Are students in third-world nations more inclined to be entrepreneurs?
Over the past week, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Karatu, Tanzania and teach Entrepreneurship at the Ganaco School through Babson College’s BELA program. I taught students ages 12-18 everything from networking and using their resources to business modeling and basic accounting.
I returned home to meet a swarm of negative attitudes towards third-world nations and assumptions that these nations had the problems they did because people did not have the ability or the commitment to try and fix them. This could not be further from the truth.
In Tanzania, I found a country of ambition, passion, and creativity, with people who were both happy and optimistic despite the harshest of living conditions. The students showed promise, which is especially important for a country in which nearly half the population is under the age of 15.
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, the students I encountered in Tanzania possessed three specific qualities that I believe make the people of nations in similar development stages very inclined towards entrepreneurship.
They are Driven
Out of sheer necessity, the students wanted to fix the problems in their community immediately and were not shy about taking action. When I asked how many had already started some sort of side venture, nearly every hand shot up.
Some students sold bananas, others had paper routes, etc. It’s no secret that when money is scarce, people value it more and work harder for it. When resources such as food, clean water, and electricity are harder to obtain, greater attention is given towards finding solutions to those problems.
The students also had one very valuable resource: their mindset. In the United States, I find that many entrepreneurs have well thought out ideas and business plans, but there is a long timeline of implementation due to paralysis by analysis.
These students had a “Ready, Set, Go!” mindset in which they were not afraid to fail, learn, and try again.
They are Confident
For some, communication comes easily and for others it is an uphill battle. For the students in Tanzania, all forms of communication seemed second nature. As a public speaking coach, I was blown away by how easily the students took center stage.
We hosted a talent show at the end of the week, and many students confidently performed musical acts, magic tricks, and comedy routines to over 100 other students (most of whom they did not know). Some even wrote and performed their own songs!
Public speaking is both incredibly important and universally feared, but for these students it was effortless. An abundance of confidence combined with an absence of fear of judgment created great orators, conversationalists, and leaders.
They are Pragmatic
There’s an infamous Silicon Valley problem in which entrepreneurs have great ideas and execution, but their business model has no source of revenue and their ventures make no money.
In Tanzania, and likely many other third world countries, this is a foreign concept. Ventures exist for the sole function of solving a problem, and are completely dismissed if there’s no chance of making a profit. You won’t find these students making a fun social networking app with an expectation that maybe, one day, revenue will come from ads.
In a society in which everything is scarce, nothing is taken for granted. This causes the legitimacy given to any endeavor to be directly related to the timeline of the revenue stream.
It’s true that many businesses require making no money for a long time, but when resources are scarce there’s often a greater sense of urgency to get to a point of profitability.
The debate continues on what makes a great entrepreneur, but certain values are universally acknowledged to play out in an entrepreneur’s favor. The heightened sense of drive, confidence, and pragmatism that I found in the students in Tanzania points to a promising few decades to come.
While the students may not have a lot of the important things needed for success, including a sound education around accounting and capital to start a venture, all of the qualities inherent in successful entrepreneurs and business men and women I found in abundance in the students in Tanzania.
It will never cease to amaze me how people can do so much with so little, and so little with so much. In a world that favors those born in favorable situations, we should acknowledge the resilience and ambition of those with nothing in tangible goods, but everything in intellectual promise.
I was once shy and introverted with little self-confidence. At the age of fourteen, I was encouraged to join my school’s debate team. I did not enjoy being behind the podium and could not handle being the center of attention. Practicing and learning public speaking is what changed all of that, and as a result, my life has significantly improved.
My passion is helping others learn public speaking and improve their self-confidence. This has driven me to found Learn to SpeakOut.
It’s never too late to increase your value by 50%. The best investment you can make is in yourself.
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