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8 African Entrepreneurs Share Advice On How They Became Successful
Obado Obadoh, founder of Café Deli, Kenya. Photo: The Standard
The Dangotes, Elumelus and Thakkars are the exceptions. The vast majority of businesses built by African entrepreneurs are local. Local political patronage and connections often sustain African entrepreneurs, according to Ghanaian lawyer and entrepreneur Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia. Still, their efforts often turn these entrepreneurs into superstars in their communities. Some African entrepreneurs share advice here on how they became successful.
Anda Maqanda, AM Group, South Africa
“I am where I am because of a business mentor who changed the way I see things.”
– AM Group is an engineering firm that offers engineering consulting, design and construction of electrical overhead power lines, renewable energy and automation.
Ivan Mbowa, co-founder of Umati Capital, Kenya
“No matter how good a product you have, still in Africa it is your reputation that counts.”
– Umati Capital in Kenya is a non-bank financial institution providing financial services to small-scale suppliers, trading companies and industrial processors.
Mike Mlombwa, founder of Countrywide Car Hire, Malawi
“Younger people are always in a hurry to do things. They want to become billionaires in two years. I always advise business people that only time allows you to (get there).”
– Countrywide Car Hire offers car rentals and chauffeuring in major cities, airports and hotels across Malawi. Founder Mike Mlombwa recently ventured into hotel construction. He is considered one of the country’s business success stories. Mlombwa’s story began in poverty.
Obado Obadoh, founder of Café Deli, Kenya
“The secret is in paying your debts. When an investor or a bank gives you their money, just pay it back. They will trust you and help you in future. Even with suppliers, if you build a tradition of paying on time, one day when you’re in trouble they’ll be willing to wait … Do not get caught up in trying to impress people with things you can’t afford. I don’t … waste funds trying to live a life that’s not yet mine.”
– Trained as a pastry chef, Obado Obadoh learned his craft working for major Kenyan hotel chains. In 2011 he had an opportunity to buy out an existing restaurant.
Ted Boulou, founder of Somtou, Cameroon
“Our biggest mistake was perfectionism … But we realized that our main source of improvement would be customers’ reviews. We decided to go out with a minimal viable product and gather customer feedback. This made us progress a lot more quickly and efficiently.”
– Somtou was launched in 2014 to address needs of informal and small-scale businesses in Africa. An intuitive software and hardware device combines a solar-powered central console with a tactile screen, barcode reader and mechanical scale, allowing the device to record the many types of transactions that occur in small shops. Somtou acts as a point of sale, inventory management system, and a customer management device. Its solar-powered feature makes it ideal for regions with unpredictable power supply.
Sharon Njavika, founder of Ajani Handmade, Kenya
“I have had to be very meticulous with my time, very disciplined, and forfeiting some things like going out with friends on a Friday night. It is challenging but it is worth it. I don’t think of my business as a side hustle. It is something I do with a lot of passion and I am working towards building a sustainable business.”
– Ajani Handmade is a Kenyan online store that sells natural water-based shea-butter moisturizer for hair and skin and an oil-based blend for sensitive skin.
Saheel Shah, co-founder of Adpack, Kenya
“Surround yourself with people that really believe in you … There will be moments when you are really down, scared or worried, and just aren’t ready for some of the challenges and the setbacks. It demands a lot of patience and courage, but that courage comes from the people around you.”
– Adpack is a Kenyan Kenyan packaging company that manufacturers gunny bags – the woven polypropylene sacks used to package cement as well as agrichemicals, fertilizers and feed for the farming sector.
Sources: How We Made It In Africa
Rohan Garg, co-founder of Belvie, Niger
“The lack of frameworks, infrastructure and information demands a lot of patience in dealing with setbacks and delays. What truly defines success in such challenging markets is the ability to recreate oneself from one failure to another.”
– Rohan Garg moved from Delhi, India, to Niger when he was 23 years old to start the mineral water-bottling company, Belvie, after noticing a gap in the market.
Sources: How We Made It In Africa.
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