Crafting the entrepreneur in you by Carl Manlan (COO of Ecobank Foundation)

(Carl Manlan writes in his personal capacity.)

In many respects, when one thinks of entrepreneurship, the focus is on the business venture, risk and making a profit. It is most often about starting a new business. While this is important and a pathway that has been reinforced in the context of limited jobs and opportunities for young adults, it is important to pause and define the most important piece of the work: the mindset.

As such, for a very long time, I basked in the idea that life will happen to me in a linear way. A linear approach that mainly exists in mathematics. I could not necessarily understand the reason why one should craft his or her own narrative of change. But life has a unique way to remind us that we hold the keys to our internal transformation. Transformation begs for constant renewal based on content.

When I started at the University of Cape Town in 1999, three years after completing high school, most of my peers had made progress in their journey. I was at the beginning of an extraordinary journey that I can contemplate in hindsight. I was disappointed then but I was not defeated. Through this journey of discovery, I started to explore at the limit of my boundaries defined as new country, new language, new environment, etc. In doing so, I started to redefine my boundaries at a pace that I could absorb.

One of the key features of my apprenticeship, was to redefine my world with English as the medium. In Zimbabwe, I discovered African literature through Things fall apart of Chinua Achebe. The narrative I engaged with gave me a glimpse of what possibilities could be once I had mastered the language. I made it a personal venture to master English because I understood the impact it would have on my chosen path. The perceived delay in time elapsed between high school and my first day at university no longer mattered. I was becoming a conscious designer of my enterprise through content. Fast forward to 2017 and I am working across the African continent to enable prosperity in Africa.

There are three things that I think are critical in crafting the entrepreneur in you:

1. Patience in one’s ability to develop capacity while taking informed risk. Moving from Abidjan to Harare was a required step in developing my intellectual capacity to embrace inner transformation through content.

2. Knowledge of self and others to seek new ways to engage with ideas, prototypes to turn them into bankable solutions to transform the community.

3. Purpose in life is connected to the community. The greatest achievement of an entrepreneur is to have enabled prosperity in the community that translates into impact driven changes.

Ultimately, entrepreneurship is about challenging the stable mediocrity that creeps in and makes talented young adults underutilise their potential. I am still crafting the entrepreneur in me. It is a lifetime commitment to contribute to transforming communities with a shared value proposition: enabling prosperity in Africa.

Ultimately, crafting the entrepreneur in you is a lifetime commitment to act that everyday finds us farther than today.

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