Think like an entrepreneur

Recently, I had the opportunity to interact with students from the United States International University participating in the Global Executive MBA Program.  Going into such a forum, I always wonder what knowledge and wisdom to impart that cannot be learned from reading books or doing those challenging case studies. 

I must admit that it is no easy task to stand on such a platform.  However, I was comforted by the fact that I have a great wealth of experience on whose basis I can engage them.   My only goal was to awaken and challenge their expectations.  Who are they as leaders, trendsetters, entrepreneurs, solution providers etc?  If I did that, then truly I may have taught them something of value. 

I say this because today I want to attempt to teach our youth a few lessons; a cause for which I am passionate about.

One of the biggest challenges that the youth in developing countries encounter is how to create employment.  The statistics are spiraling and government interventions seemed to be marred by controversy and improper politics.  In any case, government efforts are almost always indirect investments in young people yet we need more direct interventions. 

I come with a few practical suggestions that may be put to use today; not in a five-year strategy. 

My first suggestion is based on the premise that the private sector is the main driver of the economy.  Knowing so, our young people need to change their mind-set from preferring career employment over entrepreneurship.  This is how the private sector came to be. 

We need to develop an entrepreneurial approach or attitude to business, whether you are an employee or not.  Did you know that in Tanzania, your relatives and friends will probably look down upon you if you are not self-employed?  What is it that they know?

Entrepreneurship does not mean that you copy-paste Mr. Shah’s idea, because he has been successful in it.  Let us understand that each one of us has competencies and skills that are unique to us.  Develop innovative ideas that are unique to you and your capabilities and for which you can find a market, then pursue them.

However, let me make it clear that what I am advocating for is an entrepreneurial spirit  whether you are self employed or it.  That spirit causes one to seek out opportunities that you might otherwise not identify.

The issue of financing then arises and this is the biggest challenge often encountered by entrepreneurs.  My solution here is simple.  BUILD YOUR SELF-CREDIBILITY.  There is no venture capital firm or financial institution that will finance a business idea whose owner is not credible. 

Get out of your cocoon and join networks through which you can openly demonstrate your capabilities and values such as responsibility, accountability, innovativeness etc.  For example, in volunteering your services as the treasurer of your youth group, the Church leaders will begin to notice that you are trustworthy.  By participating in business competitions, you may not win but you gain recognition for your innovative ideas and that experience becomes your competitive advantage. 

Thirdly, open your eyes to existing innovative approaches that allow you to unleash your entrepreneurial  spirit.  You will be amazed what sort of information is available on the Internet.  For example, there are online lending platforms through organisations such as BiDNetwork and KIVA that utilise peer-to-peer financing approaches at little or no interest, to counter this challenge.

When you join such networks and go through the vetting process, your likelihood of acquiring start-up capital increases tremendously.  However, even if you are not successful, you expose yourself to a network that can open doors in other areas and opportunities.  You may find yourself with a personal business coach and learn how to draft a practical and effective business plan.  You will be one step closer to achieving your goals.

The point that I am trying to drive home is that as a young person, the future is in your hands.  Do not just sit there whining. Do something!  Do not be stationary, but on the other hand, know exactly where you want to go. 
After all, a driver with no destination, still gets somewhere… but how much more effective, if he had driven with a goal in mind.

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