#Africa African ecosystem developing, but still way to go – panel

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The entrepreneurship ecosystem across Africa has developed positively over the past two years, although it is still in its early stages and attitudes and expectations must be adjusted accordingly, said panelists at AHUB.

Speaking at the second annual AHUB held in Cape Town last week, investor panelists said attitudes to investing, and the broader ecosystem, have developed in leaps and bounds recently – particularly over the last two years.  

However, the ecosystem remain in its early stages – with in the region of 10 years to go until it reaches fruition – and as such expectations must be commensurate, the panel said.

“As an investor, you need to minimise expectations a bit. Then if you find a gem, you need to be able to work with them a bit,” said Eric Osiakwan, managing director at Chanzo Capital.

“I think we’re on the right track, but we need to move it a little faster.”

“The opportunities are still massively there,” Andrew Hardie, former investment executive at MMI Holdings agreed.

According to Andrea Bohmert, partner at Knife Capital, the quality of startups and the amount of money being put up by investors is developing, but both sides need to make effort to unlock potential value.

“There’s never enough money, but there is money around. And there are good startups, but it’s about the packaging,” Bohmert said.

“As an investor, you have to go out there and look for diamonds to polish. […] From the startups point of view, you can’t be unpolished and want the price of polished,” she said, adding that both sides need to work on their packaging, and polishing.

One important element to developing the ecosystem, and creating better quality startups, is to provide more mentorship and guidance to entrepreneurs, the panelists said.

“Not to take away from the optimism, because the growth will come from Africa – there’s no question about it – […]  I think what’s missing is fundamentally access, financial access, but also other things: access to mentorship, access to guidance, access to support, help in scaling up,” said Gil Oved, group chief executive officer (CEO) at The Creative Counsel.

“That infrastructure isn’t there yet, but in time it will come.”

Bohmert believes the entrepreneurship environment is changing for the better, with more investors, entrepreneurs, and accelerators active on the continent; governments slowly moving in the right direction; and corporates getting involved.

However, what she highlights as the missing link is stronger partnerships among those active in the ecosystem.

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