The term ‘ecosystem’ in a business context was coined by Moore (1993) in an article where he argued that businesses do not evolve as isolated entities but develop through interaction with suppliers, financiers and customers.
Stam (2015) proposed entrepreneurial ecosystems are “a set of interdependent actors and factors coordinated in such a way that they enable productive entrepreneurship”.
An Entrepreneurship Ecosystem is ‘a set of interconnected entrepreneurial actors (both potential and existing), entrepreneurial organisations (e.g. firms, venture capitalists, business angels and banks), institutions (universities, public sector agencies and financial bodies) and entrepreneurial processes, which formally and informally coalesce to connect, mediate and govern the performance within the local entrepreneurial environment’.
Inspired by research on the importance of entrepreneurship for sustained economic growth and improved well-being, many governments and non-governmental grant-making organizations have sought over the past decade to implement policies and programs intended to support entrepreneurs.
Over this interval, growing appreciation of the limits of strategies focused narrowly on financing or training entrepreneurs has prompted a number of such entities to shift their efforts toward more broad-based strategies aimed at enabling “entrepreneurial ecosystems” at the city or sub-national regional scale. “Enabling the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem-Philip E. Auerswald, October 2015. Ewing Marion Kauffmann Foundation”.
For entrepreneurship and innovation to play the crucial role that they can in creating significant value, employment and growing Sierra Leone’s economy, we need to develop a new breed of entrepreneurs – disruptive, value-creating and high-growth entrepreneurs, ‘Productive Entrepreneurs’.
These Productive Entrepreneurs correspond to the expansion and creation of new firms, while unproductive entrepreneurs correspond to rent-seeking activities. There is a third type which are the destructive entrepreneurs which correspond with the trade in illicit goods.
All three types of entrepreneur do create economic activity; however, institutions and society advance only when the returns to productive entrepreneurship exceeds that of unproductive and destructive entrepreneurship.
Individual entrepreneurs and innovators in Sierra Leone by and large face three options: Seek economic rents within the status quo; challenge the status quo though disruptive innovations; or leave the society altogether to seek an environment more welcoming to economic creativity.
When too large a portion of the potential innovators and entrepreneurs choose either to seek rents within the context of the status quo or to leave the society altogether, development slows or comes to a halt. If the above statement is in fact true, then creating a place for the future in any country means creating a space for entrepreneurship and innovation – and in particular, encouraging the subset of potential entrepreneurs and innovators who choose neither to conform nor to depart but to stay and build something new.