Africa is on the move. The promise of peace and prosperity is dawning. The middle class is expanding and standards of living are improving for many. Africa’s enterprising leaders are studying the extraordinary growth of the “Asian Tigers” and the “BRIC” nations. They are asking the question, “Why not us?”
We believe that the creative power of entrepreneurship offers Africa the fastest and surest path to sustainable transformation. Individual liberty and competitive free markets under the rule of law can unleash the innate energy of the private sector to accomplish what governments cannot. And unlike charity and entitlement programs, profitable businesses are sustainable and offer people dignity.
To accelerate Africa’s private sector growth, three significant ideas should be promoted: attract foreign investment, educate entrepreneurs and implement sound policy.
First, most of the world still views Africa as a “basket case”. Reality changes, but perceptions linger. It is time for Africa to aggressively market a truer and more compelling reality:
Africa is the world’s last great economic frontier. It offers endless opportunities for entrepreneurs, corporations and investors.
Economic growth is a tide that lifts all boats and Africa offers investors growth rates far greater than the US and most developed and emerging countries. For bold players who want to catch the Africa wave, now is the time to start building networks, cultivating talent and learning the nuances of Africa’s varied marketplaces.
Second, for too long Africa’s best students have defined success as a college degree and a secure job in government or with an NGO. This mindset must change for Africa to prosper. Entrepreneurship must be elevated and business creation promoted. Africa’s next generation must be encouraged to see themselves as entrepreneurs and principled servant leaders – wealth creators rather than job seekers.
The best long-term investment a nation can make is to prepare the next generation for responsible citizenship and productive lives. Rigorous quality education, market-driven training and job opportunities are essential if Africa’s young people are to be equipped to compete in the global marketplace.
Finally, while business is the engine that drives long-term prosperity and stability, government leaders play a critical role in establishing the institutional environment and rule of law that allows entrepreneurship and private enterprise to take root and flourish. Nowhere has this truth been more clearly demonstrated than in the remarkable comeback of Rwanda.
From one of the world’s most failed states following the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has transformed itself into a model of reconciliation and free-market hope. Effective leadership implementing sound policy has made Rwanda one of the safest, least corrupt and fastest growing countries in Africa. If Rwanda can do it, anyone can.
There are 54 countries on the African continent and every one of them has the same opportunity. The “Asian Tigers” and “BRIC” have shown the world that extraordinary growth and national prosperity is possible. The 21st century will see the rise of the “African Lions” and marketing, entrepreneurship and leadership will define the winners.
Dale Dawson is Chairman of ISOKO Institute. An investment banker and entrepreneur, he serves on President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda Presidential Advisory Council and is founder and CEO of Bridge2Rwanda, a business development and training firm. Dale also serves on the board of Urwego Opportunity Bank of Rwanda.