My Experience as a Young Entrepreneur in Africa & Why You Should Invest in Young Africans

A technology scene is starting and you should be part of it. Here's why.  

Young, forward-thinking entrepreneurs such as myself have an opportunity and an obligation to advance economic and human development throughout Africa. Our continent is poised for great social and technological advances. These advances are dependent upon harnessing the continent’s immense economic potential. As business leaders, we can serve as catalysts for such change.   

Rwanda, my home country, can proudly proclaim its progress. As The Economist recently reported, “By almost all social and economic measures, Rwanda has proved to be the developing world’s shining star. Income per capita has doubled since 2000 and, unlike most other countries in the region, it has managed to grow quickly while also reducing inequality.”

This statement demonstrates why Rwanda was chosen to serve as host country for the World Economic Forum on Africa in May. Rwandans are grateful for this global validation of their good work. The World Economic Forum will provide the perfect opportunity for the country to shine under the international spotlight.

Today, Rwanda is a great place to do business. According to The Economist, “it has embraced economic policies that are friendly to investment, growth and trade with great vigor; it is rated by the World Bank as the easiest place in continental Africa to do business.” Following the Forum’s accurate presentation of her economic climate, Rwanda will grow further, as more investors recognize the country’s vast economic potential.

If I could ensure specific outcomes from the World Economic Forum in Rwanda, they would consist of showcasing my country’s stable security, its cleanliness, and its vibrant economic life. Most importantly, the event would serve to shine global attention upon the rise of young African entrepreneurs.

Africa remains a continent with limitless entrepreneurial potential. Our cities teem with ambitious, knowledgeable, and resourceful young adults who carry the analytical tools necessary- but too often lack- the opportunities to succeed.

As every successful entrepreneur will tell you, good ideas are the product of tough challenges. Therefore, innovative ideas are in plentiful supply across the continent. Nevertheless, the continent lacks both business incubators and access to affordable capital and entrepreneurial mentors necessary to instill proper business practices. Given Africa’s growing entrepreneurial ranks, this is a propitious moment for investors to supply the necessary mentoring and seed money to fill this cavernous gap.

It is vital that the global investment community supports startups in emerging markets. Africa is no different in this regard than the West. Startups are the economic heart and soul of any country. In the developing world especially, the goods and services that startups provide, and the wealth they create, serve as an essential bridge between rich and poor, fertilizing the green shoots of prosperity that eventually grow into a thriving middle class.

With about half of the continent’s population under 25 years old, Africa is poised to unleash a legion of young entrepreneurs. But, achieving that goal requires an acceleration of the continent’s economic engine. Acceleration will require several new components, of which the essential ingredient is technology. In Africa, as elsewhere, technology is the great equalizer, economically and socially.

Today, a growing number of Africans are building innovative technologies and businesses that are creating jobs while crucially helping to resolve longstanding socio-economic problems. Among the young entrepreneurs harnessing technology to improve lives are the owners of SafeMotos, which is an Uber-like model that hires licensed motorcycle drivers for transportation. With motorcycles being the primary mode of transportation, this provides a safe option that employs drivers who are ranked by customers according to their performance.

Like myself, these young African business leaders have a vision for propelling change on our continent. We know that being a successful role model is an important part of this process. While now a private investor, during both my academic education and my professional education in private equity and financial services, I benefitted immensely from exposure to thought-leaders and exceptional mentors. I strongly believe that anyone who has had the advantage of a great education and dedicated mentorship has a responsibility to share this knowledge with his or her peers. As the old adage goes, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Having developed an in-depth understanding of risk analysis, data reporting, and brand activation, my deepest interest now lies in technology and renewable energy. These components of a modern economy are unparalleled assets and, it is my sincere belief, major contributors to a better and a safer world.

As an advocate for education and healthcare as rights, rather than privileges, for all people, I recognize the essential role of economic development, fueled by technology and renewable energy, in providing African governments with the resources and tools to ensure a level and expanding playing field. Such an environment should reward innovative endeavor while providing the maximum opportunity for young entrepreneurs to follow in their role models’ groundbreaking footsteps.

Author: Ivan Kagame