Let’s be honest: Africa is rising, but most Africans are still figuring out how to catch up. The silent majority plays ‘optimistic observer’ and too many enthusiastic entrepreneurs who got the ball rolling are playing small.
I could also have summed it up this way. A South African entrepreneur who was a panelist at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja disclosed: “You always meet the same faces! Let’s get more people on board.”
I know what she means. Regularly studying African business media as part of my job, I too encounter the same successful faces. The guy who was featured as one of Forbes’ Under 30: Africa’s Best Entrepreneurs to Watch was then interviewed on CNN’s African Start-Up, then won the Africa Awards of Entrepreneurship and – you guessed it – turned up on my screen again as a young global leader when I followed the live coverage of the World Economic Forum on Africa.
So what is holding so many capable Africans back from truly rising to the occasion? Well, one thing is for sure: it is not any doubt about starting a business. According to a 2013 entrepreneurship report, African entrepreneurs are the most confident in the world in their ability to start a business.
But are African entrepreneurs making the most of the amazing prospects that lie in front of them? I believe that Africa needs bold and visionary entrepreneurs more than ever. This is not the time to play small. We are largely still wrapped up in the traditional ways of doing things: planning a small business, employing family members, looking for a decent accountant. We need a mindset-shift to realise that both the opportunity and the responsibility we have as entrepreneurs are extraordinary – reaching far beyond making good money.
Here are my five compelling reasons why you should implement your own grand business vision for Africa!
1) You become a driver in Africa’s development
African nations are distancing themselves from aid-dependency and are keen to strengthen the image of a market that offers opportunities to everyone who is ready to grab them. The continent still has a long way to go, but the context for Africa’s development is visibly changing in front of our eyes. The private sector will be key in boosting that growth. As an Africa entrepreneur you will advance that exciting transformation. Be strategic about it.
2) You have a greater chance of succeeding than elsewhere
Africa is the world’s last frontier, where currently supply cannot sufficiently meet the demand of a growing economy and exploding consumer class. Overall, competition is still low and there is a great need for various services and products. But you still need to grasp the sheer space the continent provides at this time. Come on – don’t open a corner shop selling imported creams; instead build your own African brand of skincare products and lead the market.
3) Your return on investment is enormous
Africa’s markets are growing by 6% on average, with the rates in several countries being much higher than that. This growth is expected to continue and more investors and multi-nationals are setting foot on the continent for the first time. Low competition and rising demand put ROI currently at around 15-20%, while the global average stands at 5-10%. What are you waiting for?
4) Your business will make you a leader
Africa still lacks independent institutions, skilful educators and thought leaders. Many Africa business leaders have stepped up to fill the gap. If you rise to the occasion you will quickly find yourself in a unique position, allowing you to lead initiatives or influence opinion and behaviour in various segments of the society you operate in. And, before you know it, you’ll be sitting on Africa’s round tables.
5) Your influence can improve lives
Many Africa entrepreneurs have used a local problem as a starting point and developed a business around it challenging the status quo. They have managed to positively impact the lives of many poor and marginalised groups. We all have the countless tragedies and challenges of Africa at heart; this new economic era allows us to vigorously participate towards a better future through our businesses. It is a special privilege and one that’s incredibly powerful.
Africa is waiting for you – go and make it happen!
Dr Harnet Bokrezion is a senior international development consultant and the founder and CEO of Africa Business Jumpstart, a coaching business that supports you to make informed and strategic decisions while pursuing your business ambitions in Africa faster and more confidently. Follow Harnet on Twitter at @africajumpstart