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Does entrepreneurship have a ‘branding’ problem in Africa?

By Daniel Mpala

Junior Achievement CEO Elizabeth Bintliff, who was one of the speakers at last month’s Very Young Entrepreneur Education & Acceleration Summit in Johannesburg, thinks entrepreneurship in Africa has a “branding” problem.

“I spend a lot of time with young people and when I ask them who they aspire to be or which entrepreneurs they look up to, they predominantly will name Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson and very few of them can even name Aliko Dangote, Strive Masiyiwa… you know, an African entrepreneur,” says Bintliff (pictured above).

“So, I think that that’s a problem. I mean [many don’t] even recognise somebody in their neighbourhood who is solving a problem or running a business as an entrepreneur,” she adds.

Part of the problem could be, as Bintliff points out, that the vast majority of parents in Africa still want their children to pursue a “more traditional” route.

“Parents want to be able to tell their friends at church what it is that their child does; they want to be able to narrate their credentials.

“That’s very important and I think that’s part of the reason why entrepreneurship is having a difficult time catching on as mainstream. It’s because we don’t have the same kind of credentialing (sic) system as we do in formal education,” she says.

Another speaker at the summit, The African Network of Entrepreneurs founder and CEO Ekow Mensah believes it’s important to tell success stories and then back these up with numbers.

Part of the problem, he says, could be lack of transparency among African entrepreneurs about their businesses, compared to business people in the West.

“In Africa if you ask somebody who is into business their numbers, they either get offended or they think you work for government or something. Nobody is willing, you know, and when you compare to the Western world and everything, people are talking about entrepreneurship in numbers,” says Mensah.

Perhaps the time has come for a rebranding of African entrepreneurship.

Featured image: Junior Achievement CEO Elizabeth Bintliff (Photo credit: Mfundo Mbanze)

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