[Column] Melkisedek-Shivute Ausiku: Entrepreneurship in the age of technology in Namibia
Growing up in Namibia there were several careers to choose from we were told. Study hard, become a doctor, lawyer, accountant, nurse or architect. Perhaps even an engineer if you were that way inclined. However, no one ever stimulated you to be an entrepreneur. Someone who sees an opportunity and grasp it with both hands and runs with it. I, for one chose the path of an education and studied to become an electrical engineer. Even worked in that field for some time and followed the beaten path, there was however always a fire in my belly a spark in my eye. A yearning to create and develop something of my own. The idea of being my own boss, growing my own business, helping develop Namibia was what I was born to do ... I just knew it.
With the rapid developments in technology and the sheer level of innovation around the world my dreams became bigger, brighter and seemingly ever more within reach. But, being in Namibia and being a Namibian, they were always just beyond my grasp. That was until last year when I finally eschewed the beaten path and decided to strike out on my own and launch the LEFA Transportation services, a ride-hailing app for Windhoek and in future for the whole of Namibia.
With a stable, fast internet now available almost everywhere in Windhoek, smartphones becoming the norm it seemed the perfect time to introduce a ride-hailing app. Almost every other country had its transportation status quo disrupted by a ride hailing application, there was no reason why Windhoek should not follow suit.
With a dream, a small team and sadly a shoestring budget we set to work to creating this app for the people and bringing online services to Namibians. The embracing and development of technology is unstoppable and rightly so. Development and innovation creates new opportunities, new jobs and enhances Namibia’s reputation as a knowledge-based society and fits in perfectly with its ambitious Development Plans. It became very clear very quickly that although the people, the market were ready for an app such as LEFA, the support network to help develop the business and assist entrepreneurs still had huge gaps in in it.
Each person knows the stories of how Silicon Valley started out with young whizz kids developing technology in their garages, but that was a long time ago. Silicon Valley now fully embraces start-ups, helps develop the ideas and applications that young entrepreneurs have and nurtures this talent. There are organisations in Namibia that do this, but they are also constraint by budgets and market parameters. This of course doesn’t and won’t deter real entrepreneurs and innovators. It does make the journey a little more challenging though.
My hope is that we as Namibians and especially the young and people dreaming of a career realise we don’t all need to be doctors. It is no longer just a pipedream to think that the next Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs can come from the African continent, even from Namibia. All we need is access to technology, innovation a great idea or concept and hopefully support and funding and we can truly transform the Namibian economy into an innovative and technology driven country. Where technology makes our lives easier and better. Investors and venture capitalists and banks have reaped the rewards of backing start-ups.
I for one will be championing this at every step and every turn, developing our own app further, but engaging and motivating others right here in Namibia to do the same. Let’s take the positives that technology can bring and use it as a force for good and develop ourselves, our economy and our nation. We can build a Silicon Valley right here in Namibia…could even call it Silicon Sub-Sahara.