Boom towns? Four lesser-known African cities offering potential business opportunities

How we made it in Africa asked four entrepreneurs to identify cities on the move in their respective countries.

1. Debre Berhan, Ethiopia

Approximately 120km northeast of the capital Addis Ababa, the city of Debre Berhan is establishing itself as an alluring investment destination. Bolstered by economic incentives as part of the Ethiopian Investment Commission’s industrial park strategy, Debre Berhan has seen an influx of investors (both local and foreign) since the 1,100-hectare industrial park was inaugurated in 2019. “Since I am in agro-processing I receive tax exemption and all machinery that I need to import is done duty free,” says Bethelhem Dejene, CEO of Zafree Papers. Read more.

2. Lokoja, Nigeria

South-west of Nigeria’s capital Abuja there is a point where the Benue and Niger rivers come together. The confluence point is right in the middle of Kogi State, next to the city of Lokoja. “A region that is very interesting to me today in Nigeria is definitely Kogi State,” says Obi Ozor, CEO of Kobo360, a digital platform that links independent truck owners with those requiring cargo transportation services. “It is close to Abuja and has one of the highest concentration deposits of minerals in the country, apart from oil and gas.” Situated close to the state capital Lokoja is Dangote Cement’s Obajana factory, its flagship plant and the largest of its three facilities in the country. Read more.

3. Gulu, Uganda

On 1 July 2020, the residents of Gulu in northern Uganda woke up as city dwellers. Previously, the country only had one official city, Kampala. Gulu and six other municipalities had their status changed as part of Uganda’s thirty-year vision, Uganda Vision 2040. The plan is to create 15 regional and strategic cities.

“It is my home town, so maybe I am a little biased, but it would be a great time to take advantage of the city as it is the meeting point whether you are coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo or from South Sudan,” says Josephine Okot, founder and managing director of Victoria Seeds Ltd. “There is opportunity in tourism as it is close to Murchison Falls National Park as well as Kidepo Valley National Park.” Read more.

4. Kribi, Cameroon

The town of Kribi in Cameroon is home to a newly-built deep water port, expected to relieve pressure on the congested port in Douala (Cameroon’s commercial hub) where goods can be stuck for months. Some expect Kribi to develop into an important industrial city in the coming years. “There are many business opportunities in Kribi at this moment,” says Messina Guikome, CEO and founder of Messibat International, a construction company specialising in alternative construction materials to build eco-friendly homes and buildings. Read more.