AfDB: awakening the entrepreneurial spirit in Africa
During the African Development Bank’s (AfDB), attendance of a webinar titled ‘Investing in Africa’s Future: Youth Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship’, the AfDB discussed the challenges faced by young entrepreneurs.
“Africa is young, and we need to do whatever it takes to empower our youth because they are the future of the continent,” commented Wambui Gichuri, the Bank’s Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development. “Entrepreneurship is an essential part in addressing Africa’s employment challenge and where we need to put our focus.”
With the population of African’s aged 18-35 expected to reach 830mn by 2050, experts predict this could fuel the continent’s long-term economic growth, but also create job-creation challenges.
The importance of entrepreneurships
“Africa is the epicenter for the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to come together and rethink and reimagine our commitment to young African entrepreneurs,” commentedIfeyinwa Ugochukwu, the Foundation’s CEO and panel moderator. “Investing in our future means awaking the entrepreneurial spirit of every young person on the continent.”
Since 2019, the Entrepreneurship Program - which provides job skills, mentoring and funding to African entrepreneurs - has been a part of a US$5mn partnership with the AfDB, providing seed capital for the initiative.
Among those that were on the panel included 22-year-old Leroy Mwasaru - founder of Greenpact, a Kenyan alternative renewable energy startup, and alumni of the Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Program. During the panel’s discussions, Mwasaru emphasised a desire to see greater communication and sharing of lessons learned among small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“The Bank’s investment enabled the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship program to scale up and reach an additional 1,000 entrepreneurs in 38 African countries,” commented Director Martha Phiri. “Let us give skills to our youth and also provide them with the necessary support to prove their business concepts, so that they can start, grow and scale their businesses in order to create jobs – not just for themselves, but for others.”
In addition to the seed funding provided by AfDB, it was also mentioned at the webinar, the AfDB’s commitment to mentoring and investing in opportunities for African youth working to develop the most promising solutions for COVID-19 related challenges. The bank is driving this through its ideathon.
Those that joined Gichuri, Phiri and Mwasaru on the panel included, Shoroke Zedan, Chairperson, World Skills Egypt; Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, Founder of Wecyclers Nigeria and Ebube Emodi, Tony Elumelu Foundation Events Manager and Executive Associate.
The overall message of the panel that coincided with International YOuth Day, included the call for greater support of youth entrepreneurship.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.