Africa's entrepreneurs on the rise
Africa is booming with young entrepreneurs, but they don't always operate like their counterparts in the US.
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“It’s an open question,” acknowledges David Wheeler, Dean of the Plymouth University Business School in England, “whether what happens in a Western business school has any effect on what happens in South Sudan or Kenya or Tanzania.”
“You can’t just try to replicate what’s happening in one region,” agrees Grandinetti. “There’s so much localization required. Every region needs to be clear on what its strengths are.”
Henrietta Onwuegbuzie is on the faculty at the Lagos Business School in Nigeria. She says entrepreneurship is “intrinsic to African culture.” But she’s also worried about the cultural gap between the West and her home. Because of her Western education, she says, “I have begun to feel like a foreigner in my own country.” She stresses the importance of cooperating with African entrepreneurs and learning from them, rather than just mouthing Western management buzzwords.
“Some solutions are African,” argues Honig. “Some are ours. Some African solutions may even work here . . . we can’t say any longer: We’re doing it here, so you should be doing it there.”
One way business may differ for entrepreneurs in the developing economies of Africa: an expectation that they behave with social responsibility.
“The old Western model of divide and conquer and exploit is not acceptable anymore,” Honig says. “We have a responsibility in the globalized world. We’re no longer capable of saying, ‘We don’t care what happens over there.’ ”
Grandinetti points to the work of Jessica Matthews, an entrepreneur and Harvard graduate who has guest lectured to his students at Hult. Matthews, a Nigerian-American, helped found a start-up called Uncharted Play, which has developed the Soccket, a soccer ball that’s also a portable generator.
Grandinetti says that’s just one example of how young entrepreneurs can change lives in resource-poor communities around the world.
“We’re starting to see every corner of the earth embrace entrepreneurship,” he says. “Not just for profit, but for social good.”
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