Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
PRIOR to the announcement of the 2018 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEF) entrepreneurs, I was very sure that more Zambians would be selected.
But when the selection was announced, it turned out that only 22 Zambian entrepreneurs will be part of the 1,250 2018 cohorts.
The 1,250 entrepreneurs were chosen from more than 150,000 applications received from 114 countries.
The cohort includes an additional 250 entrepreneurs to the standard selection of 1,000, thanks to a US$1 million partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to support 200 entrepreneurs in conflict and fragile zones of Nigeria, a US$200,000 agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support 40 pan-African entrepreneurs, and a US$50,000 partnership with Indorama to support 10 Nigerians.
Agriculture was the leading sector among selected entrepreneurs at 30.5 percent, followed by technology (10.5 percent) and education and training (nine percent).
There was a near 50-50 split between male and female applications, reflecting the entrepreneurial ambition of Africa’s women.
That last year only 21 Zambians qualified means that we have gone up by one for the start-up recipients to make the fourth cycle of the TEF’s 10-year, US$100 million entrepreneurship programme makes sad reading.
This should worry the country because it means that participation by Zambian entrepreneurs remains low.
The TEF, a brainchild of Tony Elumelu, chairperson of the UBA Group, has created over 55,000 jobs since the programme started.
Over the next nine months, the selected entrepreneurs will receive online training and mentoring, and will use the skills acquired to develop business plans prior to receiving US$5,000 (about K50,000) in seed capital.
This will bring the TEF’s total programme investment so far to US$15 million in direct funding to entrepreneurs and US$5.8 million in programme and technology development and operations.
The successful applicants will in October this year convene in Lagos, Nigeria, for the TEF forum – the largest gathering of African entrepreneurs in the world.
While the selection may be water under the bridge, UBA Zambia should be concerned about the low number of applications from local entrepreneurs.
UBA management should start working on several initiatives to excite Zambian entrepreneurs to be applying for TEF – despite selection not being easy.
I am aware that this year, UBA Zambia partnered with BongoHive to encourage and answer questions from prospective applicants.
There is need for sensitisation to be enhanced about the event.
UBA Zambia should utilise platforms such as the Zambia International Trade Fair in Ndola and the Agricultural and Commercial Show in Lusaka and a host of other forums.
Zambia is in a hurry to develop and economic diversification is one of the strategies.
Entrepreneurs are expected to play a role in economic diversification by penetrating sectors such as agriculture, technology and education and training.
That is why Nigerian philanthropist Elumelu has created a fund to support small and medium enterprises in Africa to operate effectively and help them grow.
Through this way, the African countries’ economies will improve greatly.
Zambia has instruments such as the youth empowerment fund, the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission, and the women’s empowerment fund, among others.
While the local empowerment funds are loans, which have to be paid back, TEF is a grant, a gift to the deserving selected entrepreneurs.
However, the low number of Zambians applying for opportunities such as TEF explains why Zambia’s entrepreneurial base is extremely low compared to countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
Entrepreneurial base relates to available skills in appropriate sectors from which ventures are born. Zimbabwe and Uganda currently have the most elaborate skills in craftsmanship or artisanship which anchor entrepreneurial development.
Skills range from carpentry to fish farming.
Uganda and Zimbabwe have hundreds of thousands of school-leavers well mentored and trained in various skills such that upon graduation, they are ready to venture in business.
In these countries, the uptake in financing opportunities is nearly 100 percent. In South Africa, the Ministry of Commerce, in conjunction with large multinationals, has created another important middleman in the development of local entrepreneurs – the match-maker.
The match-makers play a very crucial role in helping entrepreneurs determine the most appropriate financing vehicle for a given kind of business, finding an off-taker (the buyer of the product) and also determining quality assurance.
Zambia has the environment which offers a comprehensive supportive structure for entrepreneurs and therefore the loan uptake, including applying for TEF, should be very high.
For instance, the African Development Bank (AfDB), in conjunction with Government, has come up with a skills development programme for entrepreneurship.
This project works to strengthen both the demand and supply side of labour market systems through strategies that strengthen the employability of young people and those that strengthen their capacity to engage in entreprenuerial activities.
It is primarily focused on promoting an integrated, multi-sectoral and multi-discipline that involves all key partners, including Government, private sector and non-state actors.
Economist Chibamba Kanyama suggests that as much as many are actually applying for these funds, they get rejected for lack of innovative ideas anchored on knowledge, exposure and skill.
The AfDB should consider working with the Ministry of Higher Education, whose institutions of higher learning are administering the skills development programmes for entrepreneurship.
UBA Zambia should also consider hiring deejays to be talking about TEF on air and having people like Mr Kanyama as brand ambassadors.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO