African Startups and Small Businesses Demand More Than Just Capacity Building

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In recent years, or maybe I should say in all the years I have been an entrepreneur, because maybe this has been going on for longer than I know, there has been a surge in capacity building programs targeting African startups and small businesses, particularly those led by women. These programs, often funded by developed countries and international organizations, aim to provide training and mentorship to help these businesses grow and succeed. While the intentions behind these programs are noble, many African entrepreneurs, especially women, are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they see as a lack of tangible outcomes.

Women entrepreneurs, in particular, often make up the majority of participants in these programs. They dedicate their time and energy to completing the training and implementing the strategies they learn. However, despite their efforts, many find that these programs do not lead to the financing they desperately need to grow and scale their businesses.

One of the key issues, arguably the most prominent issue that African entrepreneurs face is the lack of access to financing. Many startups and small businesses struggle to secure loans or investments to fund their growth. While capacity building programs can provide valuable knowledge and skills, they are ultimately ineffective if they do not also provide access to financing opportunities.

Another issue is the repetitive nature of these programs. Many organizations and initiatives recycle the same content and trainings, offering little in terms of new or innovative approaches. This can be frustrating for entrepreneurs who are looking for fresh ideas and strategies to help them overcome the unique challenges they face. It is difficult to not sign up for an opportunity when it has quiet a reputable organization or entity attached to it, but often the result is we as overzealous entrepreneurs who are often on the lookout for opportunites find ourselves going through what seems to be same kind of training and material over and over again.

It is time for a change. African startups and small businesses, especially those led by women, need more than just capacity building programs. They need access to financing, whether in the form of grants or opportunities to pitch to investors. Without this crucial element, these programs are essentially useless and ineffective.

Moving forward, it is imperative that organizations and initiatives working with African entrepreneurs prioritize financing as a key component of their programs. By providing access to capital, they can help these businesses grow and thrive, ultimately contributing to the economic development of the continent.

In conclusion, African startups and small businesses are tired of capacity building programs that offer little in terms of tangible outcomes. We need access to financing to truly succeed. It is time for organizations and these large business training initiatives by these organizations to listen to our needs and provide the support we truly need to thrive. No more certificates of completion and programs that mostly just serve the organizations that provide them as they get to present “results” from cohort after cohort and show to investors and funders how great they are doing, all the while using us as metrics for the impact they are having, while it doesn’t necessarily translate on the ground. Enough.

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