As a global phenomenon, social entrepreneurship seeks to address social and environmental issues through innovative, sustainable business models. While the underlying principles remain consistent, the practice of social entrepreneurship can vary significantly between Africa and North America and Europe. Here are 4 key characteristics of social entrepreneurship in Africa that other regions can learn from:
1. Infrastructure variability: Issues that African-based social entrepreneurs face, tend to be far more systemic. Startups are required to account for a lot more variables, for example, logistic connectivity across undeveloped terrain, lack of internet or tech infrastructure, multiple language barriers, and political buy-in. European or North American countries aren’t without similar infrastructure issues, the difference is frequency. African startups have a higher aptitude for working around these variables and can act as case studies for other regions.
2. Good-enough mentality: Africa-based organisations tend to be highly frugal and resourceful, relying on a community-support landscape, and good-enough-for-now mentality. This can work really well, however, investors sometimes rely too much on this. This low-cost, community-driven characteristic means that these organisations are often building an expertise that is undervalued.
3. Everyone benefits: Social entrepreneurs in Africa tend to prioritise community engagement, job creation, and empowerment. They aim to uplift entire communities by addressing shared challenges collectively. Countries in North America and Europe tend to place greater emphasis on individual empowerment vs. supporting whole communities.
4. Inclusivity: From language barriers to cultural nuances, African social enterprises have to build inclusivity into any product or service, and understanding the values of their service-user base is not a nice-to-have, it is a necessary function that is so ubiquitous it is often invisible. Forget pop-up chat boxes, organisations are frequently using WhatsApp and other social platforms to communicate with service users in their mother tongues.
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Africa's entrepreneurial spirit has always been at the forefront of innovation, and the rise of tech startups is transforming the continent's economic landscape. Amidst the unemployment challenges, technology-driven ventures are emerging as a potent solution, providing job opportunities, driving economic growth, and empowering communities. It's important to note that solving unemployment in Africa requires a multi-faceted approach involving various stakeholders, including governments, educational institutions, and private sector organisations. However, tech startups' positive impact and potential for further growth make them a vital part of the solution, as they drive positive change, foster innovation, and create opportunities for individuals to thrive and contribute to their communities. In this blog post, we will explore the potential of tech startups to combat unemployment issues in Africa and highlight real-life examples of businesses leading the way.
The African Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA, brings together the fifty-five members of the African Union and eight Regional Economic Communities to form the world's largest free trade area. The main objective of the AfCFTA is to eliminate trade barriers and boost intra-Africa trade by creating a single continental market with a population of around 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of US$ 3.4 trillion.
Since 2012, when the AU Assembly of Heads of States and Government agreed on fast-tracking the AfCFTA to boost intra-Africa trade, fifty-five AU member states have signed the AfCTFA agreement as of March 2023. These latest figures make this the largest free trade area in the world based on the number of countries participating.
With a focus on boosting intra-regional trade in manufactured goods, the World Bank estimates that the AfCFTA should increase income across the continent by an additional $445 billion USD, or 7%, by 2035, lifting 40 million people from extreme poverty. The additional establishment of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System, or PAPSS, a technology that enables instant payments in local currencies, pushes to further ease the difficulties associated with intra-regional trade.
By removing tariffs and trade barriers, AfCFTA promotes intra-African trade, enabling tech startups to scale their operations and reach a broader customer base. Previously, startups faced significant challenges in expanding beyond their home countries due to cumbersome regulations, high import costs, and fragmented markets. However, with AfCFTA, African tech entrepreneurs can tap into a potential customer base of over 1.2 billion people, spurring innovation and growth across the continent.
Tech startups heavily rely on funding and investment to fuel their growth and development. AfCFTA is crucial in attracting new venture capital opportunities to the continent's tech sector. Eliminating trade barriers and creating a larger market incentivises international investors to explore African markets and invest in promising startups. Furthermore, AfCFTA encourages African governments to implement policies that foster entrepreneurship and innovation. Governments recognise the potential of tech startups in driving economic growth and creating employment opportunities. As a result, they are more inclined to provide financial support, tax incentives, and favourable regulations to nurture the tech ecosystem. This support allows startups to secure seed funding, venture capital, and other investment forms, providing the necessary resources to scale their businesses and develop groundbreaking technologies.
One of the significant advantages of AfCFTA for tech startups is the opportunity for knowledge sharing and capacity building. With increased collaboration and exchange of ideas across African countries, startups can learn from each other's experiences, share best practices, and access a broader talent pool. AfCFTA promotes the establishment of innovation hubs and technology parks, providing a platform for startups to interact, network, and learn from industry experts. These hubs become centres of excellence, offering mentorship programmes, workshops, and training sessions to help startups refine their skills, enhance their business acumen, and accelerate their growth. By fostering a culture of knowledge exchange and continuous learning, AfCFTA empowers African tech entrepreneurs to compete globally and create sustainable ventures.
Tech startups drive job creation and economic empowerment. AfCFTA is vital in amplifying these positive impacts by fostering an environment where startups can thrive and expand their operations. As tech startups grow, they require diverse talents to fuel their expansion plans. AfCFTA enables startups to access a larger talent pool, harnessing the skills and potential of individuals from various African countries.
The African Continental Free Trade Area has emerged as a game-changer for tech startups in Africa. AfCFTA creates an enabling environment for startups to grow, innovate, and compete globally by breaking trade barriers, fostering collaboration, and promoting access to funding and investment. The initiative is crucial in promoting racial justice and economic empowerment within Africa's tech ecosystem through knowledge sharing, capacity building, and job creation. As AfCFTA continues to gather momentum, it holds the potential to transform the continent's tech landscape and position Africa as a global hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on AfCFTA, how does it affect your startup? How are you affected by current trade restrictions? Are you optimistic about this or do you see too many potential set backs? Let us know [email protected].
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