Track Session 1.3 Mass entrepreneurship as fuelling engines for job creation
Track Session 1.3
Mass entrepreneurship as fuelling engines for job creation
- Somachi CHRIS-ASOLUKA Chief Executive Officer, The Tony Elumelu Foundation
- Ferro FERIZKA Executive Director, Pijar Foundation
- Nisa LEUNG Managing Partner, Qiming Venture Partners
- Mekin MAHESHWARI Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Udhyam Learning Foundation
This discussion was powered by a diverse panel converging perspectives from Africa, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and India. Mrs Somachi Chris-Asoluka, Chief Executive Officer of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, opened the conversation by remarking on the need for localised models for entrepreneurship (e.g., small businesses) that break the mould set by Silicon Valley start-ups.
Reflecting on the African context, Mrs Chris-Asoluka shared how fuelling local mass entrepreneurship not only enriches livelihoods for entrepreneurs but is also a pathway to job creation, especially in less-developed labour markets saying, “We need to change mindsets so that people go from being job takers to job makers”. Mr Ferro Ferizka, Executive Director of Pijar Foundation, distilled the three ingredients required to make these local entrepreneurship models work: education, exposure, and connections, with all panellists noting the importance of education as a foundation-setting enabler.
Seconding the reflections shared by Mr Mekin Maheshwari, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Udhyam Learning Foundation, on his organisation’s work with high school students in India, Ms Nisa Leung, Managing Partner of Qiming Venture Partners, reiterated that it is no longer sufficient to develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets in university age students. Rather, these skills must be built as early as middle or high school. This can help instil the core values and skills for successful entrepreneurs: strong ethics, an ability to identify and articulate a compelling vision, and ultimately build, collectivise, and develop a team around that vision.
The enabling environment for developing mass entrepreneurs is richer than ever before. For example, Mr Ferizka noted that the democratisation of technology gives entrepreneurs a new set of tools for establishing and scaling their businesses. Mrs Chris-Asoluka echoed the richness of investment opportunities in these markets – illustrating the high returns that African businesses offer.
Panellists offered varying points of view in their responses around the role of philanthropic and public grants versus commercial capital. For example, while Ms Leung felt that ultimately good companies do not need grant funding, Mr Maheshwari held the view that catalytic grant capital is often needed to help entrepreneurs get a start – e.g., to hire an initial employee, rent office space, or make similar investments that make them appear more “investable” to commercial capital. Mr Ferizka explained how philanthropy needs to play a more permanent role and work with the government and not just participate with an intervention-centric approach. Mrs Chris-Asoluka also echoed the need for collaboration across private, public, and philanthropic sectors.