5 reasons why Collaboration and not Competition is the sustainable way forward for social entrepreneurs and impact startups in Africa
We all know the saying if you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together. This actually ties up with the popular expatiation of the word TEAM: Together, Everyone, Achieves, More. This article wants to explore some 5 reasons why it is more than high time for collaboration and not competition to be explored as the most sustainable way forward for social entrepreneurship growth and impact start-ups in Africa. After all, isn’t ours a culture of Ubuntu and community spirit? Where did all this reckless and even fatal competition come from or better still where has it led us to?
1) The African Philosophy is one of Ubuntu
Ronald Moyo in his 2015 article for the african exponent titled: Ubuntu, Applying the African Cultural Concept to Business, states the following; “ Ubuntu is an African Nguni word meaning humanity to others and has a correlated meaning of ‘I am who I am because of others’. Ubuntu is basically the ability of being human and valuing the good of the community above self interest. It also affirms the respect for others and is manifested through human acts in society, politics and the economy”. He goes on to advocate that: “When applied to business, the concept of ubuntu may establish progressive business partnerships and organisational activities and strategies that encourage the economic growth of African communities as a whole”. Ubuntu has been the African philosophy since the start of times, social entrepreneurs and impact startups will be doing their ventures justice by collaborating and not competing with each other for sustainable growth.
2) Learning from global mistakes
How many start-ups do we know or have read of which couldn’t even scale after a year or so? After some research, I discovered one of the reasons many of them flop is because their founders wanted to do it all alone. You know that competitive spirit inherent in all human beings especially me right? Who has the fastest, biggest, coolest, this or that; who started off and made it big with his own name to the door by 20 years or so and on and on. Indeed, according to an article by the balance titled: 10 Common Small Business Startup Mistakes, one the deadly mistakes these startups make is rightly – you gues right – “Doing It All Alone”. To leave it at this, I will just add the fact that the consequences of trying to do it alone can be far worse than mere business collapse. People have committed suicide, relationships have been devastated and some have completely lost their sanity due to the nervous breakdown.
3) Collaboration guarantees win-win ensuring sustainable growth
I have personally collaborated with other social entrepreneurs from within the continent and can testify to the this fact. All genuine collaborations are win-win and the partners emerge stronger. Recently, I have read articles by the impressive CelbmdAfrica in which are culled a list of young speakers and trainers or tech startups to be sought after or watched in Cameroon, and I am marvelling at such collaborative spirit. The centre is operating in over 18 African countries and when I spoke with its incredible founder the young, dynamic, multi talented and God fearing Javnyuy Joybert, he duly acknowledged to me he wouldn’t have gotten this far if he wanted to do it all alone. When we collaborate, we raise each other up and we grow our network for current and future opportunities.
4) Collaboration is human network marketing
In our traditional African settings, news and stories are shared by word of mouth. This means the more people you know, the more people will know or hear your news and stories. Can anyone doubt the speed at which news can travel by word of mouth or modern day social media? If social entrepreneurs and impact startups decide to collaborate more often, they inadvertently pull their own networks together and these networks relay to their own networks and so the message goes sometimes with little additional efforts on your part any more. Recently in my city of Douala Cameroon, the Start up grind chapter was being launched and I took it upon myself to champion this laudable initiative and collaborate in the launch by doing what I could; which is writing and sharing and spreading the word. My efforts were acknowledged during the launch and my services as a barrister indirectly marketed – of course my network is expanding at a geometric progression thanks to my various collaborative endeavours.
5) We each have our star and charisma
Collaboration doesn’t mean you don’t know what you are doing or you desperately need the other to shine. On the contrary, collaboration means you are so comfortable with your idea and sure of what you are doing to the extent of inviting others to share your platform and vision even if only for a while. Your star shines brighter when you you let others in and collaborate with them, and your unique charisma stays with you no matter how many you collaborate with. I can bear witness to that, there can never be two of me and nobody can ever do what I do exactly how I do it. Life isn’t all about money, not it is more about impact and legacy especially for a social entrepreneur. This in a nutshell is why I don’t fear collaborating because my segment and vision can only be best grasped by me and yet bringing others in, collaborating with them on theirs, ensures the most win-win and sustainable growth for all.