Richard Branson, world-famous entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, says that entrepreneurship “is about turning what excites you in life into capital, so that you can do more with it and move forward with it.” In creating new businesses and new employment opportunities, entrepreneurs add to countries’ national incomes by helping generate new wealth and by paying taxes. Those who take the social enterprise approach can spur community development by supporting and investing back into their local communities. Yet, according to the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report for Africa, African entrepreneurs often struggle because to make a profit when starting or growing a new enterprise.
Ampion, short for ‘Amplifying Pioneership’, was established in 2013 in order to help address this challenge. With a vision to be “a globally recognized catalyst for private sector driven economic growth and [to] promote impactful and sustainable development throughout the [African] continent and the world,” Ampion is helping to identify, seed, source, and support entrepreneurs and start-ups that will have the largest effect on the widest range of people. On how they first identified this large market gap and established Ampion, co-founder Fabian-Carlos Guhl, says that he “started several startups right after graduating from university and many of them failed due to lack of know-how and resources. I would like to help more people to overcome these challenges and enable them to have an impact.”
So how does Ampion work? According to co-founder Ifeanyi Oteh, Ampion was created to “use startups to have the largest impact on the widest range of people.” Each year Ampion runs a series of Venture Bus programs throughout different regions of the African continent bringing together aspiring entrepreneurs and tech experts for a seven-day bus ride. During this bus journey, the entrepreneurs are not only introduced to Ampion’s established and wide network of partners including existing and successful entrepreneurs, funders, government agencies, development organisations and agencies, IT organisations, mentors and other investors but, perhaps just as importantly, are given the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. Successful entrepreneurs, are then given the chance to participate in Ampion’s Fellowship Program, during which they will receive expert training and support, access to financial support, a subsidised work space, and access to investor networks as well as consulting and advisory services. On the importance of not only identifying entrepreneurs, but also supporting them throughout their entire development journey, Oteh believes that “many organisations are ready to participate in the success of African startups, but only a few are willing to commit to the venture building activities that are required in order to achieve success in many African markets.”
With a rising population, youth employment is currently a major challenge facing many African countries. Youth often begin their working lives in family businesses (generally in an informal capacity) and seldom make the transition to paid employment in the formal sector. While entrepreneurship has the potential to amplify opportunities for youth, at present, the majority of current entrepreneurial activity is narrowly concentrated in the retail sector. Commenting on the need to diversify entrepreneurial activities and develop new goods and services that have the potential to positively impact the lives of thousands or millions of people across the continent Guhl notes that “technology is a great chance to quickly scale across many regions. It is important to identify technology solutions in different fields internationally and then adjust and apply them to the local context.”
The sustainable support provided by Ampion, and through the wide range of public, private, and voluntary partners that have engaged and formed partnerships with, has led them to winning the 2015 Global Innovation Ecosystem Award as well as 2014 Pan-African Award for Entrepreneurship in Education. Commenting on their success to date, Oteh says, “the desire to prove that conventional approaches will only lead to conventional solutions, coupled with the willingness to fail, has allowed us to lay the ground for a new approach to building startups on a pan-African level.”
For more information on Ampion, its partners, and to contact its co-founders visit: http://www.ampion.org/