“Africa’s future depends on entrepreneurship”

“Development in Africa is not dependent on the quality and drive of its governments. Neither on aid projects, nor on the work of volunteers from the west. The future and the well-being of this continent depends largely on the power of its own, local entrepreneurs”, says Professor Walter Baets, Director of the UCT Graduate School of Business in Cape Town, South Africa.

Professor Walter Baets

Professor Walter Baets

Professor Walter Baets (of Belgian nationality) is heading one of the leading business schools of Africa, finishing 60th in the latest Financial Times Global MBA Top 100 Ranking. He is a firm believer in the power of entrepreneurship to solve the problems of many African countries. “Governments try hard, but sometimes lack the expertise to plan the building of local wealth, to alleviate unemployment, to face social challenges. Their best bet is to support the development of small business enterprises – SME’s – that are the real backbone of economy. They account for 40-60 per cent of global GDP and up to 70 per cent of employment of the OECD countries. The numbers are probably even higher in large parts of Africa. Africa should cherish and develop this strong power.”

Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship

It is for this reason that professor Baets and the UCT Graduate School are launching a brand-new Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Cape Town. Professor Baets: “The centre is geared towards showing students new and better ways to build enterprises with growth potential in South Africa and in the rest of the continent.”

One of the many great initiatives of the Centre is to offer managers of small companies a one year program. “We focus on small companies with real growth potential, that are potentially able to create more jobs than they currently do. These are hard working businessmen and women with a company consisting of three, maybe four employees. They generally lack the knowledge of marketing and finance to make their business grow. We teach and coach them how to take their enterprise one step further. How to create added value. The students get tough assignments, some based on real-life social and business problems, that require innovative thinking.”

Integrate social and environmental goals

Educating the future businessmen and women to be good entrepreneurs is one task the educators have. “The centre of social innovation and entrepreneurship aims to teach them how to integrate social and environmental goals and benefits in to their business models. How to conduct business in a responsible way.”

Professor Baets is determined to spread the social innovation and entrepreneurship learnings to other parts of Africa. “Our aim is to actively share the curriculum with universities in countries like Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. Members of the Association of African Business Schools have already shown their interest. This is part of our plans for the future, maybe as soon as in 2012. Sharing the knowledge of how to educate and train social entrepreneurs in a practical, effective and low-cost way can make a big difference to the economies of African countries.” – Shout-Africa news /flyingblueclubafrica