The role of entrepreneurs and grassroots innovation in building sustainable African economies has been dominating discussions within the technology and telecoms spheres in recent months. This was no more apparent than in the LeadersIn Africa keynote addresses and panel discussions at AfricaCom 2016.
Following their respective keynote addresses, AfricaCom sat down with two of the most influential and inspiring business women on the continent to talk about entrepreneurship and the African startup ecosystem.
Here is a snapshot look at the Q&A with pioneering businesswoman, philanthropist and entrepreneur Bisila Bokoko and mountaineer, entrepreneur and educator Deshun Deysel:
Why is entrepreneurship so important in Africa?
"We can be so agile on this continent because a lot of the legacy infrastructure that is preventing others from innovating does not exist in Africa"
"It's important everywhere but in Africa more, so as we are trying to develop ourselves, to have a sustainable economy, we have to be entrepreneurs. As we face the fourth industrial revolution in Africa, I believe our economy needs to be based on entrepreneurship and innovation, not be a raw material-driven one as it has been in the past."
"There is no better time to be alive in Africa than right now, we live in a really exciting time. We can be so agile on this continent because a lot of the legacy infrastructure that is preventing others from innovating does not exist in Africa, so we have the opportunity to leapfrog a lot of the limitations that the developed world might have coming up with new technology and innovations. I think the more we can communicate to entrepreneurs that they should just try things… it's not about funding, it's about ideas, it's about testing ideas before the funding models even start emerging. It's about taking risks."
In the area of female empowerment, are women entrepreneurs pushing themselves too much in Africa?
"We are a product of what we think, we really need to change our mind-set"
"We aren't pushing ourselves enough, I think there is a lot of room for improvement. I think we are a product of what we think, so until we change our mindset it is very difficult for women to really shine. We have self-confidence restraints in being able to sell ourselves -- we aren't marketing-orientated. In order to achieve anything in life, you have to really be able to sell yourself."
What kinds of trends are you seeing in startups?
"The whole world will eventually utilise tech to foster more sustainable businesses"
"What I'm noticing in entrepreneurship, for instance, is that women are drawn to startups around fashion, cosmetics, catering, event management -- things that have an inherent social aspect to them. But here's the thing: Women don't have to be tech entrepreneurs -- if you have a fashion business, find a way for that company to incorporate something technology-based, where you innovate through technology in your business. After all, the whole world will eventually utilise tech to foster more sustainable businesses."
What more can be done to rev up the startup ecosystem?
"We need to see more public-private partnerships to work together"
"We need more involvement from the private sector, it's not something just for the public sector. I think that the public sector initiatives are great but I think we need to see more public-private partnerships to work together. Sometimes the public sector has a hard time comprehending the needs of entrepreneurs and I think working together they can overcome this. We should also encourage the dialogue between startups."
Watch the full Q&A here:
If you're interested in socioeconomic empowerment through African innovation, why not learn from, and engage with, the architects at the forefront of digital Africa at one of the Connecting Africa series of events?