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Innovation: Africa is inventing its own model

On the occasion of the 2017 edition of the Africa CEO Forum, Mazars, the integrated and independent international organisation specialising in audit and advisory services, reveals the findings of its latest study “Unleashing Africa’s Corporate Innovation Potential: Navigating intrapreneurship and open innovation paths across the continent”. Propelled forward thanks to intrapreneurship and innovation, Africa is today at a turning point in its transformation. Throughout this study, Mazars set off to meet both entrepreneurs and companies that have developed local, innovative and pragmatic initiatives. 

Close to 70% of employees in Africa would be willing to leave their company if it lacked openness to innovation or entrepreneurship. 

Innovation has become a strategic priority for an increasing number of companies in Africa, which rarely enjoy the necessary resources and agility to transform themselves rapidly. 

Innovative African entrepreneurs are contributing to creating a new model, inspired by external success stories without necessarily copying them but rather adapting them to local realities. Certain companies bank on the innovative potential of their employees. Others open up to external actors, such as start-ups. From Dakar to Nairobi, from Cape Town to Casablanca, intrapreneurship and open innovation experiments are multiplying, creating pan-African momentum. 

“As the continent of technological disruption, Africa is currently entering a new stage in terms of innovation. Following the success stories of fintechs, the continent is experiencing a new impetus with the practices of intrapreneurship and open innovation that bring pragmatic local solutions in environments that do not always benefit from internal resources and a regulatory framework conducive to the creation of innovative offers. It is now up to companies to embrace these new initiatives in order to meet the continuously evolving in situ needs of the market and to create a culture of agility that will help them reinvent their business model.” explains Abdou Diop, Managing Partner of Mazars in Morocco. 

Intrapreneurial and open innovation initiatives are important aspects when it comes to talent appeal and retention. Mazars’ study reveals that nearly 90% of respondents indicate that a company's openness to innovation and intrapreneurship would encourage them to join it. 

Africa: multifaceted entrepreneurial ecosystems 

The African continent is in digital uproar: budding in Central or French-speaking Western Africa, undergoing speedy development in Rwanda, structured as highlighted by South Africa – the exception on the continent. Still others enjoy privileged positions as in Morocco, historically close to the United States and geographically of Europe, or in Egypt, which benefits from its proximity with the Middle East.

Mazars’ study demonstrates that nowadays everywhere forerunners show the way by bringing together the worlds of established companies and entrepreneurs / innovators, or by releasing the "intrapreneurial" potential of employees.

It also tells us that there exist varying degrees of maturity between Anglophone and Francophone ecosystems. Thus, only 16% of Anglophone respondents think that their company did not make innovation a priority against 25% on the French side. Anglophone Africa enjoys an important innovative breeding ground in Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg and Cape Town, Accra and Kigali.

Globalisation and instant communication technologies reinforce interconnections between African ecosystems but also across borders. Mazars’ study therefore highlights how start-ups from the African diaspora are joining major groups to extend the adventure to their African subsidiaries, as well as the growing interest of international start-ups in Africa, particularly Fintechs.

While the flow of intrapreneurship and open innovation is gradually gaining ground and visibility in Africa, much remains to be done in most ecosystems for durable entrepreneurs to emerge; for instance, the easing of regulatory frameworks or facilitating access to the market by established companies could be a start.

To download the full study: 

To follow the Africa CEO Forum on Twitter: #ACF2017 and the unveiling of Mazars’ study: