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Why West Africa needs the skills to fulfil its potential

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Why West Africa needs the skills to fulfil its potential

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I got so excited when I completed my Lumina Spark Practitioner Qualification this year. Exploring the Lumina Spark model in my business, it then dawned on me that it would be a good idea to share this article about ‘Why West Africa needs the skills to fulfil its potential’. Part of this article was first published by Inemmo Leadership Development Solutions in September 2016.

Organisations in West Africa, I believe, are increasingly going to need access to proven and reliable leadership development tools, and for a variety of reasons. The main, overarching one is to ensure that all those bright, young, hungry firms that are currently emerging in the region will be sustainable in the long run – capable not only of lasting well into the future as individual entities, but of working together to safeguard a prosperous future for West Africa’s economy as a whole.

To illustrate exactly what kind of organisations I’m talking about, let’s begin with a success story: three entrepreneurs spot a gap in the online market when they realised that those ‘contact form’ pages on company websites are pretty much a waste of space. The problems they’ve picked up are twofold. Either customers aren’t using the forms at all, because they consider them faceless and don’t think anyone is on the receiving end or most of these standard emails don’t get a reply – you have to follow up with a call to inform the recipients to check their emails and reply to it.

So, these entrepreneurs invent a cloud platform that businesses can plug into as a one-stop shop for customer feedback. On the customer’s side, the interface enables people to enter data in a categorised way – even inviting them to describe their emotional states when they’re getting in touch. On the firm’s side, the first thing an executive sees when firing up the interface is a series of metrics showing how their products or services are going down with the market – along with an indicator of customers’ emotional sentiments towards the brand, based on the data supplied. The whole idea is simplicity itself: by setting up on this platform, firms are giving their customers a guarantee that there is someone on the other end, and that they are listening. Customers, meanwhile, feel they have a lot more freedom to provide open and honest information in a number of different ways.

Product development takes just 54 hours, and testing goes great guns. The entrepreneurs formally set up their business. Just one year later, they scoop the World’s Best IT Startup Award in prestigious US business incubator the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Startup Open. Blazing with passion and hunger, they head off to Rio to track down Dave McClure, founder of major, global accelerator 500 Startups, at the organisation’s local HQ. Initially taken aback, and somewhat sceptical of the business model, McClure is quickly won around by the entrepreneurs’ enthusiasm for, and commitment to, their vision. He agrees to back the firm so it can expand to key target markets.

It may sound like this is the tale of a Startup from London’s Silicon Roundabout – but it isn’t. It’s actually about a firm from Ghana.

Imaginative solutions

That company is Dropifi. Founded in 2011 by David Osei, Kamil Nabong and Philips Effah, the firm is part of an entrepreneurial wave sweeping through West Africa that is redefining the region’s image in the eyes of the world. In March, prominent business support group The African Network of Entrepreneurs (TANOE) included Dropifi in its latest 100 Globally Competitive Startups in Ghana list – setting the firm among dozens of companies in that single, West African nation that it thinks have the ability to perform on the world stage.

Those 100 businesses span every sector, from fashion and media to retail and agriculture – but by far the biggest growth area is technology. Companies are using their keen understanding of what the private sector needs to drive their coding skills, and like Dropifi, they’re coming up with witty and imaginative solutions to problems that haven’t even become hot topics yet.

Deepening the story

In more developed parts of the world, tales of “accidental managers” are legend. Business journals are constantly warning us of the systemic dangers that can stem from people who have been fast-tracked into leadership roles, often by circumstances such as rapid company growth, for which they have not been prepared. If it is to fulfil the promise presented by its current wave of Start-ups, West Africa must avoid those scenarios at all costs. It is one thing to be an entrepreneur getting a firm on its feet – but quite another to be a leader five to 10 years down the line after that firm has staffed up, gone global and become increasingly more complex. The tools that someone has to write a company’s opening chapters are not the same as those required to deepen its story and carve out a few sequels.

Another reason why leadership development based on proven models must spread through the region is because these firms are bound to encounter numerous dynamic changes as they become more established. Coping with fast-moving events is a major aspect of leadership, and there are signs that one of the biggest segments of West Africa’s technology scene – Fintech – already has a rollercoaster ride ahead of it over the next few years.

Collaboration in business

Collaboration is no longer just a strategy but the key word in modern business and strong leaders must also be able to forge convincing global partnerships, and keep those plates spinning all around the world no matter what time zone they personally happen to be in. Again, this has become a particularly urgent requirement for firms in Ghana. If Ghana has to continue to be the gateway to West Africa, then we will have to considerably open up the business climate to further internationalisation, providing yet more opportunities for young and ambitious Ghanaian firms to boost their global outlook and seek out collaborations with foreign partners. This will require a set of dextrous interpersonal skills that some entrepreneurs may already have – but many, many others will need to learn.

That is where leadership development tools from Inemmo Leadership Development Solutions UK; such as the Lumina Spark model, come in handy.

As well as helping to address that big-picture issue, leadership development will also enable West Africa’s upcoming superstars to create better internal processes for their organisations. It has been proven that companies with the best leadership outclass their rivals on issues such as employee engagement and succession planning: both absolutely crucial for guiding the next generation of talents through fulfilling careers, and finding the leaders of tomorrow.

If West Africa is to lead the world, it must first lead itself.

Look out for the next workshop, organised in Accra, from the multi-award winning U.K. consultancy Inemmo Leadership Development Solutions. Inemmo have partnered with Lumina Learning to bring an entire suite of progressive people and organizational development tools to businesses in West Africa.

To receive more information on upcoming workshops please register with us. The team will be happy to support you to gain the right leadership skills.

About Global Trade Consult:

Global Trade Consult is a Ghanaian-based private consultancy firm supporting local and foreign organizations with business interests in Ghana. We help companies understand, access, and manage business opportunities by helping companies’ trade and invest in Ghana.

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