Panel discussion with entrepreneurs at The Harambeans Global Summit in Franschhoek. Photo: Aaron Polikoff
Panel discussion with entrepreneurs at The Harambeans Global Summit in Franschhoek. Photo: Aaron Polikoff

New report sheds light on African entrepreneurship, innovation

By Sam Spiller Time of article published Mar 7, 2020

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Franceshoek - A new report from the Harambeans Entrepreneur Alliance aims to shed light on the state of African businesses and economies for potential investors.

The African Innovation Report was unveiled at the first Harambeans Global Summit in Franschhoek last week. The summit was attended by local entrepreneurs with the event serving as a chance to explore funding opportunities.

Since 2008, Harambeans has created over three thousand jobs on the African continent. The alliance is made of 300 members.

“We are in the process of creating a business, creating a series of businesses and platforms which we think will create sustainable value and make a significant and lasting generational contribution to Africa and hopefully beyond Africa as well,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer, whose Oppenheimer Generations Foundation partnered with Harambeans for the event.

Jonathan Oppenheimer and the Oppenheimer Generations Foundation partnered with Harambeans for the summit. Photo: Aaron Polikoff

The report uses several key statistics to describe the conditions start-up businesses are operating under in their respective countries. Statistics such as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which are listed as the strength of a local economy, are placed alongside indicators labelled as Strength of Innovation Environment, such as population access to electricity, internet penetration, and bank lending rates. 

The processes that start-up businesses need to follow to become registered and operational, as well as the ease of doing overall business, are also taken into account.

The statistics are then compiled into a graph that determines whether a country falls into one of four categories. The categories are Innovation Engineers, Autopilots, Rising Economies, and Fertile Grounds. According to the report, South Africa is one of the most advanced start-up ecosystems on the continent with eighty active technology hubs in the country since 2019. 

South Africa also falls into the Fertile Grounds category, meaning that it combines the strength of its local economy with a working environment that allows for business and technological innovation.

The report also identifies six African companies, not older than ten years, out of a pool of 210 that demonstrate economic sustainability and their growing contribution to their respective countries. The companies include Twiga Foods (Kenya), BRCK (Kenya), Yoco (South Africa), (Nigeria), LifeBank (Nigeria), and SPARK Schools (South Africa).

According to Yasmin Kuni, Harambeans member and chief executive of Africa Foresight Group who co-authored the report, the indicators used in the report are applicable to businesses in both formal and informal sectors, and that they emphasised on not solely focusing on formal start-ups. “We're trying to understand how different markets are performing in terms of building innovation ecosystems, and the criteria we use applies across the board,” she said. 

Even if you’re an informal business, access to electricity will matter to you. Even if you're an informal business, you would not be able to use technology or smartphones to do business if you don't have internet access.”

Kuni hopes that the report will become an annual publication. 

“Harambe is a network that has a global reputation. And as such, we have the opportunity to use different events as a platform to launch it. Our goal is to make sure that the report reaches policymakers. There's a lot in there that can help them to understand better how they can build innovation ecosystems.”


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