For more than a decade now, entrepreneurship has been a major theme in the world of work, especially with the ever-ascending unemployment rate that has forced people to move from paid employment to entrepreneurship. A 2012 research by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor showed that Africa had 28% of its population involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity – this statistic does not include already established businesses.
Unfortunately, despite the growth in entrepreneurship, Africa still faces tremendous challenges like power, health care, agricultural output, digital connectivity amidst other institutional voids, that is gaps within a sector that make it difficult for that sector to deliver its services seamlessly.
In Africa’s Business Revolution, Acha Leke et al posit that “Africa’s vast unmet needs and unfulfilled demand make it a continent ripe for entrepreneurship and innovation at scale.” What this means to me is that we need to move away from the reigning business or the most lucrative thing at the moment and begin addressing real-time challenges.
This is what solution-driven entrepreneurship is about: solving problems profitably.
Solution-driven entrepreneurship prioritises solving problems and filling up voids. While it may not be the easiest route to profitability, in the long run, it proves to be not just profitable but enduring and critical to the survival of the community it serves.
Let us look at some solution-driven businesses:
Africa’s power problem is probably as old as the continent itself, with as much as 80% of Africa’s population lacking access to energy. But Fenix is taking this dreaded bull by the horn with FenixPower an expandable solar home system providing lighting, phone charging, TV, and radio, financed through affordable installments over mobile money.
The company is focused on the grass-roots and is creating a significant impact having impacted over 600,000 households with clean energy.
Founded in 2017 by Odunayo Eweniyi, Somto Ifezue, and Joshua Chibueze, the then fresh graduates noted a gap in the financial services sector and decided to close the gap with a remarkable savings platform that allows you to save easily from your bank account with the tap of a button. The app soon became mainstream for its user-friendliness and safety and has since up-leveled to become PiggyVest. Although many apps like it has come up as the years go by, it remains an industry-leader and favorite of many.
This agricultural startup founded by Brian Bosire is taking tech to farmers. UjiziKilimo helps farmers achieve higher crop yields through soil analysis and farming recommendations.
The agritech firm uses sensor technology to measure soil characteristics and relay the information with recommendations in a comprehensive way to farmers through their mobile phones.
Founded by Strive Masiyiwa in 1993, Econet was one of Africa’s first telecommunications firms, with strong ambitions to make telecommunication mainstream in Africa.
The company is now recognized as a conglomerate, with about 9 subsidiaries viz Econet Mobile Networks Group, Liquid Telecom, Cassava SmarTech, Distributed Power Africa, Vaya Africa, and Technites Africa. In 2011, Econet accrued $3 billion in revenue. Its latest development, Ecocash, a mobile money solution serves about 52% of the Zimbabwean population.
While it is great that these startups are rising to the occasion, more can and needs to be done in filling up the numerous gaps in Africa’s communities. These instances are just to show us that solution-driven entrepreneurship is not something uphill, it is something around us, hidden in our day to day challenges and frustrations. We just need to look down, assess our pain-points, and build on them.
Strive Masiyiwa aptly said:
“To be successful, you need to be more than a businessman— you need to be a responsible citizen. Africa is a continent with extraordinary challenges, and it’s a cop-out just to wait for governments to deal with them. If you see a problem, then think about how you can solve a piece of it.”
Solution-driven entrepreneurship is how we can build not just profitable businesses, but also a better continent for us all, and no, this is not about corporate social responsibility, but building our businesses to solve important needs.
So before you start that business:
- Assess the pains of your community and create a solution around any of your choice.
- Identify voids in your industry you’d rather fill instead of being just another industry player.
- Look out for strategic partnerships to make your solution(s) scale.