By Parminder Vir OBE
“Even in these uncertain times, some African SMEs are rising above the present challenges and forging new paths for their businesses. These entrepreneurs stand as beacon of hope and their voices need to be heard.”
The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought the world to a state of uncertainty. This uncertainty is wide-spread and the fear of the unknown has affected the global population in all the major facets of our lives — personal, social and business.
African SMEs and the African Entrepreneur Support Organisations are not spared from this uncertainty. Yet, there are those who have been able to rise about that fear. These are the African entrepreneurs and ecosystem players who have been able to face this crisis head on and develop strategies, and plan responses to mitigate the effect of this pandemic on their businesses and communities at large.
If you belong to this group of economic drivers, then this call is for you. In these times, a “voice of hope” is needed to break the stigma of fear and uncertainty and your experiences and stories can become that voice for the African entrepreneurship ecosystem. Here are some major reasons why your story needs to be heard in this hour.
Inform And Educate: There are entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship ecosystem players within your sector, immediate community and country who need to learn from your experiences. Given the unique nature of COVID-19, different sectors across different countries are handling the pandemic in different ways depending on the policies of each country. As such, there is no “one size fits all” solution to this health and economic crisis. This diversity of solutions makes your individual story extremely important for the entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship ecosystem players who operate within your sector and country as it will give them practical steps that are applicable to them and their unique needs.
Control the Narrative: As the African proverb says, “Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.” I have always believed that Africans are in the best position to tell the stories of the African entrepreneurship journey because they are the ones living it. It is this belief that spurred me to create audio stories (podcasts), entrepreneur stories (articles and interviews) and three documentaries during my five year stay in Lagos, Nigeria working as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The importance of African entrepreneurs taking control and shaping the narrative of African businesses in these times cannot be overemphasized. We need to make a decision on the type of message that we want to spread. Is it one of defeat and fear? Or are we going to come together to shine a light in these dark times?
Inspire Hope: Although hope is intangible, it is a valuable resource that is needed in these difficult times. As with most things, defeat starts in the mind before manifesting in the material world. For entrepreneurs, at the foundation of their enterprises — beyond the business plans, strategies, teams and projects — is the belief that they can. It is this belief that turns their business ideas into reality. Now, more than ever, these African SMEs need to believe again, and your stories
can help set them on the right path.
Call to Action
If you belong to this unique group of dynamic African entrepreneurs, I implore you to get in touch via the email addresses written below. I also encourage you to use the hashtag, #Support4AfricaSMEs and to share our articles and posts to be a part of this campaign. You can also find an aggregation of important resources here: http://www.support4africasmes.com/
Remember, you are a beacon of hope and your voice needs to be heard.
About Parminder Vir OBE
Parminder Vir OBE has dedicated herself to positively impacting and transforming lives through a professional career spanning 40 years in philanthropy, entrepreneurship, film and television production, arts and culture, and investment funding. She is the co-founder of the Support4AfricaSMEs campaign and The African Farmers Stories, launched in 2020. She served as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, based in Lagos, Nigeria from April 2014 to April 2019. Prior to joining the Foundation, Parminder has enjoyed a distinguished career as an awarding winning film and television producer and private equity investor in film and media.