Africa’s startup scene is growing from strength to strength as African entrepreneurs create solutions at a faster pace than ever before. With so many African opportunities abound, the ‘war for talent’ is fiercer than ever. At the Wharton Africa Business Forum 2016 (#WABF24), the founders of 3 of Africa’s most impactful ventures told their stories on how they mobilise human capital as the foundation of their success.

Who are our African Entrepreneurs?

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji co-founded Andela, the recipient of the very first lead investment by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to the tune of $24 million.

Sacha Poignonnec is the co-CEO of Jumia, a multi-million dollar ecommerce platform and the first African company to win a World Retail Award.

Fred Swaniker is the African Leadership Group’s co-founder, comprising the African Leadership UniversityAfrican Leadership Network and African Leadership Academy, which has so far created 853 young African leaders across 45 countries.

Tips for Creating a Successful Startup

1. Build the best founding team – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

It is no coincidence that all 3 entrepreneurs are co-founders or co-CEO of their enterprises. Iyinoluwa firmly believes that the best advice he was given when starting out was this: “Your co-founder should have skills that complement your own and that is how you will create a successful business.” If the two aspects to investment are access and performance, an experienced cofounder and team will help you navigate those waters.

2. Titles are free – Fred Swaniker

A startup is a blank slate. It is an amazing opportunity for employees to choose their titles, carve out their niche and choose their own title. Titles are free after all! Startups have an amazing value proposition for talented individuals – this is a chance to be a part of something larger and much more exciting than wherever they were previously. Always remember that you have much more to offer your employees than just money.

3. Everyone needs to understand what they’re doing and  why  – Sacha Poignonnec

Sacha makes a habit of visiting various Jumia departments and asking employees one question – “How is what you are doing right now aligned with the strategy of the company?” This ensures 2 things: a) that all employees are aware of Jumia’s strategy and direction, and b) that all activity is critical to the success of the business. It’s easier to reach your destination when you’re all rowing in the same direction.

4. Ownership isn’t everything – Fred Swaniker

It is always more worthwhile to hold a smaller piece of a bigger pie. If you want to grow something, you have to relinquish power. You can see this through TED, whose brand didn’t receive worldwide recognition until they began licensing out TEDx events, Airbnb or the numerous global franchises we see on our streets. Offering your employees an equity share in the business could be just the right incentive.

5. Hire for a strong mission – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

When people are aligned with the mission of a business, the ability of founders to hire great talent becomes simpler. Iyinoluwa’s newest venture is Flutterwave, a digital payments platform that aims to connect Africa to the global economy. Andela’s mission is to train 100,000 world-class developers on the continent over the next 10 years. Both companies have seen impressive growth, with the clarity of their missions playing a significant part in building the solid teams in place today.

The common thread running through these nuggets of advice is that the people in your startup will determine its success. Walking the fine line between motivation, mission and a real meeting of minds has taken these startups to where they are today and they continue to grow!

What have you found works well on your entrepreneurship journey? Share your own advice in the comments.


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