HomeLeadership & InnovationDoing good through business

Doing good through business

A presentation by Dr Jackie Chimhanzi, CEO African Leadership Institute

Summarised by Carol Butcher

It is fitting and appropriate for Talenttalks to host it inaugural talent conference at the Innovation Hub, which is focused on entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs create something from nothing. An idea can become a billion dollar business.

Entrepreneurs have relentless passion. They have to develop people, build a team, execute, inspire and take people along with them.

Entrepreneurs are solving some of the most serious problems in Africa. They are “doing good” in Africa through their innovative business models. The magnitude of innovations is striking. They are helping to meet developmental challenges. Innovations are fit for purpose. They are providing solutions for Africa’s problems. M-Pesa, is a good example of this; this innovation has proved life-changing. An innovation to check the authenticity of medication is also saving lives as 60% of medication in West Africa is counterfeit.

Solutions are elegant and technically simple, intuitive, user friendly and can be used rurally and in areas where literacy levels are low.

Sparks schools, which provide affordable quality education are a good example of innovation.

Africa has the capacity and youth to develop innovations. However, we need to increase the rate at which innovations are emerging. There is a dilemma: Africa has young talent.  The problem is African money is not coming to the table to fund solutions. We need to fund solutions and incubators and support talent.

There is no greater social investment than commercialising their innovations. It is a relevant, appropriate and sustainable form of CSI.

The private sector in Africa needs to invest early, right through to the commercialisation of an innovation. Investing in talent is a win-win for all.

Africa has an abundance of talent.

How do we help financial institutions select investments that have impact and how do we help innovations succeed?

The trade-off is that commercial banks are interested in returns rather than developmental impact. It is a vicious circle. Because innovations are often higher risk, lending rates are higher.

Innovation hubs help to support entrepreneurs. To succeed, entrepreneurs do not only need money, they also need access to markets and to technology.

Africa needs funders, who will fund early on, and not wait to come in much later in the project cycle.

The problem is innovators do not know where to get funding. There are gaps in knowledge, people do not know where to go.

The private sector is doing a lot, but how do you redirect to better support young entrepreneurs? There is a lot of money out there. In Africa, there is more money than projects.

The project rejection rate is high because projects are not well packaged. No-one is assisting entrepreneurs to package projects in such a way that they can get funding. There is only a 7% acceptance rate for proposals; 93% are rejected. We need an institute to help to package projects, better.

African education needs to come into the 21st century. We need to allow students to do more critical thinking; they need to think independently. Entrepreneurship needs to come into the school curriculum a lot earlier.

Entrepreneurs create a thriving economy. We need to put our money where our mouth is.

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Carol has nineteen years’ experience as a professional writer, editor and case study writer. Her writing experience includes a stint as the resident Case Study Writer at the Wits Business School.