By Eric Osiakwan, Managing Partner, Chanzo Capital
Fred Swaniker is a great friend, not only do we both originate from the centre of the earth (Ghana) but we had stints at Stanford University though at different times. Like me, he quickly returned to Africa to start the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in his quest to solve the African leadership conundrum – Fred reckons African leadership has deteriorated and was just named a pioneer in TIME100 for 2019 for leading the charge. We were both fellows of TED Global. We were both utopia ten years ago and so were the other presenters like Dr. George Ayittey who postulated the “Cheetah Generation”, Patrick Awuah who dreamed of a new African tertiary educational system, William Kamkwamba who would harvest the wind to solve Africa’s power crisis – which were all part of “The Next Chapter”.
As destiny would have it, Josh Alder and I became friends, he was part of Fred’s team that was building the Africa Leadership Academy as Vice President for Growth and Entrepreneurship. Josh and I had numerous conversations about growth and entrepreneurship in Africa and how we should infuse that into the next generation of African leaders that they were grooming. We concluded that it was important to give the entrepreneurs in their academy a head start. Africa’s educational system does not turn to urge entrepreneurs on and there is little to no infrastructure and educational development for those who want to express themselves in free enterprise, so majority of Africa’s entrepreneurs have had to figure it out themselves by dint of grit and following their nose.
Friday 1st February 2019, am in a board strategy session with one of our portfolio companies and my phone starts ringing off the hook, there was Josh with the pleasant news that they have now developed an entrepreneurship program at ALA and they are going to launch it at the Anzisha Summit so he would like to discuss how we can work together – the dream has taken shape. Through a series of back and forth Josh and his team at ALA have put together an amazing program to not only educate but also accelerate young entrepreneurs on the path to private enterprise. They have also partnered with the Mastercard Foundation to establish the Anzisha summit and prize which would bring together the relevant stakeholders to not only discuss the issues around youth entrepreneurship and innovation but more importantly award these entrepreneurs with prize money to help them with getting off their feet.
ALA has also partnered with the Omidyar Network and launched at the first Anzisha Summit “The Young Entrepreneurs Fund” – a matching fund that will match – dollar for dollar – investments into high potential young Africans by angel and early stage investors. The investor panel for the event was on CNBC Africa live and the Anzisha scenario page lays out the details. This is super important because young African entrepreneurs would now have access to Capacity, Community and Capital to give them a head start – an important foundation for the entrepreneurial journey. This compliments what we are doing at Chanzo Capital to provide them with follow on capacity, community and capital to build leading African multinational enterprises. Ten years later, Fred and my utopianism seems to find some expression in real life at the intersection of Josh Alder.