Inspiring quotes from 10 of Africa’s most dynamic entrepreneurs

Sylvester Chauke

HOW WE MADE IT IN AFRICA: THE BOOK  features the stories of 25 entrepreneurs who’ve built thriving businesses. Here are 10 inspiring quotes, rich with business wisdom, from the publication.

1. NJ Ayuk, Centurion Law Group (Cameroon)

“The respect you show to the other side can be a dealmaker or a deal-breaker. You should be transparent and tell the other party the truth about your position. If they see that you are trying to pull a fast one, everything you do becomes suspicious. Over the years I’ve negotiated with warlords and hostage takers, people who make you want to go to the bathroom to wash your hands with sanitiser after you’ve shaken their hands. Still, we’ve been able to get the deals done by being respectful.”

2. Nana Akua Birmeh, ArchXenus (Ghana)

“To attract new clients, the fundamental thing is the product. You can hire the best ad agency in the world, but if what you offer is no good, the result of the advertising effort will be nil. Let your work speak for itself.”

3. Jacques de Vos, Mezzanine (South Africa)

“The longer you wait, for example, to start a business, the greater the opportunity cost. If you’re fresh out of university, having lived like a tramp for a couple of years, continuing to live like one for another couple of years while establishing your business is not a big deal. If you are married and have four children, though, it is almost impossible.”

4. Jesse Moore, M-Kopa Solar (Kenya)

“The worst thing you can do is sit down and stop moving. Keep pushing forward and know that eventually the storm will clear up and you will reach the other end. Every successful business is built on a lot of determination. Anybody who decides to go it alone should be ready for that. The great moments are many but so are the helluva tough ones.”

5. Sylvester Chauke, DNA Brand Architects (South Africa)

“Getting too involved in the small things is not the best way to use my time. A business must be able to run without having to depend on the CEO or founder. Right now, I don’t know half the things that are happening in the company. That’s very, very important. In fact, it makes me feel – for the first time in six years – that I actually have a business. Until now, I was merely building one.”

6. Addis Alemayehou, 251 Communications (Ethiopia)

“I see many entrepreneurs who over-invest without really looking at the market and the returns on their investment. You should put in only what you need to start and gradually put in more money as you grow. Nobody starts off earning revenue on the first day. Getting your business up and running is where you should spend your energy and resources, not on nice furniture and a nice office.”

7. Navalayo Osembo, Enda Athletic (Kenya)

“Always be cognisant of the difference between quantity and quality. They are two different things. There is hard work and then there is smart work. Working 80 hours a week doesn’t mean you will make lots of money. While someone else may be working much less, they may be better at addressing the key drivers and core entities of their business.”

8. Hassan Bashir, Takaful Africa Group (Kenya)

“I went to market a young, energetic, extremely dedicated businessperson, but I was also a very honest businessperson. I kept every promise I had made, whether it be a service promise or payment promise. You want clients to say, ‘If it’s Hassan, we believe him.’ This has to happen again and again and again and again. You want it to happen throughout your life. Success is a lifelong aspiration, it’s not something you do once.”

9. Monica Musonda, Java Foods (Zambia)

“Ditch the fancy office and the fleet of the most expensive Toyotas. Start small, understand your revenue base and your expenses. When things stabilise, when you have a little bit of cash flow, then you can look into hiring that extra person, leasing a bigger warehouse, or buying more expensive equipment.”

10. Tumi Phake, Zenzele Fitness (South Africa)

“Investors don’t look for a great idea or one which gives people goose bumps, they look for an execution plan.”