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ideiaLab: “Entrepreneurship Begins to Take Shape, but Business Environment Is Still Hostile for SMEs”

ideiaLab: “Entrepreneurship Begins to Take Shape, but Business Environment Is Still Hostile for SMEs”

The lack of management know-how and leadership skills of many Mozambican entrepreneurs has been one of the major problems that make several small and medium enterprises (SMEs) unable to stabilize in the market. From a global universe of more than 100 thousand SMEs that exist in the country, few are the ones that manage to have a solid management and a significant evolution and maturing of their businesses.

In fact, this has been one of the main problems for several years. However, there are other challenges for national SMEs.

At the beginning of December, ideiaLab announced the launch of ‘Boost’, an online business executive academy that aims to develop management and leadership skills. The objective is to empower talent and growth of people, teams and businesses.

To do this, ideiaLab joined two prestigious organizations: the European Union (EU) as co-financer of the project, and Nova SBE Executive Education (Faculty of Universidade Nova de Lisboa) as a partner of excellence in teaching.

In an interview with DE, Tatiana Pereira, Executive Catalyst of ideiaLab, explains the project.

What is Boost Academy and how does it arise?

Boost Academy arises from a European Union (EU) opportunity for which we applied and were one of the beneficiaries. This opportunity came to fill a gap that exists in the market, not only of entrepreneurs and SMEs, but also of the market in general in their management and leadership skills.

We feel that, within the market, SMEs reach a certain stage of growth where their co-founders and managers are left struggling with how to run their business and not knowing which way to go. In addition, hiring staff without professional skills also happens.

“We felt the need to bring relevant content, with international standards, to allow Mozambicans to have access to an education with internationally recognised certification”

The objective of Boost Academy is to leverage the talent of people and teams in business, offering short courses in digital format with key management and leadership themes. What we intend with this bet in digital format is to make this business executive academy, in this platform, more inclusive and that it reaches all Mozambicans, and not only the managers resident in Maputo.

We feel the need to bring relevant content, with international standards, which is why this partnership we signed with the Nova School of Business and Economics (SBE) of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in which our role is to adapt it to our reality, and also to allow Mozambicans to have access to an internationally recognised certified education.

But how does this academy work?

It’s an online platform. Today we only have the home page, but as of February we will have the courses available

And how can those interested enrol on this platform? Who are the people who have access to it?

Anyone who has an SME or works in it, whether it is a large organisation or small, NGO or Government, can sign up, because the focus is really on management and leadership. We want to think in an entrepreneurial ecosystem logic and have a group of people from different worlds, because we believe that the big gap that exists in SMEs has to do with the connection to the market. Therefore, we intend to have an agile management course at each learning moment, which may receive a director of an SME, an entrepreneur, a bank manager, etc., so that we can start creating this connection between different parts of the ecosystem.

How many courses will be delivered on the platform?

In total, we will have six courses that will be launched throughout the year, namely Business Management, Strategic Innovation, Transformational Leadership, New Marketing, High Performance Teams and Agile Management.

Our objective, having made a commitment to the European Union, is to train 800 leaders over two years. Of those 800, 30% will be scholarships that we want to give to entrepreneurs and SMEs that will not have access. For that, we are betting on partnerships with some organisations to give an opportunity to the members of those SMEs. These are partnerships that we want to close in January.

How will the content of these training courses be taught? Will they be related to the Mozambican reality?

The agreement that exists with Nova SBE is that they design all the courses and we localise and adapt the content. We are still evaluating, because there are certain contents that we want to adapt locally to be closer to the Mozambican reality.

Is this one of the projects that ideiaLab has in Mozambique?

Today, ideiaLab manages some projects. We have this one in the pipeline with the European Union, we are also doing “Acredita Emprega” and “Agora Emprega”, which are from the State Secretariat for Youth and Employment and the World Bank. In “Acredita Emprega” it is just us and in “Agora Emprega” we have a partnership with Ernst & Young.

We have FemTech which is a women’s business acceleration programme and we continue with Standard Bank as partners in their incubator.

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What has been the impact of covid-19 on ideaLab? Has there been a change in the focus of your organisation?

There have been a lot of changes and a complete change in the way we operate. We went through a ‘tight’ phase where in one week we saw all our projects suspended. And we quickly had to understand how we should adapt to the new reality.

We carried out a very fast internal innovation process to understand how we could make our offer digital and, to do so, we invested in internal information. Also at the worst time of covid-19, we launched a set of webinars and interviews to support entrepreneurs and we started doing internal workshops. And we were lucky to have our first client, which was FSD Mozambique.

Today, all our work is in digital format. This year, they were also in face-to-face format, and we agreed with all the clients that we would keep both. Digital brought a very interesting perspective: before it was thought that everything was concentrated in Maputo, but today 40% of our programmes are outside the capital. So the regional reach is much more inclusive.

Considering that ideiaLab has existed for 12 years in Mozambique, how do you characterize entrepreneurship in the country?

Entrepreneurship is finally starting to be perceived in our economy as a path to follow. Today, it is already an agenda of the Government and of some non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Currently, there is more and more awareness that this is the way forward, and people are proactively seeking to make their way towards entrepreneurship, because they perceive that there is no other type of opportunity.

If we talk in terms of the ecosystem, we have more support than we had five years ago. Still, it’s not enough. Last year alone we trained 1600 people and had 12,000 applications for these places, and we covered almost 10%.

Then the business environment is still hostile for big people and for small people starting out, there is no support system for these people. And there are also some cultural barriers, especially for young people.

How do you look at this link between entrepreneurs and the labour market? Do you think that the market naturally accepts this type of people who want to become entrepreneurs?

Yes, the market is increasingly looking for them. Many of the partners that we have, for example, from the private sector, also look at our programmes as a talent bridge, as the young people that come through us have a completely different mindset. There is already this recognition and demand.

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