Africa has risen to become a destination for innovative startups—in mobile, health care, finance, and other areas. And young entrepreneur Garang Akau, one of Sudan's Lost Boys featured in the documentary film of the same name, believes one way to give back and spur further innovation is by bringing eager, impressionable, accomplished role models from Silicon Valley to the youth at the heart of Africa's innovation revolution.
Akau and his business partner, Darius Golkar, will take five such individuals to Africa in December to share ideas and help young innovators push their business plans, as part of Akau and Golkar's organization, New Scholars, and their "Entrepreneurial Safari."
We've written before about Chile's attempt to create a Chilean Silicon Valley, but the question remains as to how such temporary interactions and efforts lead to sustained changes and create permanent cultures of entrepreneurship and innovation.
"The New Scholars that successfully launch businesses through our incubator and go on to do other great things are invited into our network of in-country Role Models. They give back by training the next generation and promoting an entrepreneurial culture," Akau tells Fast Company.
Local entrepreneurs benefit from insight and guidance from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and the visiting entrepreneurs get exposure to a whole demographic of innovative entrepreneurs and promising startups. And of course such exposure ultimately helps the local entrepreneurs by paving the way for foreign investment.
"By bringing Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to the continent we're exposing them to an Africa they're not familiar with—an enterprising arena full of economic potential. Opportunities will be exposed, fruitful dialogue started, and doors opened for investments in the region," Akau says.
There is a pressing need for role models in Africa, he adds. "The New Scholars also gain by learning from, inspiring and challenging each other in a venue they otherwise would not have had. Having outside entrepreneurs participate will add unique cultural and entrepreneurial perspectives which can lead to innovative business solutions."
Last year Akau took Harvard MBA Philippe Suchet to Sudan, where he led a bootcamp for Sudanese refugees and Kenyan youth. Out of that interaction five business plans were hatched, and two of the business plans will be incubated with New Scholars starting in January of next year.
Sounds like a promising approach and one that generates sustained results. Visit New Scholars for more on the entrepreneurial safari and to apply.