Bright Simons is a technology entrepreneur and a social innovator, with a footprint in 12 African countries. He has built an empire on developing technologies that address social problems and improve health outcomes in Africa. He shares with us his dream for Africa through shared prosperity.
I believe the biggest challenge we have as entrepreneurs on the continent, is without doubt, our inability to create sufficient room for the people that work for and with us to reach their full potential. We underutilize talent. We have created a complicated system of micro entrepreneurs, all of them competing, instead of collaborating; all of them fighting for the same crumbs instead of creating more. All of them backbiting rather than building up.
To achieve continent-lifting goals, Africa's entrepreneurs need to come up with a new vision of shared prosperity; and that new vision of shared prosperity must start with employees. Once your team is completely loyal to a brand bigger than themselves and bigger than you, everything falls in place. Business must also offer to the community, value that inherently, only business has the capacity to give.
The orchestra of success
I was once advised to look at my team as an orchestra; and myself as a conductor. Invariably, each person in their role must be better than myself; yet, to produce choral music I must allow myself, as conductor, to be shaped by the symbiotic relationship of this team of individual experts. My job as conductor is to allow them to flourish to the full peak of their potentials and harmonise them such that the whole will be far greater than the sum of the parts. Leadership is not to be the wisest or smartest person in the room. Leadership is to be the one person, whose presence in the team lifts everybody's performance and creates a collective tapestry of excellence.
To me, an entrepreneur's job is to unleash the full potential of the people you work with. If you don't do that, the jobs you have created are a waste but worse than that, by under developing, and underutilizing the talented people you have employed, you have robbed them individually, and the continent, of the quality of talent they could have potentially become.
Africa open for experiment
Africa's exceptional demographics of lots of young people; and inexperienced experts, means that you can actually create a new kind of human being, who's not heavily influenced by the wisdom of the West. The truth is now we can create a new type of African innovator, problem solver, politician, expert, business visionary and product evangelist. In most parts of the world, the institutions are set in their ways, and the environments constrain creativity. Africa is not like that yet, we have raw energy.
The world is looking for new answers from Africa, and those new answers to me, may change the questions. Questions about how to achieve natural balance in our environment, what is the purpose of human beings on earth etc. Today, the world stands at a place where every particle is saturated with the wisdom from the West and the East. What keeps me moving forward is this passionate curiosity of when that day will come when Africans in their collective civilization can now offer new answers to the modern world.
I think in ten years, Ghana will see itself as part of the bigger African story. Most people will think of Pan Africanism not as a nostalgic nonsense, but very much about business strategy, and policy design. Ghana might become an important hub in the region for professional services like banking and any service that is high trust oriented. If things go smoothly, Ghana has the potential to become Africa's Switzerland a place anchor in assets, intellectual property and ethics.