Economic Recovery from an African Perspective
African countries – like many nations in the developing world – have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. While infection and death rates have, in general, been lower in Africa than elsewhere, the economic effects have been particularly severe. How can the continent recover?
On Friday 12th February 2021, Dr Florence Nisabwe and Fondation-LAB hosted a webinar with guest speaker Dr Ralph Steele, looking at answering exactly this question.
Dr Steele is a US-based entrepreneur, business owner and mentor, and wealth coach. His particular focus is on helping people achieve income for life and generational wealth – that is, wealth that can be passed on through families.
Dr Steele reconciles his capitalism with his faith by asserting that ‘God intended for each of us to wealthy and financially independent’. In this webinar, he helped the audience see how his ideas about entrepreneurship could ignite an economic recovery in individual African nations, and across the continent.

Strategy is vital
Whilst acknowledging that each country’s – and each person’s – experience of the pandemic and its aftershocks have been different, Dr Steele maintains that the economic rebound is very much possible, but that it requires intent. In other words, people must devise strategies to drive the recovery; it won’t happen by accident.
There is of course no ‘one size fits all’ plan for economic recovery – strategies will need to be ‘tweaked’ to fit particular circumstances and desire outcomes. After all, each situation is different, and Africa – with its 54 nations and more than 1 billion people – faces unique challenges.
The economics of African nations tend to be complicated by the importance of the informal sector, as well the ongoing prevalence of traditional social structures, with patriarchy in particular being an obstacle to women’s economic empowerment.
Dr Steele argues that his concept of a ‘national plan’ can be adapted to any circumstances; the key thing is to identify opportunities and seize them! This approach can give people the confidence to take on financial risk and adapt successful strategies to meet their needs.

Entrepreneurs will drive the recovery
He sees entrepreneurs as having a key role at the heart of any national recovery plan. By taking advantages of opportunities, entrepreneurs can make amazing things happen, anywhere.
Dr Steele described some of the key characteristics of entrepreneurs: flexibility; creativity; focus on the goal of making a profit (however this is measured, it is the ultimate aim of any business). By setting up profitable enterprises, entrepreneurs can contribute to the national recovery through generating additional tax revenue. This is an example of how the business and political systems are co-dependent and can assist each other: by creating a political system that supports businesses and entrepreneurship, politicians can benefit from higher tax receipts, including income tax when entrepreneurs generate new employment opportunities.

Keeping it in the family
The notion of a family business was also discussed during the Fondation-LAB webinar with Dr Florence Nisabwe and Dr Ralph Steele. Families offer a clear route to generational wealth, with family members contributing to – and benefitting from – generational wealth. Again, these kinds of business need to have a long-term strategy if they are to endure and make a profit (and in the case of social entrepreneurship, it’s worth remembering that ‘profit’ can involve correcting a wrong or improving a situation, as well as simply making money).

Becoming an entrepreneur
Dr Steele maintained that every person – every woman – has at least three skills that are marketable and which can be monetised. Access to education such as business certification courses – can help women transfer these skills into money-making ventures. Even where such assistance is not available – as may well be the case in rural areas, for example, the same universal truths hold true: women are more than capable of becoming entrepreneurs; strategy will help them succeed; and when they do succeed, they will make a tangible contribution to their own country’s economic recovery and by extension, to Africa’s rebound from the impact of the pandemic.