AfriLabs Capacity Building Needs Assessment


Our analysis shows that ESOs, entrepreneurs, and investors needs are focused on skills development, mentorship & coaching support, and sustainability. The current state shows that conditions for ESOs and entrepreneurs to grow and prosper are considerably less enabling due to: business skills gaps that limit their ability to build a solid foundation for their business; the right mentoring and coaching required to guide them in their ventures; and financial barriers that prevent entrepreneurs and ESOs from sustainability and growth. While there is a lot of enthusiasm and commitment by most teams operating ESOs, they do not have the full range of skills required to effectively support entrepreneurs. The empirical literature on entrepreneurship has provided ample evidence about the existence of a significant, robust, and causal relationship between entrepreneurial skills and business perfor- mance. The reasoning underpinning this finding is that the more skilled and experienced the entrepreneurs, the more successful they are in running successful and sustainable firms. The content of skills training should cater to both female and male entrepreneurs. Additionally, any skills development programs need to be carefully designed and well-targeted to consider the skill spectrum among ESOs and entrepreneurs. Focus groups show that the skills development needs are more pronounced in the central African region, as most ESOs confirmed that they lack skills in business and partnership development for hub programs. In addition, given the low participation of female entrepreneurs, tailored approaches are usually better-equipped to respond to the needs of female-operated businesses, and need to use delivery methods that are more effective for female entrepreneurs such as the use of female coaches/mentors. Leveraging on peer-learning to help participants learn with similarly ambitious female entrepreneurs has worked in Southern, East, West and North Africa and could be replicated in Central Africa. Mentorship and coaching also play an integral part in creating and building ESOs and entrepreneurs. These are needs that have been clearly expressed by ESOs and entrepreneurs. Mentoring and coaching support to ESOs and entrepreneurs requires an approach that integrates strategies to promote the sector-specific focus and enterprise development with well targeted instruments that conform to the needs of female entrepreneurs. Emerging practices in Africa include the establishment of mentoring relationships between experienced (such as investors) and novice entrepreneurs. These relationships can increase awareness of entrepreneurship, help with developing entrepreneurial attitudes and provide support and encouragement during business creation and development. The key to a successful mentoring relationship is the quality of the match between the novice entrepreneur (i.e. mentee) and the experienced entrepreneur (i.e. mentor). Past experiences show that mentoring tends to be very effective, provided that the match between the mentor and the mentee is appropriate, since tailored, individual support is given. As far as women are concerned, tailored business advice through women’s enterprise/entrepreneurship is important. This is a long-established model in many West and East African countries for better serving the advisory and counselling needs of female entrepreneurs, both helping them to overco- me the challenges of starting a new business and their obstacles towards sustainability and growth. Another approach is the use of role models. Role models have demonstrated an ability to impact an individual’s entrepreneurial propensity, especially through direct interactions. Achieving sustainability is a major and common challenge among ESOs and entrepreneurs. Focus groups indicate that the majority of ESOs and entrepreneurs have limited revenue streams to grow and maintain their businesses. While this is common to both men and women across Africa, in many cases this is more significant for female entrepreneurs due to biased economic systems in which women are sidelined in society. In addition, our findings show that early-stage entrepreneurs struggle to move from ‘idea’ to ‘real products’ as they do not have the right technical expertise to develop sellable products. These are some barriers that are hindering the development of sustainable ESOs and entrepreneurs’ businesses. To resolve financial related challenges, the most used instruments are grants. The typical grant schemes use some form of selection mechanism (e.g. an application, business plan or idea competition) to select ESOs and entrepreneurs with a reasonable chance of success. More recently we have observed the emergence of venture capitals with keen interest in investing into startups and ESOs.

From these insights, we have highlighted key recommendations to form the basis for the design of capacity building activities for both ESOs and entrepreneurs.



Trends and insights from ESOs, entrepreneurs, and investors

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