Entrepreneurs in East Africa lack the support and time to bring their innovative ideas to fruition, and so government and the business community need to do more to nurture the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region, says Billy Owino, regional director for East Africa at Sage.
According to Owino, Kenyan entrepreneurs have great ideas, but struggle to develop them into new business offerings and ventures, primarily due to a lack of time, and failings in the provision of complementary infrastructure and a conducive ecosystem.
Government and the business community need to do more to support East African entrepreneurs, he says.
For example, he says government needs to do more to reduce the red-tape holding entrepreneurs back, so they have more time to innovate, rather than spending time on admin.
“It is pleasing to see that most East African governments are committed to simplifying the day to day basics of business red tape – like paying taxes, securing licences, processing imports and exports, or registering a business. But we should be looking at ways to make it even simpler to do business,” Owino says.
For their part, large companies can help by making their paperwork easy for smaller suppliers, and by paying promptly. In addition, they can contribute to entrepreneurial success by providing training and mentorship opportunities.
“Many entrepreneurs have innovative ideas, but need help bringing them to life. They need strategic and operational support – help in the practicalities of commercialising a product, marketing it and supporting it,” Owino says.
Owino particularly stresses the importance of achieving stable internet access, and he says government, big businesses, and NGOs all need to collaborate to make high speed broadband a reality in East Africa.
“Efficient and affordable internet access allows small businesses to innovate by creating new products, services and channels,” he says.
From their own side, entrepreneurs can help themselves by preparing well, and putting in place solid systems to improve their own efficiencies – such as through clever use of mobile technology, cloud and business applications, payroll and accounting software, Owino says.