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The booklet premiered at the Open Innovation Africa Summit in Kenya this past November and gives insight into what it means to be an entrepreneur in Africa. It was created with the support of infoDev, the World Bank Group, and the African Incubation Network (AIN). For this publication, infoDev team members spoke with entrepreneurs from its African Incubation Network (AIN) in Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa to gather information on how incubation centers have supported African SMEs and the ways in which these businesses continue to change the African economic landscape.
While entrepreneurs encounter country specific barriers, this booklet illuminates some of the universal motivations and obstacles encountered by African entrepreneurs. For example, access to finance and infrastructure remain two of the largest barriers for would-be entrepreneurs. In this respect, incubation centers can provide significant assistance. According to Emmanuel of Step Technologies in Accra, Ghana, “I don’t think I could have started such a business right after university graduation if it had not been for the incubation center.” His automated security solutions and security & IT consultancy company began as an incubatee of the Ghana Multimedia Incubation Center (GMIC) and benefitted from using the Center as a base of operations with already established business partners and research.
Mebtu and Adnew of Luwa Microsystems Solutions (Hawassa, Ethiopia)
The entrepreneurs interviewed all emphasized the importance of working in sectors and focusing on projects that they find personally fulfilling. Mebtu Abebe and Adnew Abebe echoed this sentiment when discussing their experience starting their company, Luwa Microsystems Solutions in Hawassa, Ethiopia. “We started our own company to get freedom,” said the founders, “to work when we want to and be able to focus on the work we really desire to do.”
While these SMEs hope to produce on a large scale, during the interviews many of the founders emphasized the importance of person-to-person interaction. Not losing sight of the customer and providing world class, personalized service are the explicit goals of many of these entrepreneurs. According to Gbonju Awojuyigble, the founder of Wandy Foods in Lagos, Nigeria, “Once you have become a customer, nobody can steal you from me.”
Employee at Wandy Foods (Lagos, Nigeria)
Incubatees around the world assume a large risk when they start a business. They risk public failure, losing capital, and sometimes stand in contrast to social mores. By providing mentorship, infrastructure, and start-up capital, infoDev’s incubation centers can help make the dream of owning a successful and sustainable business possible.
infoDev’s business incubation journey began nine years ago. Today, infoDev’s incubation network includes over 300 business incubators in over 85 developing countries. The African Incubation Network (AIN) alone is comprised of over 40 incubators in over 20 countries.