Monday, July 29, 2013

The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Banchi Urgeha: Africa's New Entrepreneurs

Over a year ago, news of an economic miracle in Africa -- or rather, a number of them -- was starting to catch on. At a time when most G20 economies are dealing with slow growth in the wake of a global recession, a number of African nations have been enjoying impressive and steady economic growth rates.
Reasons for the growth ranged from increased investment in infrastructure and healthy commodity prices to increased use of mobile and digital technology. Demographically, the "young" continent is also poised to reap the benefits of a workforce bulge in its productive years.


But this year, the growth of African economies has been called into question, with arguments in Foreign Policy magazine saying manufacturing growth in has, in fact, stagnated, while the indicators many were citing were not substantial enough to bolster the optimism around Africa. Pro-African rebuttals followed.
Whether or not this rise is "real" and sustainable, The Agenda found there is a movement afoot in Africa and other developing regions that is helping build a new entrepreneurial class.

It is in this vein that we interviewed Banchi Urgeha earlier this year. Urgeha is a venture competition and business development coordinator in Ethiopia, with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), a social enterprise based in Ottawa, which is working to promote entrepreneurial thinking in developing countries. The purpose of DOT is to deploy educated Africans into their communities to teach and help people get small businesses off the ground. It's a change from the western model of fostering development through intervention.
Urgeha began with DOT as a trainer upon graduating from Jimma University in her native Ethiopia, with a degree in law. She's trained more than 500 people in Ethiopia to start their own businesses. And as Urgeha emphasizes in our interview, which you can watch above, this initiative is not about aid. Rather, it's about giving people the tools and education to create their own opportunities for work.
Perhaps as important as the debate over Africa’s economic rise are the thousands upon thousands of small success stories people like Banchi Urgeha have helped foster.