[INTERVIEW] Fred Swaniker on the 2012 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship
What are the Africa Entrepreneurship Awards?
"The AAE is the leading Awards programme for business and entrepreneurship in Africa-- ‘The Oscars’ of business and entrepreneurship in Africa. Over 5 successful years, the programme has given away more than USD 1.4 million in prizes to about 25 winners and invested over USD 5 million to celebrate and promote Africa’s leading entrepreneurs. More details can be found at www.africaawards.com."
The Awards are now organised by the African Leadership Network. What are the objectives of this organization and how do the Awards fit in?
"The African Leadership Network is the premier community for a new generation of Africa’s leaders –the most dynamic leaders under the age of 45 from both the private and public sector who are poised to bring prosperity to Africa in the next decades. The sole objective of ALN is to bring prosperity to Africa.
The AAE is a perfect partner for ALN because it helps expand and strengthen ALN’s commitment to creating prosperity for Africa by recognizing and promoting entrepreneurship as an engine for prosperity and wealth creation in Africa. AAE believes that business is development and this is a premise that ALN fully agrees with and supports."
Who can join the competition?
"Entry is open to all Africa-based entrepreneurs with firms that:
- Have revenues over US$ 500, 000
- Have been profitable for at least two years
- Are independent (not a subsidiary of a larger organization)
- Have employed a significant number of people
- Are fully registered in their home country and free of legal actions.
What does joining bring the participants? And winning?
"Since inception of the Awards, more than USD 1.4 million has been awarded in prizes and over USD 5 million invested to promote business and entrepreneurship in Africa. Over a successful 5-year period, we have received more than 7,000 applications from all across Africa, a testament to the strength and solid reputation of the AAE program as ‘the Oscars of business and entrepreneurship in Africa.’ Aside the generous prize money, the powerful media spotlight that shortlisted companies receive—as well as access to a close-knit network of other top entrepreneurs, potential investors, clients, capital and other resources—will tremendously benefit participating entrepreneurs and enhance their success."
What is your view on African entrepreneurship? What has been achieved, what must be strived for?
"Since market liberalization in many African countries in the early 1990s, much progress has been made by Africa’s entrepreneurs in creating successful businesses and serving as engines of economic growth, job creation and prosperity. Each country in Africa still has its own unique challenges but overall, much needs to be done, especially by governments to foster entrepreneurship in Africa. The AAE simply seeks to identify the top entrepreneurs in Africa and to recognize their good work in order to raise them up as exemplars to hoards of other entrepreneurs striving for success in Africa."
How do you see the role of African governments? And foreign investment?
"As I mentioned, the effective role of government should be unique to the national context, since different countries may have different needs depending on their stage of economic development and growth. Overall though, there are basic frameworks and support that governments must provide, chief among them being rule of law and guarantee of property rights, investor-friendly economic policies and provision of infrastructure."
What will be the role of entrepreneurs in the development of the African economy in future decennia?
"The private sector, spearheaded by small and medium scale entrepreneurs can drive economic growth in many African countries if they are encouraged. With continuous innovation and investment, the share of GDP from entrepreneurial activities in many African nations should continue to rise."
One final question: Why join the Africa Entrepreneurship Awards
"Above all else, the AAE is a celebration of Africa’s entrepreneurs –their successes, their struggles and their hopes. This is a joint effort that requires partnership and collaboration and must even extend beyond the Awards program."