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
Look out for opportunities, Museveni tells youth
President Museveni calls Ugandan youth to have initiative and also take advantage of the available opportunities in the various sectors of the economy....
Mbale Municipality closes over 50 sub-standard schools
Mbale Municipality on Thursday closed over 50 schools for operating below the minimum required standards...
President should address UNATU, ministry feud over SACCO money
The National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) has called for the president’s intervention in the ongoing standoff between the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) and the ministry of education over shs25b meant for teachers’ SACCOs...
Security to be improved at Entebbe International Airport
By Billy Rwothungeyo Why do you have to hop out of your car to have a hand metal detector pressed against your body just before entering Entebbe International Airport? Why should you not drive through hustle free straight to the departures gate at Entebbe?...
National Water, Entebbe Municipality scoop procurement award
National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and Entebbe Municipal Council have been recognized as the most efficient Public Procuring and Disposing Entities (PDEs) of the 2013/2014 financial year....
Yiiya Ssente forum: Past participants to share testimonies
The Yiiya Ssente business forum is on today at Kololo Airstrip....
Do you think government is doing enough to contain the typhoid out break?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter