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Navigating Africa’s Public Procurement and Entrepreneurship Terrain


By Raymond Erick Zvavanyange

Imagine you have been assigned as the captain of a military ship with an important delivery to an international trading partner. In order to do so, you would need to navigate through a pirate-infested space in some coastland. Would you refuse this assignment? Would you take it as your mission to deliver the cargo in one-piece? What would you decide? This assignment demands rare courage, determination, intelligence and stamina to follow the course through the hostile, dangerous, risky and threatening water space. Furthermore, as captain keeping the communication channels operational with your centre station and destination gives the assurance that your track is kept in sight. Losing direction and storms encounter, if this occurs, adds uncertainty to completion of the mission. It is a nerve-wrecking and intense situation, synonymous, with navigating unfamiliar space towards a desired target. Navigation could be through countries, institutions, organizations, legislations and regulations, here referred to as terrain. By definition, a terrain is a relief feature common in Africa lands.

Courtesy of Paul Spud

In the same vein, a different terrain exists; a different assignment awaits practitioners across the African continent; they should navigate the public procurement and entrepreneurship terrain. It is a terrain because the platform is not inclusive; only “experienced captains” can navigate safely using the guiding equipment and reach the destination! In Africa, policy and measures to safeguard initiatives slacken with the setting of the Sun. It is increasingly becoming difficult to address any issue on a single platform. Some platformers are easily found in the hype, excitement and convenience of Web 2.0 and Social Media while others walk the streets having no hope of ever influencing the public procurement and entrepreneurship agenda. They simply do not have the means, platform, knowledge, influence and status, and in the worst cases, lack interest.

There are countries such as South Africa, which offer hope and promise of progress while others are “sleeping giants” that need to be given a wake up call. The African landscape is fast changing overtaking initiatives in the process, for example, the recent independence declaration by South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation. The Republic of South Sudan enters the same terrain that other countries have familiarised themselves with and in some instances, navigated through. The comforting note for all is that the target destination is in sight. In addition, the destination can be visualised when the same guiding equipment is used. Below is brief navigating equipment, translation, for “ideas” for navigating Africa’s public procurement and entrepreneurship terrain. It is up to the captain of the ship to decide whether to use the equipment or not; otherwise, one risks being overtaken by events or find themselves in an undesirable place.

  1. Recognise the multiple actors involved public procurement and entrepreneurship issues and the roles they play,
  2. Public procurement and entrepreneurship initiatives are not ends in themselves; they are means to end,
  3. All-encompassing policy and measures should factor in innovations in entrepreneurship and public procurement,
  4. Transparency and accountability still are key ingredients for successful entrepreneurship and procurement initiatives,
  5. Empowerment of youths and women is a current interdisciplinary initiative aimed at giving a voice to the voiceless, eliminating discrimination and changing mindsets,
  6. Settling disputes and conflicts diplomatically and not leaving them as stalemates;
  7. Exploring ways to integrate innovation and sustainability concepts in entrepreneurship and procurement issues;
  8. Knowledge from other world regions is essential and critical guide but not rule when drafting the future of public procurement and entrepreneurship in Africa, and
  9. Tapping into resources of minority groups is central to effectiveness of policy at community level

Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Opportunities for Youths in Africa in Web 2.0 and Social Media


A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...
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REPORT

Innovation and Entrepreneurship : Opportunities for Youths in Africa in Web 2.0 and Social Media

Zvavanyange Raymond Erick1

Last month during March 7-11, 2011, I participated in a youth training and exchange workshop in Ghana on Web 2.0 and social media for Development in Agriculture and Rural Development. The training was sponsored by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development (CTA) (www.cta.int)  based in the Netherlands and facilitated by Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (CSIR-INSTI) of Ghana. Through its Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in Information Society (ARDYIS) project, CTA brought together more than 18 youths from English and French speaking countries in Africa, all united by the same passion of improving agriculture through the use of  information communication technologies (ICTs). Additional resources on Web 2.0 and social media for development such as  the Information Management Kit (IMARK)(http://www.imarkgroup.org) from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) were used for e-learning practice.

Four days were devoted to rigorous training on Web 2.0 and social media for development such as Facebook, Twitter, Really Simple Syndicates (RSS), Google Applications and blogs and one day for exchange and sharing of knowledge. The high level of participation among participants is reflected in the outcome communiqué. The training challenged youths to be the “next thing” in use of ICTs and agriculture. Youths were awoken to the fact that they must not be consumers of technology but innovators in the wake of complex developmental issues in the 21st century.

The fact that I am a beginner in using Web 2.0 and social media did not obstruct the simple instructions given to us by the trainers. It required only little time  to “create or sign up for a new account” and “start using it”. Although this was fun this was not the best part which turned out to be using our newly created accounts to communicate agriculture.

I also learned that Web 2.0 and social media are dubbed the second generation Internet by users. Traditionally the Internet was known only to military and security persons but that has since changed with the introduction of Web 2.0 and social media. Today, both young and old in both developed and developing countries have Internet at their finger tips. Indeed ICT has changed virtually every aspect of users’ lives.  For example, for new business partnerships, in addition to the use of business or name cards, people often ask each other the funny question, “Are you on Facebook, MSN, Yahoo Messenger?”

In order to use effectively and derive benefits from ICT tools, efforts must be geared towards making Web 2.0 and social media applicable to individual and group needs in Africa. In order for ICTs to serve their purposes, young entrepreneurs in Africa should explore innovative ways to synchronize  their  needs with opportunities introduced by Web 2.0

Innovation and entrepreneurship are emerging opportune areas for Africa because they are associated with social and technological progress. While innovation refers to the “ideas or thought processes” entrepreneurship refers to the act of putting an innovation into practise. As such, the terms innovation and entrepreneurship often come up in discussions among policy makers, politicians, motivation speakers, innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, technocrats and politicians. However, whether one is talking about a new business or a new idea, the focus on time element is crucial for the realization of either or both. Innovation lacking time emphasis is obsolete and equally entrepreneurship without time focus is profitless.

Web 2.0 and social media can help create the synergy between innovation and entrepreneurship. Through sharing of business thoughts and ideas there is greater interaction towards the common objective. This is an entry point for youths because of their creativity, need for interaction and sometimes “wild ideas”. Innovation and entrepreneurship are both appealing and acceptable to young people in Africa because  they are excited about the  idea of being the first one to do something new. There are opportunities in translation in different languages spoken across the African continent such as English, French, KiSwahili, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Arabic and Chewa. This translation when made possible through ICTs in various social media settings allows civic society  to focus on development strategies  and contribute to employment creation

Web 2.0 and social media can indeed transform the face of other economic domains such as procurement, marketing, food production, value chains and sustainability. The minimum requirement for use of Web 2.0 and social media is to be a consistent user, and to acquire relevant tools, applications and the skill. Once the synergy is created, it could improve the way we debate issues, facilitate economic growth, academic exchange, and remote collaboration of experts with young professionals.  With the help of Web 2.0, a development revolution could become inevitable and opportunities manifold.

1. National Chung Hsing University of Taiwan. Corresponding author: publicproafrica@gmail.com.

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