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16.0 What Needs to be Done - Scaling Up: Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Africa

(Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, Oct 2002 by Kiggundu, Moses N)

Individuals, organizations, communities and governments involved in the development of African entrepreneurship need to scale up. By scaling up is meant increasing the level and sophistication with which we study, develop and implement policies, finance, management extension and support programs for African entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial firms and entrepreneurship. Scaling up takes different meanings for researchers, public policy makers, support program managers, and the entrepreneurs themselves.

For researchers, scaling up means conceptualizing, designing, and conducting better research and producing useable knowledge. It also suggests concentrating on real entrepreneurs rather than hawkers or the underemployed and taking a multidisciplinary approach and avoiding academic turf wars. It also includes studying entrepreneurship in other human endeavors including public institutions, politics, the military, and the voluntary sector and drawing on the lessons of history in Africa and elsewhere for improved understanding and practice.

In public administration, scaling up may mean taking up a number of initiatives including recognition of the central role of entrepreneurship in the development of a successful, open, democratic, trading and competitive economy and society. It also means taking a cross-cutting policy approach so that entrepreneurship is integrated with strategies for poverty reduction, economic restructuring, public sector reform, socio-political development, environmental protection, and fighting HIV/AIDS. This requires taking an inter-ministerial approach, recognizing the pervasive nature of entrepreneurship beyond the MSEs and SMEs sectors and giving entrepreneurs representation in shaping public policy (Rathgeber & Adera, 2000). Entrepreneurship deserves a stronger voice at the cabinet table. It is important to keep political interference out of business, while developing and managing effective government-business strategic alliances. It also means developing a critical mass of public institutions and public servants with entrepreneurial competencies, experience and dedication. Finally, it means drawing out lessons of experience to support the internationalization of entrepreneurship.

For the individual entrepreneurs, scaling up takes different forms. For the self-employed hawkers, it means making a strategic decision as to whether entrepreneurship is a vocation or pastime. For the octopus owners, it means deciding whether they are in business for social or economic reasons and conducting themselves accordingly. For SMEs owners, it means improving productivity using modern management tools and technology, improving corporate governance, building effective networks, and exploring niche markets for the domestic and international markets. For entrepreneurs of state owned enterprises, it means improving services, cutting costs, building strategic alliances, and weaning themselves off government subsidies. It also means transforming the African capitalist experiment so that public corporations are transformed into entrepreneurial firms owned and profitably managed by African entrepreneurs (Mangaliso, 2001; Mangaliso & Nkomo, 2001).

For the financial institutions and other support organizations, scaling up takes different forms including: the re-thinking and re-packaging, the delivery of financial services so that they are coupled with other initiatives designed to improve the entrepreneur's competencies, strengthen the firm, and create a more enabling environment. These institutions need to work in partnership so that the entrepreneurs receive effective support in all critical areas of success. They need to draw on recent experiences of program based approaches such as sector wide approaches, whereby the focus is not on the individual entrepreneurs or their firms, but the whole entrepreneurial system and the context within which it operates (Foster, Brown, Norton, and Naschold, 2001). This approach is better suited for the development of local entrepreneurial capacities.

For a country as a whole, scaling up means legitimizing, respecting, celebrating, honoring, and rewarding entrepreneurship, rather than scorning it. It means removing structural and systemic impediments to entrepreneurial development and developing export strategies to counter domestic market imperfections. The national and sub-national levels of government need to work together more closely in support of entrepreneurial development. It also means encouraging the use of licensing and franchising arrangements to address recurrent problems of lack of capital and technology, shortage of managerial and entrepreneurial competencies, and undue social influences. It means creating an entrepreneurial learning community so that public and private sector institutions continuously learn together. There is a need to shift the emphasis from the search for appropriate technology to the search for globally competitive technologies. Information, knowledge, and wisdom acquired through continuous and iterative learning help to build or stimulate local capacities for doing better research, producing useable knowledge, and determining the most appropriate areas for scaling up and mainstreaming entrepreneurship within the dynamic African environment. It also means introducing modern technology such as e-commerce and e-government to provide value-adding services, cut costs, and reduce corruption.

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References: Constraints of growth-oriented enterprises in the southern and eastern African region
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