2015’s top quotes: Words of wisdom from African business leaders

“Find your authentic self – everybody else is taken," says Adenike Ogunlesi, founder of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble.

“Find your authentic self – everybody else is taken,” says Adenike Ogunlesi, founder of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble.

This year How we made it in Africa interviewed a number of the continent’s top business leaders and CEOs who shared their words of wisdom to other aspiring entrepreneurs and businesspeople. As 2015 draws to an end, we have highlighted some of the memorable ones.

1. “Don’t imagine that just because you hear fantastic stories about people who drop out of school and make a fortune, and do things the easy way, that this is typical. It is far from typical. If you work hard, even if you don’t get what you are aiming for, you will get something. You will never be empty-handed. And the experience of working hard opens up so many doors because in the process you’re educating yourself, you are learning about yourself, you are learning about other people, you are meeting people, and people can see your work and your passion – and it will lead to something.” – Dr Amy Jadesimi, managing director, Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL) [Read full interview]

2. “There are definitely many opportunities in Africa. Yes, we have unbelievable challenges, but as I often tell people, we started a bank called Capitec in South Africa and it’s an unbelievable success. We don’t have a chance at starting something like that in America or Europe. Starting a Capitec in Germany, France, England? It’s already been done there. So that is the opportunity that you have in South Africa and the rest of Africa.” – Jannie Mouton, founder, PSG [Read full interview]

3. “Stay the course. A lot of people, especially the youth, have become very impatient in terms of accomplishing success.” – Andrew Waititu, MD, SAP East Africa [Read full interview]

4. “Find your authentic self – everybody else is taken. Find out who you are, what your purpose is, what you like doing, what you are passionate about, and then go after it with everything in your total being. Things will then fall in place.” – Adenike Ogunlesi, founder, Ruff ‘n’ Tumble [Read full interview]

5. “Why would somebody work for you? If you can’t sincerely answer that you believe you are offering them the best chance of realising their personal vision … then I don’t think you have any business being in entrepreneurship. I think that is the number one thing. Entrepreneurial leadership really is about knowing why somebody better or equal to you – whether intellectual, emotionally, or morally – would work for you.” – Bright Simons, founder, mPedigree Network [Read full interview]

6. “Be a good person. Be honest in your dealings. You will sleep well and will still make the money you require to live in this world.” – Kapila Ariyatilaka, managing director, Chai Bora [Read full interview]

7. “Be courageous with your ideas and passionate about your business. The opportunities for entrepreneurs in Africa have never been bigger. The explosion of mobile money services is but one example, and you can already see the knock-on effects this is having on companies with the courageous ideas and the right leadership.” – Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO, WorldRemit [Read full interview]

8. “It is not easy to get into business today. I think there are a lot more hurdles than in the past – more competition, the cost of money, and so forth. But if you have a dream, if you have a passion, don’t give up on it. Knock on every single door. You never know what is around the corner. And have a real positive outlook. Africa is still a continent of huge opportunity, even if you look at South Africa… We are a tenacious bunch, all of us in this country. And yes, we have challenges, as does all of Africa. But I think we have some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs across this continent because they have to deal with adversity and different obstacles every single day.” – Pierre van Tonder, CEO, Spur Corporation [Read full interview]

"You need good partners. Whether they are employees, bankers or shareholders, you will need people that believe in your vision," says Akinwole Omoboriowo II, CEO of Genesis Electricity.

“You need good partners. Whether they are employees, bankers or shareholders, you will need people that believe in your vision,” says Akinwole Omoboriowo II, CEO of Genesis Electricity.

9. “Be local, be yourself and be humble.” – Kevin Teeroovengadum, CEO, AttAfrica [Read full interview]

10. “If you want to be successful be ready to put in hard work. Don’t wait for traditional help or inspiration from the West. Look for solutions to the challenges in your country. You know more about your market than any person sitting in London. So mobilise the talent, knowledge and resources here to build successful local enterprises.” – Jitesh Ladwa, CEO, Mkoba Private Equity Fund [Read full interview]

11. “Cut all negative friends loose. You are going to be part of the best generation this continent has seen. But to keep going forward we can’t be held back by this self-bigotry of low expectation and the idea we cannot build businesses because that is only meant for a certain group of people. And always give back to the community. This continent needs business leaders and entrepreneurs with good ethics that grow quickly, yet always have a sense of giving back.” – NJ Ayuk, managing partner, Centurion Law Group [Read full interview]

12. “Be extremely committed to your goal and be willing to take calculated risks. And when you fail or the world seems against you, don’t be disappointed. Just pick up the pieces and keep pushing on. Also, you need good partners. Whether they are employees, bankers or shareholders, you will need people that believe in your vision. That is very important because, when the chips are down, you need your team to help lift your spirits and move on.” – Akinwole Omoboriowo II, CEO, Genesis Electricity [Read full interview]

13. “Success should be measured on the following: revenues and profit; creating jobs for fellow citizens; creating wealth and new entrepreneurs for the communities we operate in; and being environmentally-conscious and productive through sustainable business practices.” – Simbarashe Mhuriro, director, Oursun Energy Zimbabwe [Read full interview]

14. “If you have an idea, take the chance and go for it, if you are really convinced it will work. However, you must have a budget and cash flow to support your business plan. And don’t just look at the good side; also look at the worst case [scenario]. It then gives you the confidence to go forward and it will also give confidence to any investor who wants to help you.” – John Buckley, co-founder and managing director, Safarilink Aviation [Read full interview]

15. “Hard work cannot be compromised in business and entrepreneurship. Be willing to take risks, innovate, and most importantly learn fast. If you have an idea, start now and do something every day towards fulfilling your goal.” – Duncan Muchangi, managing director, Hellofood Kenya [Read full interview]

16. “Seek knowledge by getting yourself properly educated in your field of interest. Secondly, stay focused and have a clear vision of what you desire to achieve in life. And in forming that vision, you must consider the environment, the needs of society, and where you can add value. This will enable you to choose a career path. But once you have done this, stay focused on it. Initially the money may not come in, but if you stay focused, and show what value you can add to the system, the money will begin to come in. Finally, integrity and honour are required. You must avoid corrupt practices and stand by your word.” – Greg Ogbeifun, founder and CEO, Starzs Investments Company [Read full interview]