Three Ways To Sustain Innovation In African Startups

The conversation surrounding innovation in business is usually geared in a positive direction, given its numerous benefits. For example, it improves productivity and efficiency such that growth is almost always guaranteed even during turbulence or uncertain times. Therefore, it is an advantage for a startup to create an environment that fosters innovation. Africa is gaining the spotlight when it comes to creating opportunities for startups as the continent offers unexplored potential with its embrace of technology.

The continent houses some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, indicating that African startups that implement systems to utilize the benefits of innovation are likely to be ahead of their peers in the industry. However, to continue reaping those benefits, sustainability is critical. And while the future looks bright for startups on the continent, there is still some work to be done. Many startups in Africa fall off the innovation train due to a lack of meticulous and strategic planning — even though the environment is inviting.

Needed Resources

Startups need resources, primarily financial, to execute and maintain innovation, and impact investments are particularly useful in that regard. They are considered the sustainable bridge between strategy, learning, innovation, and change. These investments not only yield financial returns but also make a commendable impact on the environment within which the startup operates. African startups can therefore secure the funds they need and make an impact that builds a positive reputation within their community. This means they will have to set goals that seek to solve issues, such as unemployment and education, to attract such investments. The general assumption is that for startups, corporate social responsibility may be a secondary commitment that comes after ideas take off. However, based on its ability to attract investments, it is not overreaching to incorporate it during the early stages of operation.

Risk And Failure

Risk and failure are synonymous with running a business, especially in its infancy. Innovation in itself is a risk, so it is beneficial to consider it a necessary part of growth. This mindset will make it easier to take initiatives towards productivity and development without fear and view it as a learning process. This requires building or developing a flexible framework or model to include innovation at every step. African startups that have innovation in their plans are likely to navigate change better and deal with the effects of risk and failure. While building the ideal framework, eliminating the processes that do not work and projects that do not yield positive outcomes is also necessary. African startups usually try to do everything at once in an attempt to seem productive. However, this is quite counterproductive and is likely to slow down growth.

Human Resources

Startups may not have the resources to support large teams; however, human resources and their quality affects the longevity of innovative strategies. At the hiring stage, the evaluation of candidates should include inventive thinking and the ability to take the initiative. After that, the onboarding process for hires should also have an orientation that instills a positive attitude towards innovation. Additionally, when necessary, it will be advantageous for the team to undergo training that teaches innovative thinking. The education scene on the continent is evolving and embracing entrepreneurship and its effects on the economy. As such, it is not challenging to find courses that equip students with relevant and practical skills geared towards independent and out-of-the-box thinking. Kenya, for example, is one of the countries leading the continent when it comes to imparting the knowledge of innovation as a growth tool. The widespread access and use of the internet on the continent also lowers the difficulty of accessing tools to upgrade skills. Startups can leverage these resources to add value to their team members, guaranteeing the sustainability of innovation throughout the journey. The startup’s environment should also be welcoming to idea sharing and to benefit from its human resources.

Innovation is a significant driver of growth for businesses, and so it is not far-fetched for startups to strategize toward sustaining it. African startups possess the potential to grow as the business climate on the continent is ripe with opportunities for innovation.

Founder/ CEO at AfriCent Group( www.africentgroup.com) Member, Forbes Business Council

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