Making way for startups - supporting young entrepreneurs

04.02.2019 - Article

The magazine “akzente” by the German development agency GIZ gathered insights on the Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative “Make-IT in Africa” featuring the voices of young African experts.

Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu (41), appointed Chief Executive Officer at Tony Elumelu Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria.
Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu (41), appointed Chief Executive Officer at Tony Elumelu Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria.© Thomas Imo

Innovation is bubbling at the surface in digital hubs across West Africa as young entrepreneurs are determined to put technology at the forefront of development in the sub-Saharan region. To support startups designing these solutions GIZ launched Make-IT in Africa as a pilot project on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation. It also promotes the creation of sustainable business ecosystems for this new generation of entrepreneurs.

“We want to make Africa a land of opportunity.”

CEO Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu about the Tony Elumelu Foundation supporting young entrepreneurs:

“Thousands of young entrepreneurs in Africa are ready, enthusiastic and in need of support. Mr Elumelu was himself only 26 when he became a branch manager in the 1980s, which was unheard of in those days. He went on to become chairman of one of the biggest banks in Nigeria and he’s always felt that his boss’ willingness to give a young person a chance is what changed his life.

That’s what his foundation is all about – giving opportunities to the young by training, mentoring and funding aspiring entrepreneurs. In 2014 the foundation launched a new programme to support 10,000 young entrepreneurs across all 54 African countries and we’re already seeing the effect. In four years, we’ve trained 4,470 entrepreneurs and with GIZ’s support we’ve reached 210 this year that wouldn’t otherwise have been chosen. These people now have a chance to make their dreams a reality, transforming their own lives, as well as those of their families and communities.

Many have amazing ideas but the infrastructure is simply not in place to support them. Mr Elumelu has coined the term Africapitalism, a philosophy that places the economic transformation of Africa in the hands of the private sector, which wasn’t traditionally seen as a key stakeholder in healing the economic condition of the continent. Forging links between the private sector, the government and development organisations is the key to creating sustainable wealth and the more startups we can support, the greater the domino effect.

We’ve seen so many success stories, such as Mama Moni, a mobile money service that makes funds available to rural women at extremely low rates. It enables them to run small businesses and support their families. In the agriculture industry, young people are brimming with ideas to streamline the sector and dramatically improve efficiency, but they need help getting started. We want to make Africa a land of opportunity and building more partnerships with organisations like GIZ will help to make that a reality.”

Tunji Eleso (41), managing partner at Co-Creation Hub in Lagos, Nigeria.
Tunji Eleso (41), managing partner at Co-Creation Hub in Lagos, Nigeria.© Thomas Imo

“The next generation of African kids won’t just be consumers of technology, they can become its creators.”

Tunji Eleso on the idea behind Co-Creation Hub and the future of this platform promoting African Startups:

“When my colleagues Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe came up with the idea to start the hub in 2008, the thinking was pretty simple. Having lived abroad, we’d seen the way people address challenges together rather than waiting for the government.

We wanted to solve problems using technology and get solutions into the hands of the people. The hub supports startups at different stages of incubation, providing an open living lab where entrepreneurs can bring their ideas into being surrounded by the tools they need. GIZ has given us the opportunity to extend our support to startups we wouldn’t normally have had the capacity to work with, focusing on 13 promising young companies and nurturing them through an acceleration and mentorship programme to transform their enterprise into an investor-ready business.

A lot of these companies have since gone on to bigger things and are already bringing in revenue. It’s great to have access to GIZ’s expertise and combine this with our experience on the ground to add value to startups finding ways to address issues in health, agriculture, transport and finance, as well as new areas like fintech. There are a lot of hurdles out there for entrepreneurs and we’re trying to ensure that the ecosystem is strong enough to support them, whether that’s providing mentors, enabling access to market, finding funding opportunities or simply being able to connect with the right kind of partners.

When Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, came to Nigeria in 2016, the Co-Creation Hub was his first place he visited, which said a lot for the work we’ve done and the impact it’s had on society. It was a huge validation and reinforced our conviction that the next generation of African kids won’t just be consumers of technology, they can become its creators.”

© akzente

Top of page