Succeeding as countries and businesses requires learning from everywhere.

9th November 2023

Succeeding as a business in a competitive market requires continual vigilance, innovation and experimentation with new markets, products, technology and processes. In the same way, succeeding as a country in a competitive global environment requires continual vigilance, innovation and experimentation with new alliances, investment, research and policies.

The world is moving so quickly that remaining competitive has to be a collaborative task between public and private sectors, together with entities like universities, research organisations and media that produce and disseminate knowledge. Countries are bound to be at a disadvantage in the global market when ideological or other differences drive apart those who make policy and spend national budgets from those who create businesses that employ citizens and pay taxes. We need each other.

I was reminded of this last week while reading The Startup State, the weekly email bulletin from the Global Entrepreneurship Network Policy and Research team. It highlights key entrepreneurship news and features from around the world. I expect there are dozens, if not hundreds, of similar rich sources of information in different fields.

In that issue, for example, there was news of France copying the UK’s tax relief for angel investors in startups. From 2024, individual investors in ‘young innovative companies’ will get a 30% income tax break.

Ireland has announced changes to capital gains tax, investor tax reliefs, and the research & development tax credit in their latest budget.

The Tanzanian Startup Association clearly has been watching, because it has called for the creation of a public-private Tanzania Venture Capital Fund and the urgent establishment of a Tanzania Startup Policy. Maybe this was inspired by examples like Nigeria’s Startup Act of 2022, which offers tax relief, seed funding, capacity building and regulatory assistance.

We can learn from everywhere. The newsletter also drew my attention to an organisation called Rest of World, which reports on technology news outside the West. For example, in a report called “West vs Rest”, they identified forty companies they describe as, “Faster, smarter, more adaptable: these emerging market pioneers are outmanoeuvring Silicon Valley for global domination.” African firms among them include M-Pesa, Transsion, Jumia, and Showmax. I disagree with some of those inclusions and some exclusions, but they do inspire entrepreneurial ambition.

Also in the GEN newsletter is a reference to their GEN Atlas, “the world’s largest entrepreneurship policy compendium, featuring over 350 case studies from 70 countries.” The Atlas reviews innovative cases of policy-making and evaluates them on five levels of evidence they provide, ranging from the lowest level of no evidence to the highest level of providing direct proof of impact, including randomised control trials.

Last week’s GEN Atlas spotlighted Europe’s Erasmus for Entrepreneurs scheme (EYE). This Europe-wide initiative pairs youth entrepreneurs with experienced entrepreneurs in a different country. This benefits the young entrepreneur in the form of on-the-job training, and also the host entrepreneur, who receives an ambitious and motivated employee for up to six months.

EYE claims that almost 11,000 exchanges had taken place with 36.5% of those participating in the program going on to create their own business.

How does one keep up with all this policy information? I hope there are people in government who have the initiative and humility to network with clever people at home and abroad who can alert them as new ideas emerge. A country that is not innovating is depriving its citizens of future prosperity and health.

Networking is a powerful determinant of success in almost every field. The job description of those in positions of authority and influence should include keeping abreast of examples that can inspire their own initiatives. Scanning the environment for new ideas is already in the job description of all CEOs. And let’s work together to share experiences, insights and cases to learn from.

Jonathan Cook, a Counselling Psychologist and Chairman of the African Management Institute. If you’d like to read previous columns in this series or ask Jonathan a question please visit http://www.africanmanagers.org/jonathan-cook

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