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What I’ve learnt from steering Equity’s growth

By James Mwangi | August 4th 2015

Many African countries have made positive strides in lowering poverty levels, but despite several Government and donor-assisted programmes launched across the continent, it is still our number one enemy.

Africa is a big paradox; it is endowed with natural resources and youthful human capital, but is saddled with abject poverty and high levels of unemployment.

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset in our people is our most valuable tool, as Africa strives towards economic empowerment. Nations ought to focus more on creating a conducive environment for entrepreneurship to harness citizens’ innovative potential, which will in turn support an entrepreneurship culture and wealth creation.

The responsibility for creating employment should not rest on governments and corporations alone, but on each citizen.

Entrepreneurship should be seen as a source of employment, job creation and wealth generation. It is the single-most powerful agent for progress and has the potential to solve the African paradox.

Starting a new business venture and building it into a successful enterprise requires vision, dedication and commitment to that vision, resilience, and proper planning. The people who have vision, passion and unwavering dedication have the ability to do great things.

Great entrepreneurship is about solving the world’s most pressing problems. It is about dedicating your life to a greater purpose.

Some of the lessons that I have learnt about entrepreneurship include the following.

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Be a dreamer: Identify gaps in products or services and take risks to make your dreams come true.

Ask yourself what you can do: What can I do that will be most useful to most people? How can I change the situation so that what is needed is made available to those who need it most? Make that your vision and go for it.

Convince yourself: If you cannot convince yourself that your goal will come to pass, you won’t convince anyone else. Convince yourself first, with good reason, and others will follow.

Do not go it alone: An entrepreneur is dependent on the skills and knowledge of others. But he or she must be the leader who can bring these people, their skills and their attributes together to create something new and useful.

Be dependable: If people trust you and you deliver time after time, then when you ask them to jump, they will ask ‘how high?’, not ‘why?’.

Be enthusiastic: Your enthusiasm will infect others and set off a chain reaction that makes even the impossible possible.

Be patient: Equity Bank is showing its best colours after 30 years of hard work.

Clothe yourself in virtue: Your values are what will attract all the other components you need — capital, expertise and partnerships — to help you bring your vision to life.

Never stop learning: Learn something new every day and try to apply it to your life and to business.

Be humble: Many factors and many people come together to make an enterprise successful.

The writer is CEO and MD, Equity Group, and Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year 2012.

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