While the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are the engine of any thriving economy, in Africa, little attention has been paid to this ‘very important’ sector.
As a result, 80 percent of businesses under the MSMEs in Africa fail within the first five years of their existence despite having the highest entrepreneurship rate in the world.
The more worrisome is the fact that a large percentage of aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa are quick at floating businesses but lack resources or structure for survival.
Finding practical solutions that will address the issues was top among the reasons some business leaders and panelists drawn from both big and small enterprises in Nigeria and across the world, gathered in Lagos for the second edition of the Global Mentorbridge Summit, a platform for cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge sharing.
The summit, which was held from August 4-5, 2023, in two locations in Lagos; Sheraton Hotel and Radisson Blu Hotel, both in Ikeja, amid a well-participated virtual version, raised the bar in cross generational mentorship matching.
Unlike other summits, Global Mentorbridge was peculiar in the sense that it assembled business people across three generations and also enabled the bridging of knowledge gap between the older generation of business people and younger ones, as well as engendered cross-pollination of ideas and networking platform for all the businesses.
Some of the speakers and panelists at the summit include; Olusegun Sogbesan, a professor, Maria Carolina, John Obidi, Chichi Eriobu, Jekwu Ozoemene, Kelechi Deca, Kenneth Okolie, Modupe Ehirim, Ifedy Eze, Eyitayo Ogunmola, Babatunde Akin-Moses, Israa Mousa, Megan Jurd-Bruiners, Moe Hamid, among others from across the world.
In her opening remarks on the first day, Jane Oma, convener of the summit, noted that the gathering was inspired as a response to the growing need to bridge the knowledge gap between the older generations of business leaders and young entrepreneurs to enable smooth cross-pollination of ideas, knowledge exchange and networking in ways that fosters the building of sustainable businesses.
Speaking further, she said that the summit assembled brilliant minds and inspiring leaders across different divides in order to build bridges to link all generations of business leaders for sustainability and transfer of knowledge.
She pointed that from a study covering nine years carried out by her team, “for the first time ever, there are now three generations of business leaders and corporate executives in the business environment. The ones in their 60s and 70s, the ones in their 40s and 50s and the one in their 20s and 30s, then there are the new entrants in their late teens”.
In his views, John Obidi, founder, Headstart Africa, and a speaker at the summit, noted that mentorship is a symbiotic relationship, where the mentor and mentee share their challenges and success of their journeys together.
Toeing same line, Chichi Eriobu, one of the panelists noted that as the mentor, you serve the mentee and not the other way round, while Onaivi Dania, another panelist, insisted that the a mentee’s journey is short if he knows where he is going and it is shorter if someone who knows the way takes him or her there.
Speaking virtually, Moe Hamid, CEO, LokIncubator, offered insight into how Palestine, his country, has reaped from a group of dedicated Palestinian diaspora founders, who came together to create an angel investment network to bridge the gap of finance and mentorship in the country’s ecosystem and that model is now a blueprint that helps founders all over the world.
Speaking from experience, Eyitayo Ogunmola, CEO, Utiva, urged mentors to always find a way to accept back their mentees when they burn the bridge.
“I once burnt the bridge and I was picked up again. One of the challenges a mentor will face is picking up his/her mentees when they burn the bridge. It is difficult but we have to do that to help them realise their dreams and save the future,” he said.
On his part, Ifedi Eze, managing director, Ideas Africa, said that mentorship is very demanding but should be a symbiotic relationship.
“The mentees should not use the mentors and the mentors should not take advantage or exploit their mentees. It is relational rather than transactional. We should consider how much we are giving rather than receiving,” Eze said.
Going to the basis, Olusegun Sogbesan, a professor and founder of the Onitsha Business School, in Anambra State, said that mentorship should be deliberate and international. “It is part of community development, it is natural and practical and that is why we need to work the talk,” the professor said at the summit.
Considering the success of the summit, Kelechi Deca, a global communication and development strategist, commended the organisers for assembling brilliant minds and inspiring leaders to network, challenge themselves and proffer practical solutions to problems starters face and also how best to nurture the mentor and mentee relationship.