Opinion: Entrepreneur-Led Development – A New Model for Africa
Monday, May 18, 2015
Too many policymakers think in terms of traditional aid when they think of support for Africa and the developing world. I think of Shadi Sabeh. Shadi is a young man from Sokoto in northern Nigeria – a region currently struggling with a lack of opportunity and economic engagement, especially for the youth. Shadi might well have become mired in frustration, but instead leveraged his entrepreneurial drive to start an education business in Sokoto that already employs over 100 people.
As the recipient of the Tony and Awele Elumelu Prize for Economics from Usman Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria, I took him with me this week as my guest to a White House event hosted by President Obama, and to a lecture I delivered on ‘Entrepreneur Led Development: A New Development Model for Africa’ at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. In so doing, he served as a model for the most promising approach for promoting growth in Africa and creating stability and security everywhere.
What Shadi’s story tells us is simple: Entrepreneurship is the most effective way to establish true prosperity. Only entrepreneurship can create sustainable wealth – the wealth that comes from employment and ownership, and that results in thriving markets and a healthy society.
Only entrepreneurship can create opportunity where none seemingly exists.
To understand why this is so critical, consider: By 2020, 122 million Africans will enter the labour force. The number of new jobs that must be created to accommodate this demographic explosion is enormous. Added to this are tens of millions currently unemployed or underemployed, making the human and economic consequences nearly too large to imagine if job creation is not seen as a priority.
This demographic explosion can spell an economic boom or doom for the continent. Traditional aid and traditional extraction focused investment cannot provide employment for the millions of young Africans entering the job market every year – any more than they can provide for the continent’s massive needs for reliable power generation, housing, transportation and financial services infrastructure. Entrepreneur-led job creation is necessary to overcome these challenges.