Right, so Africans now have the opportunity to access leading Western products. What is Mall for Africa doing for the empowerment of African producers and brands?
Mall for Africa is also a platform that empowers Africans. For example, we help schools with books, supplies, computers and educational material. We help hospitals order equipment they were not able to get shipped to them before. We have also helped many people start businesses. One day I got an email from a lady who was so grateful for the Mall for Africa platform as she was able to order a sewing machine no one else was ever willing to bring or ship to her. When she received the item she finally started her own small business with the only sewing machine in her small town.
But there is more: Now that we have the attention of US and UK retailers knowing they can use our platform to tap into a powerful African consumer market at no risk, we have started to turn the dynamics around a bit. We want them to stock African brands in their shops thus empowering our African designers to sell from our platform, too.
Tell us about your expansion plans.
We plan on expanding to Ghana, Tanzania, Congo, Ethiopia, Botswana and more African countries where we are currently doing some market analysis. We also have great affiliate/reseller programmes that help with our in-country expansions. Allowing people on the ground and in-country become part of our family and growth story.
Finally, you have certainly become an important role model for Africans, in particular those in the diaspora who want to do business and worry about lacking start-up capital, the risks, or even relocation. What is your advice to them?
You can’t succeed if you don’t start. Start your idea with friends and family being your focus group. Also make sure the market is in need of your product and then push ahead. In Africa it’s key to have connections in place. Make sure you build them.
Have a great marketing plan. The American or British marketing plans will not work in Africa. You need an African marketing plan. Always seek advice and mentorship from those in the country you wish to serve. Take the company as far as you can with your proof of concept, then seek investor start-up capital, as I have done.
The further you can take the idea yourself the easier it will get funded – and the more fundable you will become for investors. It’s a journey worth taking because you contribute towards Africa’s success while building your own – and that’s a journey filled with joy.
Dr Harnet Bokrezion is the co-author of the book 101 Ways to Make Money in Africa. She coaches start-ups and consults existing companies assisting them to make smart and strategic business decisions when entering Africa’s new emerging markets. Follow her blog on africajumpstart.com