After a more than 20 hour flight, I and many other delegates touched down in the coastal city of Melbourne, Australia, to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC), which kicked off two days ago with a clarion call for ecosystem stakeholders to transform their world.
Opening the congress was Australia’s Minister of Industry and Science, Ed Husic, who thanked more than 1500 delegates from 123 countries for coming to the GEC. With more than 40 ministers in attendance, including South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development, the GEC continues to grow in leaps and bounds and is making a significant impact in the world.
According to the annual Global Start-up Ecosystem Report (GSER), which was published by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and Start-up Genome earlier this year, it reported a 43% increase in ecosystem value for Australia, amounting to $25 billion (R476bn), with Melbourne city rising six places in global rankings and recording 50% increase in start-up exits.
Minister Husic believes that a nation of entrepreneurs can make anything happen. He also highlighted the importance of supporting entrepreneurs and ensuring that the systems and mechanisms sustaining them are as effective as possible. Australia’s commitment to fostering innovation includes the allocation of funds to initiatives, such as the $392 million Industry Growth Programme and the $15bn National Reconstruction Fund.
These programmes focus on leveraging Australia’s strengths in areas like clean energy, robotics and medical science, among other advanced technologies.
I joined a panel at the opening plenary that focused on building healthier ecosystems, where I shared the work we have been doing over the past six years at 22 On Sloane. In this light, we have systematically looked at innovation and entrepreneurial assets in our ecosystem and how we have leveraged these assets to support the startups and SMMEs that we have worked with.
Jonathan Ortmans, who is the President of the GEN, said that since 2008, GEN’s aim was to unite the global ecosystem. He further added that, “At the time, the notion of uniting the ecosystems of 200 nations into one global system may have seemed naïve to most people. But with each avenue that GEN explored, we found like-minded allies who shared our audacity and vision for a world where entrepreneurship thrives in every community.
“Our belief was simple: that the raw talent and ingenuity present in Silicon Valley was no greater than the untapped potential of nascent ecosystems all around the world. The true gap between these sophisticated innovation-based economic powerhouses and the rest of the world was not genetic or unique to any single political model but instead the result of a unique cocktail of confidence and opportunity not yet available in large parts of the world. So, we set about a plan to change that”.
The past two days have been characterised by forging invaluable connections and been privy to many learnings, as well as gaining an understanding on what other stakeholders are doing in their ecosystems and what has worked and what hasn’t - and what lessons one can draw from it all. I am left totally inspired and looking very forward to the next two days of the congress.
To transform our world, we have to empower, connect and collaborate!!!
Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane, Africa’s largest startup campus; Co-chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.