Expats won’t save Africa

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Think about a few successful African startups? Did any of these names come to mind? Flutterwave, Paystack, Jumia, mPharma, Andela. Some of these startups are unicorns, meaning they are valued at USD 1 billion or more.What is one thing they have in common? All of these companies have founders who, either are from outside of Africa or are African entrepreneurs who worked or studied outside the continent. These entrepreneurs have created amazing value with their companies, bringing attention to startups on the continent and contributing to the global shift to considering Africa as a potential future startup powerhouse and investment destination.

The success of these entrepreneurs has also played a role in investors and media paying more attention to startups with founders with certain profiles – expat founders as opposed to homegrown and local founders. Entrepreneurship is undoubtedly one of the keys to Africa’s development and transformation, a huge undertaking. There just are not enough expat entrepreneurs to unlock Africa’s potential. In order for entrepreneurship to fully become the transformative power it can be, millions of homegrown entrepreneurs need to be prioritized and trained and activated. Africa has the largest youth population when compared with any other continent in the world.  60% of its population is under the age of 25. This is an immense source from which will rise the millions of entrepreneurs Africa will need. The challenges that well-trained and supported local entrepreneurs can solve are endless. From high unemployment rates faced by young people to the poor energy access plaguing much of Africa, from weak health systems to inadequate adult literacy, the opportunities are pressing and solutions are needed now!

We alone are not the answer. We certainly need to be part of the solution.

One of the necessary changes that need to happen to activate this entrepreneurial force is to democratize entrepreneurship training that is worthy of 21st century demands. The reason expat entrepreneurs are successful is partly because they have access to entrepreneurial education. They also benefit from having been exposed to supportive and encouraging entrepreneurial cultures in places that reward risk taking such as the US and Europe. Local African entrepreneurs are just as talented but don’t have the right resources, competitive know-how, financial backing and conducive ecosystems. Most important is the knowledge, because it will help them succeed in the face of these very many challenges they will encounter when building businesses in Africa, and seek traction to attract investment.

Most successful entrepreneurs in Africa have come from privileged backgrounds whether financially, socially or access to the right type of education. We, the founders of LeanStart Africa are expat founders. We were born, raised in Africa and have been fortunate to study, learn and work in the US and Europe. However, we understand that we, alone, are not the answer. We certainly need to be part of the solution, which inspired us to start our company, but the potential of entrepreneurship in Africa lies in the millions of future successful founders on the continent. Ensuring that local African entrepreneurs have the tools, training and ecosystems they need to thrive requires making business education accessible to everyone, everywhere in Africa. LeanStart Africa is built to do just that while creating a borderless ecosystem in which expats with valuable experience can also be part of this revolution.


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