The story of startups has long been a synonym of Silicon Valley, referring to a mushrooming of small tech companies in San Franscisco, which has helped shaped the world and drive technological innovations that has never been seen before in human history. A startup can be any fast-growing small business that creatively or innovatively meet the needs of its customers by providing a service or product. Hence, a company does not need to be technology driven for it to be called a startup. This article highlight the importance of new businesses in revitalizing economic growth. Moreover, the article explains the important role startups will play in helping our beloved Namibia realize vision 2030. Therefore, become an industrialized nation. The term startup has its roots in Silicon Valley. Although majority of startups are technology driven, a startup can come in many forms and sizes. However, what is similar in all startups is that they all start with co-founders, consisting with of individuals with the same passion or who want to solve a similar problem. Additionally, co-founders also avail their resources and skills to ensure that they realize the mission and objectives of the startup.
What differentiate startups from traditional businesses especially here in Africa, which are mostly sole trading companies or close corporations with one member is that startups have access to more starting capital and skills diversity through its co-founders. Additionally, startups are different because they mostly focused on solving a specific problem rather than offering multiple services or products. The ministry of trade and industrialization should learn from Silicon Valley and other countries, where small businesses focus on providing a specific service or product, instead of doing everything from IT to construction. Therefore, ensuring every close corporation focuses on solving a specific societal need or meet the needs of the market. World over, countries are encouraging their young people to create their own companies instead of getting a job after university because of the potential that startups can have on society and their contribution to GDP. In Estonia for example, the government encourages young people to start their own businesses by incentivizing them with starting capital and support for startups to grow.
Today, Africa has become a fertile ground for startups, enabling new innovative ventures such Uushahidi, M-Pesa and other mobile based solutions to thrive. All this made possible by the fast expanding innovation hubs across the continent. One African country that has excelled in rolling out innovation hubs is Kenya, providing facilities for innovators and entrepreneurs to illustrate their creativity and develop new innovative solutions. It’s not only about co-creation spaces but some of these innovation hubs are providing funding to enable entrepreneurs to realize their dreams.
As we have learned from the likes of Facebook, Google, Instagram and Tesla, small businesses or startups have the power to change the world. Hence, Africa should leverage on startups to change the status quo and emancipate herself from western dependency and poverty. If as a country, we do not invest in our youth by providing them with the conducive environment and support to be creative, both vision 2030 and Harambee prosperity plan (HPP) will remain just a dream. Poverty and income disparity can only be reduced or eradicating through the generation of new knowledge and solutions. Startups are good way to do so, as well as create jobs. No doubt, startups have the potential to drastically reduce unemployment in many developing countries, Namibian included. However, for small businesses to thrive, we need to support them, therefore ensuring that they employ more Namibians and generate local solutions to local problems. Small businesses and not Harambee is the solution to ending poverty in Namibia.
Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude), MSc. Computer Science & currently a PhD Candidate