Africa is the home of more than 1.3 billion people in the continent, while its population growth rate is 4.1% and is to increase in a few years to come. More than 60% of Africans are below 25, making Africa the youngest continent with a tremendous driving force. According to an African Development Bank report, 22% of Africa’s young population starts new businesses. Although many youths start entrepreneurial activities simply because of the high unemployment rate, some go on to win and become entrepreneurial leaders. It is an outstanding achievement to see young people push themselves to start companies that can create more jobs and positively impact the economy of the African countries.
In contrast, others fail and continue to be survival entrepreneurs. The distinction between survival entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders is their ability to lead teams and practice modern leadership approaches to maximize performance at startups and companies. According to the Global Innovation Index, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya are the top countries in Africa with many innovation hubs. The increase in the number of hubs in Africa is satisfying. However, many are not addressing the challenge of leadership, which is why most entrepreneurs fall into survival entrepreneurs.
Despite many success stories of African startups and innovation hubs, entrepreneurial leadership remains one of the top challenges facing startups in Africa. For instance, The Huffington Post estimated that the startup rate of failure was 95% in 2016. Also, Fortune Magazine estimated that nine of ten startups are at risk of failing in their first year. The data from Huffington Post and The Fortune Magazine aligns with the 2019 Global Innovation Index report, which showed that the lack of startup skills among founders is one of the top challenges facing the African ecosystem. The Tanzania Startup Association (TSA) report of 2020/2021 also shows that despite being highly educated, many founders still lack experience and critical business skills essential for the survival and sustainability of startups beyond the founding phase.
On 28th April, Eagle Lead, in partnership with Adanian labs, conducted a workshop for founders. The workshop aimed to address and discuss the leadership challenges that founders face in building their businesses.
The stage was graced by Adam Mbyallu, a Chief Strategist and a co-founder Of Sahara Ventures, an innovation consulting company, and Brian Paul, the founder of Studio19. The conversation was full of energy as the founders aired out their challenges and learned the best ways to lead teams from Adam and Brian. Their insights sparked a critical conversation on what it takes for a founder to be a leader and how to win over the challenges in people management, and the connection between leadership and business success.
The panel discussion was moderated by Haika Gilliard, a curator, pharmacist, and founder. The discussants were Adam Mbyallu, the chief strategist of Sahara Ventures and one of the founding members. He immensely shared that leadership is mostly about well-being—yourself as a leader and the people you lead. Mr. Adam further emphasized the need to communicate your vision and be able to have everyone in the team aligned to that vision. He further explained that Sahara ensures proper due diligence before having someone join their team. A single team player works for five people when you are a startup. If you get the wrong person, it is a massive liability for the entire team. You need to take enough time to learn and know the person’s character and competence before having them join your team.
Mr. Brian Paul, the Founder of Studio 19, was also very composed as he shared that Leadership is about being humble and not choosing to have the last say. It is not about believing that you know everything. He gave the perfect metaphor of a football team, who in the football team is the most important person? As much as there is a captain, a goalkeeper, a team coach, or even the manager- you cannot say for sure who is more important. Everyone is equally important, and that is how founders should view their teammates. The studio 19 founder further shared that the recruitment process and building a team are two different things. His experience with his co-founder was; that they made enough time to discuss each one’s expectations, what success means to them, what they want to do, and what things are they never willing to compromise. Answering these questions early on allowed them to get through and overcome every hurdle they came across as co-founders in the long run.
One of the missions of Eagle Lead is to ensure founders use modern leadership tools to maximize their impacts and add infinite value to their teams. It is a long way, but there is still room for founders to learn, unlearn, and relearn how leadership impacts their day-to-day operations and business. No matter how good or bad the product is, expect failure if you lack the leadership traits to lead and empower your team to deliver results.
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