Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete took the stage with Dr. Larry Brilliant of Google.org and Bruce McNeighbor of Technoserve. Dr. Brilliant announces his support for “Believe, Begin, Become,” a national business plan competition, modeled on the successful experiment Google and Technoserve operated this past year in Ghana. He emphasizes the importance of job creation and business development as critical parts of economic development. Brilliant describes the program as “tried and tested” in Africa and Latin America, where it accompanies investment with intensive entrepreneurship training. He notes that Databank, a Ghanaian investment fund, has launched a $2 million “3B” venture fund to invest in these businesses over five years, investing between $50,000 and $150,000 in businesses that are recognized in the contest.
Bruce McNeighbor outlines a timeframe for the project – it formally launces next week in Dar es Salaam and will start training entrepeneurs and helping them craft concepts into business plans over the next five months. At the graduation ceremony, 10 will be awarded capital, and 20 will be awarded certificates to allow entrepeneurs to purchase business services in Tanzania.
President Kikwete acknowledges a sense of accomplishment at having an idea develop from a conversation in Davos and moving quickly to a rollout. There was some anxiety about launching an idea in January and bringing it to life in June – “I get the sense that you mean business.” “There are many people in Tanzania with entrepreneurial skills,” the President tells us. “They have some constraints. One of the major constraints is the access to capital, to technology and to skills.” The program provides opportunities to overcome all these constraints and create new and expanded enterprises. He promises that the government will do whatever it takes to make the program succeed and to allow for the growth of the Tanzanian economy.