ANC) launched its election manifesto this past weekend and celebrated its 107th anniversary, the party hailed its achievements over the past 25 years. It’s important to remember that the ANC’s successes are also Africa’s successes. That’s because across the continent, the Ubuntu concept remains relevant to all and when one country succeeds, others are likely to succeed. The alluring idea that ANC could have achieved much more over the past 25years is something we still have to scientifically test if one acknowledges the burdens, challenges and mistakes of the apartheid past. Though one must also admit that the past decade has not entirely been citizen and country-centred.

A decade or so ago, election year for most African countries created fearful uncertainty and a severe lack of trust among voting citizens for the often dubious, power-hungry candidates. This resulted in both pre and post-election violence, fuelled by morally deficient leaders not willing to accept outcomes and wanting to prolong their term within a “democratic state”.

Photo Source: Jacaranda FM

Fortunately, Africa is now steering itself towards genuine free and fair election processes, but it’s by no means there yet, as many countries continue to delay results, restrict freedom of speech and ban social and traditional media, amidst vote rigging and corruption allegations. Yet any party, governing or challenging, is certain to also have an element of voter’s distrust and the ANC has its share too.

Moving on, Africa’s two economic giants, Nigeria (February) and South Africa (May), are heading to the polls this year. Nigeria has had its problems over the years, such as corruption, a lack of adequate infrastructure and endorsing policies that deter investors. Amidst this, the country is now promising to clean up its act and ensure that its citizens and specifically its youth – the primary future economic drivers of any country – are prioritized and supported to reach full potential.

This is something I cannot stress enough, because if any country stifles its youth, it suffocates its economy. Whether Nigeria achieves this or not is yet to be seen as similar promises been given today by politicians on the campaign trail has been heard before.

Back to the manifesto, the ANC achievement’s list over the years included transforming the future of millions of young people by massively expanding enrolment in schools, universities, colleges and early childhood development programmes. Although many analysts said there was nothing new in the President’s speech, a few things should be acknowledged, one being that he recognized the party’s shortcomings and is garnering various social partners to support his mission to address such.

Acutely aware that unemployment, which now stands at a crisis rate of over 9 million, the ANC’s manifesto also made bold mention of creating over 275 000 jobs per annum, something that does inspire confidence. Yet remember Africa, manifestos are basically political promises, which are designed to lure and secure voters. So these are promises that cannot be broken. The manifestos must be satisfactorily aligned with ensuring that proper and capable cadres are deployed to implement the vision of the party. Also non-cadres but qualified people must also be considered for various positions.

The ANC’s promise included establishing an Infrastructure Fund. It added that it will open new emerging companies by ending monopolies and anti-competitive behaviour. It will draw more women, rural people and youth into the economy by expanding access to digital skills and training young people by developing and supporting technological and digital start-ups, with a more concerted focus on SMMEs, cooperatives and township/village-based enterprises.

Increased access to education and skills development for more young South Africans is another feather in the governing party’s cap and music to my ears. The commitment to upskill the youth in data analytics, coding, the internet of things, blockchain and machine learning aligned to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I warmly welcomed as a self-starter and a dedicated start-up champion.

With over a dozen African countries heading to polls this year, the key question is how have all the potential leaders prioritised education, entrepreneurship and the hugely significant role that young people play in their manifesto? Let’s hope that the continent as a whole strives to be a real, youth-empowering developmental continent.

Today, it really is becoming one Africa for all. The Africa Free Trade Continental agreement and the African Union’s continental passport invites us to seamlessly think and act continentally and realise that each of our countries can – and should – work together for our mutual development. We must always ask ourselves, have we prioritised and done all we can for our youth?

I hope all those countries heading to the polls this year will ensure free, fair and peaceful democratic elections, which will benefit the people and not the party.

Remember, the citizens, the world and investors are watching…

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane, Africa’s largest start-up campus.

 

 

 

GEN AFRICA, 22 ON SLOANE

  • Corner William Nicol Drive & Sloane Street
    Bryanston, 2191
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Email: residency@22onsloane.co

GEN GLOBAL

  • 1133 15th St, NW
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© 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Network

Top #5 Resolution Tips for E-commerce Start-ups

Top #5 resolution tips for e-commerce start-ups

ALESIMO MWANGA | JANUARY 9, 2019

If you own an online retail platform in today’s world, it is a brilliant opportunity to take advantage of the new technology trends and boost your weekly or monthly income. Thanks to emerging technology, innovation and data analytics, the ecommerce industry is building a strong base for a more comfortable customer experience. The size of the e-commerce market is estimated to be $23 trillion which amounts to around 32% of the global GDP. This is according to the Unctad – Rising Product Digitalisation and Losing Trade Competitiveness 2017 Report. One other interesting fact is the estimation of the Digital Economy, which is said to be around $16.2 trillion, that’s 22% of the global GDP.  

The growth of the digital economy in Africa has created new opportunities for all entrepreneurs and businesses, one they leverage on to expand their market access, benefit from economies of scale and access to various opportunities within the value chain production.

PHOTO: Unctad: Africa E-Commerce Week

2 000 people from 60 countries recently took part in the UNCTAD’s Africa E-commerce week, which was co-organized with the African Union and the European Union. It was an event that had over 60 sessions convened to examine the different ways to help enhance the readiness of African countries to trade online and to also totally digitize their economy.

Throughout the week business representatives, founders & industry experts highlighted key areas of focus such as – trade logistics, legal & regulatory frameworks, skills development & payment solutions.  If you are considering what plans to focus on for your ecommerce business in 2019, here are five tips that could get you started!

#1   Consumer Trust

Let’s say you are walking down the street on a beautiful day, approaching you is a man who starts a simple conversation with you. He then asks if you will be interested in buying a highly discounted Zara clothing item. Hey! Whether it’s Versace, Gucci or Zara. We all want one, right? The question is, would you consider purchasing this item sold by someone random on the streets?

Customer trust is affected by most aspects of ecommerce. The E-commerce Foundation’s annual report on ecommerce around the world (which last year included African research for the first time), shows that consumers are concerned about: online payments, delivery, hidden costs, taxes on cross-border purchases, how the seller protects their personal data, and their right to return goods which do not come up to their expectations. The order in which these concerns fall depends on the country, but these six issues are always in the top eight worries.

So, how can you improve consumer trust to help enhance your revenue? Well:

  • Improve your security: Once a potential customer visits an ecommerce site and notices that there is no SSL certificate, they probably won’t (or shouldn’t) use that platform to transact.  
  • Another solution – “Trustmark” supported by a dispute resolution and guarantee that the seller applies relevant national consumer protection regulations or an industry self-regulatory code of best practice.  “Trustmarks” started in Europe and the USA. The Safe.Shop trustmark was launched to provide for cross-border ecommerce within Europe.  “Safe.Shop” has also been adopted in a number of non-European countries, including Brazil, Hong Kong, South Africa and Kenya.
  • Learn to under – promise and over – deliver: One thing you always want to avoid is your customer feeling cheated by you, this has an impact on your credibility. News about bad customer service often travels faster than good service.
  • Be all about customer service: Make it 100% about them.
  • You’ve got to be socially active. Building visibility shows you have nothing to hide.

#2   Mobile Technology

Once upon a time, sites could only be viewed by people with desktops. But those numbers are declining now. One major technological advancement responsible for that is the mobile technology. If it is online, then it has to be responsive, smartphones are now an integral part of human life. 

Sub – Saharan Africa has over 420 million mobile subscribers with a 43% penetration rate. Wait! That’s not all; by 2020 this is expected to hit over half a billion. This makes Africa the fastest growing market. Tell me why you wouldn’t want to take advantage of this? These stats were published as part of the Global 2017 Mobile Economy Report by the GSM Association (GSMA) trade organization.

#3   New Customers

Personalization and customer experience will be the holy grail for e-commerce businesses in 2019. In fact, early on in 2017, 33% of retailers said that personalization was a priority for them. If you are able to deliver a positive customer experience, this will indirectly attract new customers to your brand.  Shopify recently published an article which talked about providing an exceptional e-commerce customer experience by creating an important and memorable event for clients which in turn translates to an increase in brand favourability and loyalty.

#4   Digital PR

We all know that marketing can be very expensive, and doesn’t always achieve its aims, which is why Digital PR has become a popular marketing strategy. It is used by marketers to increase their online visibility. If what you’ve been using is not working. It’s time to do a recheck and think again. If your site is not getting the position you want it to get, your golden ticket can be by using an experienced Digital PR & Marketing Consultant.  If you have a very limited budget hire an intern or a recent graduate. To succeed you will need high-quality pictures & personalized experiences.  This can be done with a modest budget and innovative thinking. 

#5: Data Ownership

There are different ways to go about enhancing your ecommerce platform when it comes to data ownership. I’m talking about owning your own data management platforms. For example, Netflix is able to take charge and control their user data today because they own it.

One might also look at customer data. Using your clients’ data to enhance your customer satisfaction is key to success, and a great way to increase the conversion rate for your online shop.

  • Take note of why you have an increase in visitors on your site but not an increase in the conversion rate.
  • Analyzing your traffic sources.
  • And lastly, find out why potential customers abandon their shopping cart.

You need data for all of this. Take note of the data you collect and own it. But be aware of the regulations that govern the collection of personal data – particularly if you are selling cross-border.  

Conclusion

80% of pledges for personal improvement are largely ditched by February. In business though, it’s essential to have goals, and the New Year brings the perfect opportunity to reflect and assess what these should be. Given the opportunities and increasing the market size of the E-commerce industry. Having these resolutions will not only increase your revenue, but it will also improve on a global scale your brand loyalty and bring in new customers which we all need in the coming year.

Alesimo Mwanga

 
 

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