Innovation and entrepreneurship are the prerequisite to Africa’s economic revival, and the millennials is the generation that will put the continent on a new growth trajectory.
This is the word from MTN CEO Mteto Nyati, speaking at the DEMO Africa conference held in Johannesburg. DEMO Africa is an annual Pan-African conference that provides a platform for African technology start-ups to pitch their ideas to both local and international investors in a bid to secure funding. In 2015 DEMO Africa participants raised $4-million in funding.
Nyati says that, while many countries in Europe are grappling with challenges posed by an ageing population, Africa is in a fortunate position to have population demographics where the bulk of the population is under the age of 25.
“The youth is the generation that will drive societal change,” says Nyati. “This young population can be harnessed to be force for positive change and drivers of a radical economic upheaval. Many conglomerates and industries owe their origins to a younger members of the population, and we expect this younger generation to be at the forefront of change.”
He adds that organised business and conglomerates such as MTN should play a role to uplift start-ups by driving programmes that bolster the growth of emerging enterprises and supporting initiatives that seek to foster the growth of the SME sector.
“The development of emerging enterprises requires a concerted effort by all the role-players including established business, government and civil society. As corporates, we have to find ways of how we can leverage our brands, platforms and financial muscle to positively contribute to the growth of emerging enterprises,” says Nyati.
He adds that governments can play an important role by ensuring that they formulate a policy framework that creates an enabling environment that enables emerging businesses to thrive.
As a company that has a footprint in Africa and the Middle East, Nyati says MTN is mindful of the importance of supporting entrepreneurial initiatives. He cites the App of the Year competition as one of the initiatives that MTN has put in place to support emerging enterprises.
“We are encouraged by the number of innovative apps that have been unearthed by the App of the Year Awards, and one such innovative app is Domestly, a start-up that connects cleaning professionals directly to homeowners via mobile, aims to make housekeeping more affordable and accessible to everyone, and at the same time create business and opportunities for cleaners. The app makes it easier to browse, book and pay a cleaner, and allows cleaners to manage their money and find maps and directions to each booking.
“The App of the Year competition has provided a platform that has also unearthed and given impetus to the growth and monetization of others apps, including the FNB Banking, Zapper, Vula Mobile, and PriceCheck,” he says.
Nyati congratulated the aspiring entrepreneurs who attended the event, and reminded them that some of the Forbes 500 companies that are leaders in their respective sectors were once start-ups not so long ago.
“These companies, regardless of the sector they are in, have one thing in common: many of them owe their genesis to humble beginnings in garages, dormitories and basements where embryonic ideas, which were at the time viewed as crazy, were incubated into reality,” says Mteto.