The entrepreneurial spirit is ripe in Africa, especially with a high percentage of the population engaged in self-employment. This goes to show that the continent is open to innovation and independence. It may seem like the corporate sector has no involvement or role to play in encouraging entrepreneurship, but on the contrary, corporate Africa can adopt systems that empower employees to be proactive and action-oriented as well as self-motivated. This means organizations can benefit from the creativity and ideas that Africa has to offer by stepping outside of the boundaries of the traditional corporate structure.
One of the less-popular methods that businesses on the continent can use to foster growth and development is intrapreneurship. It is less popular because the general assumption is that it is difficult or impossible to change the corporate business model. This fear of change is one factor holding back the sector from reaching maximum capacity, in my opinion. Gradually, however, more and more corporations on the continent are beginning to catch up, opening up opportunities for those within the company to explore the possibilities and maximize resources in the process. While some countries are already making headway, others are catching on, and soon, the whole continent could be in on this method of generating solutions to corporate and even social issues.
The intrapreneurship concept is about empowering employees with the needed resources to develop their ideas for the benefits of the business. Employees form the backbone of companies, and it is a worthy investment to give some autonomy and opportunity for them to be innovative. This means providing access to the necessary resources and freedom an entrepreneur has, without the fear of failure, which already has very minimal personal costs. The organization absorbs losses because it benefits from the ideas that its employees come up with. Intrapreneurs, therefore, work hand in hand with entrepreneurs to increase productivity for the business. This does not mean completely disregarding the corporate structure that has worked for many years, but rather integrating this idea into it for better agility.
Using intrapreneurship as a tool for business growth in Africa will require the continent’s corporate sector to look at changing the work structure to foster innovation and initiative. The benefits of doing this are endless, including the creation of solutions to various problems. Indeed, entrepreneurship might not be for everyone, but with a little support, employees can have a shot at it. With the right training as well, businesses can harness the potential that their staffs have when it comes to creativity and innovation.
Apart from increasing productivity, intrapreneurship also presents an opportunity for companies to adapt and hence survive in the ever-dynamic world of business. Intrapreneurs are the fresh minds that the somewhat outdated corporate “red tape” structure needs to prevent stagnation in their industries. The enterprise can then diversify to meet the needs of the current business climate. The company can also have an impact on future trends in the industry and even be one step ahead. Collaboration in the work environment is made possible as well due to entrepreneurship, and strengthening the relationship between the organization and its members comes with its benefits.
Intrapreneurship has a lot to offer businesses, and the same can be said for the employees involved. For example, in career development, it is a step closer for staff into top management positions, or at least the experience, giving them a better chance in their industry. Especially with a large percentage of the African corporate workforce made up of young people, there needs to be an outlet for all the energy, creativity and ideas that they harbor. African businesses can start looking into creating this outlet to facilitate a snowball effect of growth and development.
Razaq Juwon Lawal is the Founder/CEO of Africent Group and a member of the Forbes Business Council