Inspiring Entrepreneurs Have Ideas, Need Cash

Last Updated Oct 8, 2007 7:22 PM EDT

Inspiring African Entrepreneurs Have Ideas, Need CashMaybe you've seen the movie Wall Street a few too many times. Maybe it was just one accounting scandal or product safety recall too many, but sometimes it's pretty easy to be down on business. Greed can make people do some ugly things.

And then you come across a story that reminds you that business is at base creative, a driving force to improve people's lives. This weekend on the Huffington Post Alan Patricof highlighted the increasing number of entrepreneurs in the developing world "who are awaiting the opportunity to implement well thought-out business plans to meet the enormous commercial opportunities which are available."

What's stopping them? A huge financing gap:

The global availability of venture capital and private equity according to last year's figures were about 3% of GDP; in Kenya it was .07%; Uganda .05% which suggested that just for East Africa alone a financing gap of $100 million a year or $1 billion over the next decade, a figure which in some respects seems so small but on a local basis seems so very large.
That missing $100 million represents a lot of pent up aspiration and creativity (as well as a lot of missed business opportunities). Sometimes this creativity finds expression despite the lack of resources. Just take a look at this bicycle mounted mobile phone business from Uganda, or this windmill built from spare parts by a young man in Malawi. Last week the development community met to try and drum up the funding these entrepreneurs need. Non-profits like Kiva.org, which matches those willing to lend small sums to entrepreneurs in need, are doing likewise. If you haven't heard about them already, here's a video on the subject from Nicolas Kristof at the NY Times.
As Patricof concludes, "the implementation of [these entrepreneurs] ideas will not necessarily look like Silicon Valley, but the Steve Jobs, The Sergey Brins and Larry Pages as well as the Howard Schultzes and Ralph Laurens are out there."

(Image of solar powered wireless pay phone by abaporu, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.