I have the privilege of working with entrepreneurs everyday. While listening to their journeys and understanding the support they need to take their BIG IDEA to the next level, I realized that there were identifiable patterns that led to the success of some and the downfall of many.
I have watched over and over again as people say, “I wish I had known that then” whenever the patterns were shared. The businesses that have integrated the secrets below have known quicker growth and longevity. I have broken down them down into 5 :
Secret 1: Africa is different
“Designing for Africa requires a much deeper understanding of the African context”
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Designing for Africa requires a much deeper understanding of the African context than most entrepreneurs would like to admit or invest in. Most solutions and products offered today are designed with a bias of western influence. Designed according to trends that typically affect less than 20% of target market in their countries.
Case study: Only 15% of Ugandans have access to the power grid. There are more tech startups than there power startups in Uganda. The 15% market is quickly getting saturated. How can tech and power startups work together because without power, technology can only go so far..
Secret 2: Helping your client get richer helps your business
This is a true fact all over the world but in Africa its something that every business owner should keep front of mind. Because without disposable income, unless your business is critical to the client’s existence, your client will not be able to afford to use your service or buy your product. Most entrepreneurs are too focused on their profit that they ignore the state of their clients. The rich are getting richer and leaving very little for the rest to subsist in a way that will foster entrepreneurial growth.
n 2010, 414 million people in Africa were living in extreme poverty across sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank anticipates that this number will remain close to 400 million until 2020.
Secret 3: Cooperatives versus company
Africa is plagued with the syndrome where “Everyone is doing the same thing and not really getting much done”. The cooperatives are going extinct, being washed out with the flood of companies. Very many incorporated but very few delivering at an optimum level. The power behind a cooperative was its ability to unite people to deliver in a way that was beneficial for all.
Companies and groups that have come together to deliver have seen a much better success rate in terms of profit, scale and social impact in comparison to companies and individuals that have decided to become jack of all trade enterprises.
Secret 4: Passion or Profit
A form of entrepreneurship is needed to survive today. An article published explained why everyone will be forced to become an entrepreneur at some point. But if asked, most entrepreneurs will say its incredibly hard. So how have the successful ones turned the tables around?
They focus alot more on passion than profit. A passion to solve problems faced everyday has produced the most successful African businesses. Most African entrepreneurs start business to make an extra income, there needs to be a shift in mindset. For a business to be relevant it should solve a problem, the more problems it solves, the more profit. If every African entrepreneur saw the current African problems as opportunities, the African business landscape would be better by far.
Secret 5: Become an Intern
There is no other continent that requires as much hand’s on knowledge as a Africa. The lack of structures dictates that entrepreneurs need to have a solid understanding the social, political, economical and even geographical landscapes to survive.
Before starting your company, find someone who delivers something similar and become an intern. The most successful businesses are those started by people who have some experience because they have either worked in that industry or lived the life of their target consumer. They not only understand the need but have studied the delivery intimately. Experience is crucial for those seeking to become business owners.