One of Kenya’s best-known tech investors Ory Okoloh has cast a chill on the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation on the continent. “You can’t build around bad leadership, we can’t build around bad policy,” Okolloh said, criticizing what she calls the “fetishization” of entrepreneurship and neglect of fundamental issues. which hinder African countries. “There is growth in Africa, but Africans are not growing,” she said, echoing her previous comments.
Speaking at Quartz Africa Innovators Summit yesterday (September 14), Okoloh said:
“I am concerned about what I see as a fetishization around entrepreneurship in Africa. It’s almost like it’s the next big thing in liberal politics. Don’t worry if there is no electricity, because you are going to do solar energy and innovate in this field. Your schools suck, but hey, there’s this new school model. Your roads are terrible, but hey, Uber works in Nairobi and that’s innovation.
During the Greek bailout, no one was telling young Greeks to become entrepreneurs. Europe is stuck at 2 or 1% growth. I don’t see any entrepreneurship summits in Europe telling them, you know, to go out there and be entrepreneurs. I feel like there’s a sense that resilience and, you know, innovation in things, it distracts us from solving fundamental problems that we can’t develop.
We cannot fight our way through bad leadership. We cannot circumvent bad policies through entrepreneurship. Those of us who have managed to escape live in a very false security in Africa. There is growth in Africa, but Africans are not growing. And we need to ask ourselves why there is such pressure for us to innovate ourselves around issues that our leaders, our taxes, our policymakers, ourselves, to be frank, should be grappling with.
…I think sometimes we avoid facing the really hard things. And the same people who advocate entrepreneurship and innovation come from places where the roads work, the electricity works, and teachers are well paid. I haven’t seen anyone doing public school work in the United States. You all went to public schools, you know, and then you got to Harvard or whatever. You turned on your light and it came on. No one is trying to innovate around your power company. So why do we have to do this? Our systems need to work and we need to figure our shit out.