Africa may be one of the fastest growing regions in the world, but no more than five percent of adults involved in start-ups (firm's that are less than three-and-a-half years old) in sub-Saharan Africa believe that they will create 20 or more jobs over the next five years.
The figure is drawn from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's (Gem) 2013 global report released earlier this year, which found that most of the region's jobs - about 82% - are expected to be created by tens of thousands of low-productivity and low-wage micro enterprises that have fewer than five employees.
High-growth firms it seems are unlikely to play any large part in Africa's new growth story on the same level that they play in the US and even in the crisis-hit EU. In all 16% of US start-ups and new Chinese firms and 14% of EU start-ups believe they will create more than 20 jobs in the next five years.
A Chilean revolution
Among prominent emerging economies entrepreneurs in Russia and Chile also remain confident - 14% of start-ups in the two countries believe they will create 20 or more jobs over the same period.
However while the percentage of adults in Russia with the same aspirations come to just 0.5%, in Chile three percent of all adults (compared to 1.7% of US and one percent of sub-Saharan African adults) believe that they will create 20 or more jobs over the next five years.
What this tells one is that a massive entrepreneurial drive is on the go in Chile, backed by a number of pro-entrepreneurial public policies such as incentives for incubators to assist start-ups (through the country's small business agency Corfo) and Start-up Chile - a $40-million initiative to entice start-ups from around the world to relocate temporarily to Chile.
Last year the Chilean government launched an online platform that will allow businesses to register in just one day, matching New Zealand's one-day registration and cutting Chile's registration time from the present 5.5 days according to the World Bank's 2014 Doing Business Report.
Encouragingly the country has one of the highest start-up rates among emerging economies. In all 24.3% of Chilean adults are involved in starting up or running a firm that is less than three-and-a-half years old, according to the 2014 Gem global report.
In all 80% of Chileans are starting a firm out of opportunity, rather than necessity, according to the country's 2012 Gem Report. An above average educated population also helps - about a quarter of those starting out are professionals with college graduate degrees - that have better networks and aspirations, says the report.
The Chilean economy will help out too, with expected growth of 4.1% this year according to latest figures from The Economist magazine - higher than growth estimates for Brazil (1.8%), South Africa (2.5%) and Russia (2.9%).
South Africa - coming on
South Africa too appears to be an interesting care. A fair number of start-ups aspire to become high-growth firms, with 12% betting on creating more than 20 jobs in the next five years.
In addition, the percentage of adults in South Africa that believe that they can create 20 or more jobs over the next five years (1.1%) is higher than other sub-Saharan countries (1%), EU members (0.9%) and the country's Brics partners bar China (1.7%).
If South African adults create these jobs it could do something to help tackle the country's massive unemployment rate - which is anything between 25% and 40% depending on whether one goes by the unofficial or official figures.
But a word of caution here. These figures amount to mere perceptions. Just because entrepreneurs starting out believe they will create 20 or more jobs, it doesn't mean they will do so - particularly when considering the high business failure rates in many emerging economies (see my last blog post below).
But it does tell you perhaps how optimistic entrepreneurs are. It might also hint at other factors such as the level of opportunity-driven entrepreneurship in a country or maybe even the number of barriers that restrict firms from growing larger and keep them small or in the informal sector.
Why are the Brics, Africa behind?
This may explain why so few start-up firms in India, Brazil and Russia and even Sub-Saharan countries believe that they will create more than 20 jobs. These are some of the hardest places in the world to start up, according to the World Bank's Doing Business report. There paperwork and costs strangle many.
But what about Malaysia, a country that is one of the leading nations when it comes to doing business and where growth for 2014 is estimated by The Economist at 5.1% - why do 85% of start-ups there believe that they will create fewer than five jobs, while the figure in the US is at 63% and the EU at 66%?
A closer look might reveal that participants may be prompted in some way on the number of jobs they expect to create by referring to the definition of a small business in the services sector, which co-incidentally is between 5 and 19 employees. Anything larger is classified as a medium firm.
Perhaps many Malaysian firms also stay small to take advantage of the large number of subsidies (grants, funding and other support) on offer from the Malaysian government? It is not easy to say.
Develop entrepreneurial cities
But entrepreneurship is more often than not fostered in cities, rather than in countries, as entrepreneurial expert Dan Isenberg is fond of saying. If they are to encourage job creation policymakers should develop more of the kinds of cities that encourage and foster high-growth entrepreneurs. These are cities which offer a high quality of life, accessed to talented employees and access to customers, according to a recent survey by high-impact entrepreneurship thinktank Endeavor.
It's no surprise that Santiago, Chile is getting this right. The metropole of over seven million - voted one of the top 20 start-up eco-systems in the world in 2012 by Startup Genome - is the safest in South America, has relatively good business friendly policies and is just an hour or so away from the Andes, beaches and winelands for anyone that wants to unwind. It also shares a timezone with the US, a significant market.
Santiago is not alone among emerging economies. Governments and institutions in cities like Cape Town, Bangalore, Bogota and Nairobi are also looking to foster high-growth entrepreneurs.
In general what these Gem figures tell you is that policymakers, while maintaining a stable economy and good fundamentals (such as building new infrastructure and ensuring quality health and education for all) must do more to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start-up. Otherwise too many firms will remain micro endeavours, with little job creation potential. Working with roleplayers in entrepreneurial cities will also help.
Stephen Timm is living in Sao Paulo contemplating the famed 'Custo Brasil' (the high costs of Brazil) and trying to work out why Chile is moving ahead. Click here to to read his 2012 report on lessons for policymakers on small business support from Chile and Malaysia.
Stephen Timm is a