Business
Africa must back entrepreneurs - Omidyar Network
Publish Date: Apr 14, 2014
Africa must back entrepreneurs - Omidyar Network
Billionaire Pierre Omidyar and founder of eBay
  • mail
  • img
newvision

DAKAR - Entrepreneurs are central to bridging Africa's widening inequality gap but most governments on the continent are not doing enough to help them, the regional head of billionaire Pierre Omidyar's philanthropic arm said.

The Omidyar Network, set up by the founder of eBay and his wife, works through grants and equity investments to maximise the social impact of organisations in sectors like technology, entrepreneurship and government transparency.

It opened an office in Africa last year and has spent $50 million on the continent since 2008, a figure that will rise by $15-20 million a year from 2016, said Malik Fal, managing director of the network in Africa.

Africa's poor were failing to reap the benefits of an economic growth rate of around 5 percent, Fal said.

"South Africa is now the most unequal country in the world. We are seeing this inequality spreading across the continent," Fal told a Reuters Africa Summit.

"That speaks directly to our efforts in entrepreneurship because small businesses are the largest creators of employment."

The Omidyar Network provides grants and investments of up to $4 million. Its entrepreneurship initiative focuses on issues ranging from access to capital to legislation and changing attitudes to failure in countries.

Rankings like the World Bank's Doing Business index have led to African governments paying "lip service" to improving the environment for entrepreneurs, Fal said: "There's a willingness from governments but the execution ... is sometimes lacking."

He identified Kenya and Nigeria as exciting prospects and said Rwanda had achieved a lot despite its meagre size and troubled history. Technology, agriculture and clean energy were sectors presenting some of the best opportunities, he added.

But in most parts of the continent, Africans became entrepreneurs just as a means of survival, rather than because there were specific opportunities to exploit.

In many African countries there was a "cacophony" of policies that were not properly thought out and or in line with their needs.

In a bid to meet U.N. Millennium Development Goals over access to primary education, governments had built schools without providing teachers, administrators or a curriculum.

"You have many countries in Africa, including South Africa, where you have schools sitting idle," he said.

Fal said while nations were trying to be the next Silicon Valley, they needed to think more about what kinds of businesses their economy really needed. "It is very local. It is not even about countries but regions within countries," he said.

Another priority for Omidyar Network is helping people use technology to improve the transparency of governments.

In Nigeria, it supports Sahara Reporters, a citizen media website that encourages people to publish evidence of corruption and other abuses. It also supports the XYZ Show in Kenya, a satirical television show similar to Britain's "Spitting Image".

Omidyar is carrying out a survey of public service delivery in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania.

"In Africa, I don't think we have yet understood the difference between the public service and the government ... We need to uncouple that discussion," Fal said.

Reuters

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
World markets plunge on fears of weaker global growth
World stock markets plunged further on Tuesday as more gloomy evidence emerged of China''s economic slowdown, triggering heavy sell-offs from Hong Kong to New York and raising fears of weakening global growth....
Consider solar more as alternative power source- Eskom boss
The new head of power generating firm, Eskom has advised Uganda to explore its solar potential seriously as an alternative to the hydropower to increase electricity reach....
Top Ugandan executives to woo investors at UNAA meet in Louisiana
Top executives of major government agencies are heading to the 27th Annual Uganda North American Association (UNAA) Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana to address the Ugandan Diaspora community....
NARO launches modern agricultural practices campaign in schools
The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) has launched its campaigns for sustainable modern agricultural practices in rural schools to ensure quick dissemination of the new farming technologies already invented, for increased quality and quantity of farm produce, job creation, food sec...
Inflation drops to 4.8%
Data from the statistics house shows that average annual headline inflation has reduced by 0.6 percentage points to 4.8% in August due to lower food, fuel, energy and utility prices...
Farmers to cut cocoa for food crops
The Rwenzori Diocese Bishop, Rt. Rev. Reuben Kisembo, has told farmers in Bundibugyo to cut down some of the cocoa trees to create more space for food production or else people are likely to be affected by hunger...
Are poor parliamentary debates a result of removal of school debates?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter