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African Entrepreneurs: Preparing the next generation

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Africa’s population and economy are among the fastest-growing in the world.  By 2035 more Africans will join the workforce than the rest of the world combined, and a new generation of entrepreneurs is ready to mobilize this population boom for economic growth.  But in spite of this pressing need, the IFC estimates that SMEs on the continent face a financing gap of over $136bn annually, with startup funding not readily available in the African context.  Even when capital is invested in African-based startups, it is overwhelmingly directed towards ventures founded by expats; in 2015-2016, 90% of capital invested in East African startups went towards ventures with at least one European or North American founder.

Lacking access to funding, mentorship, and other critical resources, many African entrepreneurs’ efforts to start and scale their ventures are stymied before they begin.  Businesses which are early-stage, focused on social impact, or headed by local leadership are particularly likely to be left behind.  And in a holdover from the colonial era, African schools and universities are largely failing to prepare the future workforce with the critical thinking and leadership skills that will ensure business development reflects the needs of the continent.

During this SOCAP panel, impact investors and leaders from some of the continent’s top business incubators will discuss how Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs can best be prepared to succeed.  Panelists from the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC), the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), and the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) will be joined by noted author, impact investor and entrepreneur Sangu Delle to discuss their views on the outlook for Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurial leaders. The discussion will be moderated by Gordon Adomdza, head of the Ashesi Venture Incubator (AVI), and will focus on the following key points:

  1. What role do business incubators serve in preparing for Africa’s expected population growth?
  2. What are the unique regional challenges faced by entrepreneurs on the African continent?
  3. How can African schools and universities work to build a better environment for entrepreneurs?
  4. What funding streams are available, and still needed, for these entrepreneurs?

Confirmed Panelists

Gordon Adomdza (Ashesi Venture Incubator). Since opening its doors in 2002, Ashesi has been recognized by higher education authorities in Ghana and around the world for its innovative model, focused on fostering ethics, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Africa’s next generation of leaders. Ashesi’s entrepreneurial ecosystem encompasses an Enterprise Fund, venture accelerator, and myriad other resources designed to support student entrepreneurs, and in 2019 Ashesi partnered with MIT D-Lab to launch a Venture Incubator (AVI) which supports alumni who are ready to bring their ventures to scale. Dr. Gordon Adomdza leads AVI and serves as an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Ashesi University. In addition to his work at Ashesi and AVI, Dr. Adomdza serves as a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, an Editorial Board member for the Journal of African Business Research, and Coordinator for University-Wide Educational Programs at the Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education.

Sangu Delle is an entrepreneur, investor, and author. He serves as the Chairman of Golden Palm Investments, an investment holding company focused on building world-class businesses that will have a positive and long-term impact on the African continent. In addition to his role at GPI, Sangu also serves as the CEO of Africa Health Holdings, co-founder of the nonprofit Cleanacwa, Co-Chair of the Leadership Council of Harvard’s Center for African Studies, and a board member of Ashesi University. In 2019, Sangu published Making Futures, which spotlights 17 young entrepreneurs from 14 countries throughout Africa who have launched incredible businesses on the continent.

Ruka Sanusi is the Executive Director of the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC), a pioneering business incubator whose mission is to support the exceptional entrepreneurs whose businesses are pioneering adaptive and mitigating solutions for climate change issues in Ghana. Ruka has over 20 years of international consulting experience, and prior to joining the GCIC, she served as the Founder and Principal of Alldens Lane, a business consulting firm focused on providing advisory services and executive coaching to women-owned and women-led businesses in Africa’s small business sector.

Jason Pau is the Senior Advisor for International Programs at the Jack Ma Foundation. The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) is the Jack Ma Foundation’s flagship philanthropic entrepreneur program in Africa; it works to identify, spotlight, and support entrepreneurs who are creating impact in their communities and building a more inclusive economy for the future. ANPI aims to give entrepreneurs across Africa a platform to develop their talent and business ideas and inspire others to pursue entrepreneurship.

 

Unconfirmed Panelists

Representative of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for technology startups in Africa. Founded in Ghana in 2008, MEST now includes a network of hubs in Accra, Lagos, Cape Town, and Nairobi.

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