George Asamani, Managing Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), Sub-Saharan Africa, on the occasion of World Entrepreneurship Day held on August 12, spoke about the various opportunities available to the construction of sustainability support ecosystems within the project management industry. Excerpts from SEYI JOHN SALAU
Entrepreneurs are the foundation of the Nigerian economy. Despite the significant contribution of these entrepreneurs, the Nigerian business environment is complex and fraught with pitfalls, making it difficult for them to survive. How to better support entrepreneurs?
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) account for 49.8% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and account for about 85% of total industrial employment distributed across all sectors of the country. the economy, so clearly, they are the foundation.
The short answer is that governments, in Africa and elsewhere, can help entrepreneurs by creating sound economic policies, one-stop support from registration to financing, infrastructure development and an enabling regulatory environment.
The long answer lies in Lewis Carrol’s saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” which holds profound lessons for entrepreneurs. Simply put, no matter how favorable the environment created by the government is, an entrepreneur must have clearly defined goals. Goal setting is a key skill that all entrepreneurs must possess. This not only allows them to focus on what they want to accomplish, but also to pay attention to processes and take action to achieve their goals. As a result, regardless of the difficult business environment, wherever they are in the world, they can use this entrepreneurial gift to find a way, overcome and succeed.
What are the best ways for entrepreneurs to win in a tough business environment?
Most entrepreneurs treat their pursuit as a passion and seek to achieve results with a zealous attitude. They compare entrepreneurship to circuit training in the gym, where they try a bit of everything. As a result, their focus is scattered, they have too many projects running at the same time, and their resources are strained. Entrepreneurs must be able to apply the discipline of project management to get things done. Starting a business is a big project with key milestones along the way, which must be met if you want to be successful. Project management teaches you these skills and helps you develop the mindset you need to overcome the challenges you will face.
Unemployment continues to be one of the most burning issues facing Nigeria. At the PMI, what was your strategy to fight against youth unemployment?
Entrepreneurship in Africa will be driven by young minds who can connect the digital dots. The “youth bulge” is an opportunity for the continent and challenges us all to find ways to harness young shoots and use them as levers to rebuild a sustainable SME sector.
In Africa, PMI has partnered with the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) which seeks to add US$10 billion to the African economy by creating 10,000 new businesses on the continent. Research shows that one of the five most common causes of entrepreneurial failure is execution risk, or the inability to complete projects. In response, and in collaboration with TEF, PMI has developed a series of webinars that guide young African entrepreneurs to build businesses and execute projects by successfully managing risk through ideation, strategy and delivery. The partnership also directly supports young African entrepreneurs with mentorships provided through TEF.
PMI also partners with the African Leadership Academy (ALA) to equip young Africans with project management skills. At ALA, PMI works with pre-college students who, in their first year of ALA’s two-year program, present ideas that are formally critiqued, graded, and refined. During the second year, students work to bring their ideas to life, supported by mentors through the PMI Chapter network. As a non-profit organization, we also invest in professional training. We have a number of partnerships across Africa with higher education institutions where we offer free citizenship development courses.
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Not all project managers are entrepreneurs, but every entrepreneur must first be a project manager. How true do you think that is?
Core project management skills that can significantly help entrepreneurs include setting goals, defining strategy, developing a plan and outlining actions, then prioritizing and tracking. stock weekly. However, evidence suggests entrepreneurs rarely have formal project management training or understand discipline, which can be a major drawback. If any of your readers are considering getting into entrepreneurship, I highly recommend taking the free 45-minute KickOff course found on our website. The ability to clearly define your goal cannot be overstated.
Kenya has become the first country in Africa to introduce coding as a subject in primary schools. It is surely a small step in Kenya but a giant leap for Africa. What do you think are the lessons here for a country like Nigeria as it charts its future next year with the upcoming elections?
This is a welcome development that Nigeria may well embrace, especially at a critical time when the COVID-19 pandemic is driving digitalization in many parts of the world and here at home. It is exciting that Africa’s tech ecosystem is poised for a period of exponential growth, accelerated by stable, if not strong, market fundamentals and the pandemic.
Africa’s digital economy is large and growing, with an estimated market size of $115 billion – expected to reach $712 billion by 2050. By then, Africa will be home to a third of young people in the world and will urbanize faster than other regions. In addition, 1 in 6 Internet users in the world will be in Africa in 2025.
The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted digitalization on the continent, encouraging more Africans to engage in digital activities. Due to this dynamic, more and more investors are paying attention to the potential of African technology. Between January 2020 and December 2021, funding for African digital start-ups grew twice as fast as global rates. These are very eye-catching numbers, but how can we sustain the acceleration that has come from undesirable quarters – the pandemic?
There is a need for education, from schools to tertiary levels, on the essence of digitization, without it we will not be able to connect to the digital economy. The pandemic has shown that we need to look for ways to promote the digitization of African small businesses, imagine if you knew how to code and were able to diversify digitally, quickly move your parents’ store online during the pandemic with an app.
We talked earlier about a sound policy and it is a policy that can work wonders for Nigerians too. Finding ways to give children and youth in Nigeria an early start in in-demand life skills like coding will simply enable Nigerians to harness the potential of their youth and adapt to technology at a faster rate. With low-code/no-code technology, it’s now even easier to get kids interested in coding and building apps.
Our young people are seizing bankable business opportunities that serve as solutions to many of our development challenges. The Fintech industry is one of many such sectors. How do you think young Nigerians can best prepare for such opportunities?
While the current pandemic has had a severe impact on the global economy, the digital economy has proven resilient. The signs of the digital revolution in Africa are unmistakable. In 2021, African fintech companies raised more in the first seven months than they had in the previous decade – some US$1.5 billion, compared to US$1.06 billion raised between 2011 and 2020.
Many businesses have found new life online during the pandemic, proving that the ability to leverage digital tools is essential for businesses. Digital natives in their own entrepreneurial pursuits have been able to better leverage the digital economy and thrive. In doing so, they have proven that in times of crisis, challenges can be turned into opportunities as long as there is optimism, determination and the ability to manage projects.
If young Nigerians want to make a meaningful contribution to business or start their own businesses, “we need to learn how to organize and apply our skills in the delivery of projects or real products and services.
Already, the ability to build new systems from scratch is accelerating the rise of digital entrepreneurship in Africa. Does the PMI have a skills manual that can help entrepreneurs keep pace with the rapidly changing digital landscape?
The use of technology over the past couple of years has been nothing short of a revolution. However, the exponential rise in digital solutions has not seen an equal increase in coding talent to support adoption. PMI reports show that 86% of IT decision makers cite lack of software skills as the biggest challenge in digital transformation. To support young people in the 4IR, PMI has collaborated with partners in its wider ecosystem to promote citizen development.
Citizen development simply means that anyone, even those without formal software skills, can learn to use low-code/no-code platforms, a type of visual software development that allows for drag-and-drop application components, connect them and create applications.
Now is the time for governments, businesses, and nonprofits like PMI to reinvigorate public-private partnerships, invest in new ideas and approaches to train young people for the new normal. If we see the present as an opportunity, much can be achieved.
Finally, what advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
To all entrepreneurs, your ideas breathe with your endless creative energy, but they will only live if you nurture them and execute your vision to make them a reality. Any business you undertake will require you to focus on scope, budget, resources and time. Project management is the only skill that allows you to manage these success factors.