The startup ecosystem worldwide has been on a rapid upward trajectory over the years, and with no signs of slowing down. There is no shortage of brilliant brains around the world to not only ideate, but also bring these ideas to life. Likewise, there is no shortage of issues in society that can benefit from new innovations and ideas.
Africa has not been left behind in startup growth, with a number of advantages to attribute that to. One, we have a large percentage of young population who have the creativity, energy and drive to work. We also have access to increasingly good technology which is a key player in any venture in the current world. Then, there are support organizations that play a crucial role in helping startups come to fruition, and others who are ready and willing to invest in these startups.
Not to say that there are no challenges. These are many and varied, and we can only highlight a few in this article.
The startup atmosphere is fiercely competitive, and this is a real challenge for innovators who do not have resources in time, funding, and mentorship. What is the value of mentorship to startup? I’d say it is absolutely priceless. The business and career world can look quite menacing to a new entrant, and even to seasoned and semi seasoned players since there is never really an end to challenges. Many people with brilliant ideas peer in, give it a few pokes, get scared and just coil back. Without the right support, some of these ideas regrettably die, whereas a tip here and a guideline there would have saved the day and made a difference in that person’s life as well as in the wider economy. Money is also a crucial pillar in startup success.
Startups are also facing unmanaged expectations. Nothing wrong with dreaming big but the risk of being over ambitious is real. Failure to meet unrealistic self-imposed goals often sends innovators into disillusionment and lack of drive to move forward after a stumble. But with guidance and mentorship, being realizing big dreams is not impossible.
Startups, especially those without investors and funding, will almost always have low budgets for staff. Innovators therefore find themselves hiring friends and relatives based on their willingness to work for free or for very little, because professional staff budgets are out of reach. Also along the lines of money, most startups do not have knowhow on financial management and yet this is one of the most important pillars for success.
It takes quite a lot of hard work for new businesses to win the trust of customers for their products and/or services.
These challenges are just a few examples across board, but women often face additional challenges unique to them. One of the biggest problems that women are facing is lack of access to funding. You find that the low rate of financial access for women is their key constraint because without financing, not much else can move. Women in Kenya for instance only have 9% of the available credit despite the fact that they run nearly half of the startup space.
Other than that, and despite big leaps in empowerment, women still fine themselves working against societal expectations. In male dominated startup fields, women are still struggling to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts. This does not stop at just being a little inconvenience here and there, but goes on to affect core working principals in business.
It is also a fact that many women are still tied down domestically and therefore sometimes struggle to dedicate enough time their startups.
But among all these challenges for both men and women, there is help in the form of support organizations and startup accelerators who help nurture them to fruition.
‘Empowering the Startup Community’ for instance is a two day workshop that was held this past Thursday and Friday by Pangea Accelerator in partnership with Garage48. The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation Fund supported the workshop which brought together representatives from different countries in the continent to look at solutions for challenges that plague the space. The representatives were drawn from incubation hub, accelerator firms and other organizations from among other countries Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia and Tanzania.
The workshop whose aim is to bring fresh innovative solutions by integrating IT skills to different industries is certainly a step in the right direction and we laud the organizers and facilitators.