Growing up in Ivory Coast, Eric Kacou spent sometime with his grandparents where he witnessed the tough life that coffee and cocoa growers endured.
Well educated and travelled in the region, Mr Kacou said his work has seen him interact with many people, a good number narrating a similar story to his grandparents’ — struggling to survive.
The experience and opportunity to share information with diverse people across Africa, especially entrepreneurs, saw him pen his new book, Entrepreneurial Solutions for Prosperity in BOP Markets.
The book seeks to help people in the region to change their mindset from being caught in a “survival trap” to solving problems by providing entrepreneurial solutions.
“It is all in the mindset. We need to start solving our problems with an entrepreneurial mindset,” he said during an interview with Business Daily in Nairobi last week.
Mr Kacou said that entrepreneurs and other people in the region need to move from statements such as; “if I had money, I would do…” and instead utilise what is around them.
This he calls utilising “intelligent capital”, which goes beyond financial capital to ideas on how to use what one has around them.
Talking to budding entrepreneurs, the book moves to equip them with the tools needed to graduate from “survival to prosperity” and uses many case studies spanning from Kenya to South Africa, Ivory Coast to Haiti, with Rwanda being the main study.
“The story of Africa’s potential is not new, it has been there. We have people who are transforming this potential to prosperity,” he said, adding that there is a lot of hope in Africa’s entrepreneurs.
The book equips entrepreneurs, managers, and leaders with skills to better understand and tap into the BOP market.BOP stands for Bottom of the Pyramid which is the largest though poorer socio-economic group in a society.
The concept is borrowed from the late professor C.K Prahalad who authored The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, published by Wharton School publishing, the same publisher of Mr Kacou’s book.
Prof Prahalad refers to BOP as the billions of people living on less than Sh160 ($2) per day and argues in his book that entrepreneurs, governments and donor agencies should stop thinking of them as victims but see them as value-demanding customers with the potential of being the middle class of tomorrow.
Mr Kacou, a 35-year-old graduate of Wharton, left home in 1993 to pursue his first degree in Canada, with an exchange programme in Paris.
Following graduation in 1997 he was hired by Monitor Group, an international corporate strategy firm.
He later moved to On the Frontier (OTF), an offshoot of Monitor, backed by venture capitalists that focus on competitiveness in developing countries.
Here, he led the Rwanda National Innovation and Competitiveness Programme (RNIC), an initiative of President Paul Kagame, to help drive the country’s economic growth.
In 2010 he took up a Mason Fellowship in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School giving him time to write the book.
Upon completing the fellowship, sometime this year, he plans to set up his own consultancy firm advising leaders and entrepreneurs on how to tap into their competitiveness.
The book has already been launched in the US. Plans to launch it in various African countries including Kenya will be announced at a later date.