By staff reporter

The African Development Bank has published a white paper on Entrepreneurship and Free Tradethat makes a case for entrepreneurs and innovation as vital drivers of resilience and emergency preparedness across Africa.

The white paper, titled Towards a New Narrative of Building Resilience and released in September 2021, places the private sector—particularly technology and knowledge-based entrepreneurs—at the heart of the continent’s security, sustainable development and future growth. It is a follow-up to an earlier volume, Africa’s Catalysts for a New Era of Economic Prosperity, released in June 2021.

The launch of the white paper coincides with the Bank’s Africa Resilience Forum scheduled for 28-30 September 2021. The paper’s findings provide relevant context for Day 3 of the Forum when leading venture capitalists, policy makers, researchers and international development organizations will discuss how to unleash the potential of entrepreneurship and the AfCFTA to build a resilient and prosperous continent.

Dr. Khaled Sherif, the Bank’s Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery said, “entrepreneurs are instrumental to addressing the continent’s economic, social and environmental concerns. We must provide them with the necessary encouragement and support—the future depends on it.”

The white paper notes that African entrepreneurs have driven numerous advancements already, including widening access to information and services, bridging rural-urban divides, and expanding mobile phone-based payment and remittance systems that enable more inclusive finance.

The paper advocates the set-up of a comprehensive ecosystem offering Africa’s entrepreneurs technical, financial and networking support. Specific recommendations include boosting available venture capital, creating more accelerator hubs, promoting greater R&D through data-sharing platforms, and supporting broad-based education and skills development for the digital age.

In following these steps, the paper advises emphasizing gender equality and the needs of youth to enhance opportunity and productivity.  

Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem would spur knock-on effects, such as aiding governments’ ability to stimulate private sector development and expanding the formal tax base.  .

The emphasis on enhanced value-added across sectors, regional value chains, and entrepreneurship clusters also complements the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which came into force in January 2021.

Supporting entrepreneurs would bring vast benefits for the wider society. These include greater availability of public goods like waste management in the production of biogas, app-based delivery of e-government services, and expanded access to skills training and infrastructure, including for the poorest and most vulnerable, all of which would reduce fragility.

The African Development Bank has rolled out several initiatives to support entrepreneurship in Africa. These include its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab and the Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-Donor Trust Fund. The Bank is also a champion of the Africa Investment Forum, which is accelerating closure of the continent’s investment gaps. More recent efforts have focused on Youth Entrepreneur Investment Banks to help finance sustainable startups.

Through its memberships in the Alliance for Entrepreneurship in Africa, launched in May 2021, and the G20 Global Compact with Africa, the Bank is advancing the interests of African entrepreneurs and governments.

Click here to read “Entrepreneurship and Free Trade: Towards a New Narrative of Building Resilience.