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Why Nigeria’s young entrepreneurs are different

Many African countries are at the beginning of a major shift in how businesses are run as young entrepreneurs make their presence felt using new tools and technologies that were previously not available, writes MAGNUS NMONWU, of Sage.

We are all familiar with the stereotype of the young entrepreneur; technology whizz kids with all the latest mobile devices and the ability to multitask as they type hundreds of words a minute. Sage’s Walk With Me report – which examines the key characteristics, attitudes and behaviours of young entrepreneurs around the world – confirms that there is plenty of truth in this picture of how young people work and interact with technology.

What’s more, our research in Nigeria and 15 other countries shows that we are just at the beginning of a major shift in how businesses are run as the young entrepreneurs make their presence felt. Mobile technology has already made us all much more productive and helped companies of all sizes to reduce costs and become more efficient, but most young entrepreneurs see plenty of opportunities to do even much more with the tools and apps available at their disposal.

Some of the most interesting local findings on Nigerian young entrepreneurs include:

  • 96% say that they still feel the same excitement about their business as they did when they first started it
  • 44% say they will start over 5 businesses in their lifetime
  • 42% say they would have still been able to run their business with the technology available 20 years ago
  • 38% say they socialise with their team once a month
  • 29% say that work comes before life
  • 16% say that they get out of bed in the morning because they want to make a difference in the world and do some social good

Mobile devices are the platform of choice for today’s entrepreneur and, as you might expect from a generation that has been mobile literate from an extremely young age, a large proportion place huge emphasis on technology and are keen to be at the forefront of new trends. Young Nigerians are mobile-first people, so that’s no surprise at all.

Dion Chang, founder of Flux Trends has done a lot of work with organisations in South Africa that are looking to change the way they operate to better accommodate millennial entrepreneurs. The changes can seem daunting to big corporates, he says, because in many ways the new social values of this generation mean throwing out practices we’ve relied on for decades – a 9 to 5 work day, and the traditional desk work space, for example.

Oiling the wheels of a smooth business 

More than a third of young entrepreneurs (38% in Nigeria) say the technology they use is the most important element when it comes to the smooth running of their business; they couldn’t prosper without it. 42% say they could probably not have run their business with the technology available 20 years ago. That’s an incredible stat: far from destroying jobs through automation, technology is inspiring young people to create businesses that could not have existed in the past.

When it comes to networking and new business, nearly 70% of Nigerian respondents say that they use technology rather than a face-to-face approach. Some 39% say that they depend on technology to succeed, while 44% say technology is invaluable in helping them market their business. These are numbers that would no doubt increase if we had to repeat this survey in five years’ time. Put simply, we’re seeing technology being woven into the very fabric of today’s businesses.

It’s also interesting to note how confident Nigerians are about their mastery of technology.  About 80% of young entrepreneurs in Nigeria claim that despite technology constantly evolving, they do not worry about whether they will be able to keep up. Most Nigerians (80%) also say they do not worry about whether they will be able to afford the latest technology.

Will your desk be defunct? 

Looking to the future, in the next ten years, 33% of Nigerians surveyed believe that technology will make the concept of ‘your desk’ defunct and that, in future, everyone will work remotely and flexibly, via a mobile device. Additionally, 45% agreed the workplace will have more virtual staff, working remotely and flexibly, while 23% said that they will save money on office space and overheads.

It’s intriguing to hear how young entrepreneurs are already transforming their businesses with technology, and how they expect to see the landscape keep evolving in the years to come. What we hear very clearly from our research is that young entrepreneurs in Nigeria and the rest of the world greatly value flexibility and want to have freedom over when, where and how they work, as well as with who.

For them, technology is not only a means to boosting efficiency and productivity; it is also a way to achieve the flexibility and work-life balance that they value so much. The future is mobile and we at Sage are giving our customers the power to control their businesses from the palm of their hand and embrace the future of mobility and what’s to come.

Entrepreneurs who understand the ‘giving economy’

Sage’s research showed that millennial entrepreneurs are far more focused on creating businesses that ‘give back’ to local communities and the world. At the recent Sage Summit in Chicago, the largest event for Small & Medium Businesses in the world, Zooey Deschanel and Gwyneth Paltrow spoke about the ‘Giving Economy’ and the idea that today’s consumer want more than products that will better their lives – they want to support companies that are socially conscious.

For big, established companies, this is also an important insight into how they can inspire their employees as well as their customers by having a positive influence on the community they serve.

  • Magnus Nmonwu, Regional Director for Sage in West Africa.

Africa News

Africa gets broadband boost

ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.

Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.

Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.

ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.

At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”

Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.

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Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world

Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.

Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.

AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.

The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.

‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”

The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.

‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.

The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”

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