Why the entrepreneurial society is dominating in Africa and what that means for the digital transformation
“What we need is an entrepreneurial society
in which innovation and entrepreneurship are
normal, steady, and continuous.”
Peter Drucker in “Innovation and Entrepreneurship”, 1984
“We have too few big employers here in Africa, therefore ambitious people have to create their own business”, says Gaidi Faraj, the Dean of the African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda. We were 14 German and Austrian executives on our Learning Journey to Digital Rwanda.
The African Leadership University was founded by the charismatic Ghanaian and ex-McKinsey employee Fred Swaniker. Today there are two branches, one in Mauritius and one in Kigali in Rwanda. In Kigali, 580 students can choose between the study fields Computer Science, International Trade, Global Challenges and Entrepreneurship.
Teaching is highly advanced. No ex-cathedra teaching, emphasis on self-research and group work, tutoring, intercultural teams, visualizations, complexity management, communication training and a lot of coaching and mentoring.
„Skills over theory“ is one of the principles. The focus is on finding effective solutions to African problems. And not on explanations or reasoning.
„Solving Africa’s problems means solving global problems“ …
… says the Dean in Kigali. Listing to that, we Europeans immediately think of less migrants pushing to Europe. But this interpretation is wrong (and that’s another topic).
Solving Africa’s problems today means solving fundamental problems digitally. Infrastructures and supply systems are far from fully developed in Africa. Here, digitalization comes in before solutions from the Western world are copied.
For example, off-grid solar systems replace a full-scale expansion of power grids or cargo-drones replace full-fledged road networks.
The informal economy generates almost half of the economic output in African countries. And it creates over 80% of jobs, estimates the International Labor Organization ILO. That is, street sales, transportation services, minor repairs, manufacture and sale of products and services in small and micro enterprises and similar activities generate the income for a large part of the population.
Therefore, a large part of Africans are busy day by day to safeguard the lives of their families in this way. They look for opportunities and customers and offer products and services for which someone is willing to pay. That’s market economy, that’s entrepreneurship.
Due to the large share of the informal economy, an entrepreneurial mindset is the norm, the “default” position of African societies.
That makes a big difference for the digital transformation.
Digital society means entrepreneurial society
In the industrial age engineers and technicians were the shaper of the future. In the “dark ages of financialization” (Nicolas Colin), it was the profit-maximizing finance managers. Today, in the age of digital transformation, it is the entrepreneurs.
African countries are better equipped for this entrepreneurial society than Europeans, because
- the African continent offers a huge space for innovation and modern entrepreneurship,
- the entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial societies are the norm,
- the new African middle-class today has full access to the global knowledge society.
It is also this access that gives rise to training institutions such as the African Leadership University. This, in turn, strengthens and consolidates the development of a modern entrepreneurial society in Africa.
Business in Africa, a one-day seminar on modern business models and agile methods