There have been many African entrepreneurs who, through their consistent determination and ingenuity, have made names for themselves in the international spheres of their respective industries. Regardless of what those industries are, many aspiring entrepreneurs can learn a few things from these dope individuals. Africa as a region makes for an interesting case study for two reasons. Firstly, it has the fastest-growing and youngest population in the world, with 60% of the population under age 25. Furthermore, it is the most impoverished, with the lowest GDP per capita. In simple terms, you have some of the youngest people in the world, facing the most challenging of circumstances and environments. So this gives the observant amongst us a unique opportunity to witness and learn 5 things from some of the most innovative and influential African entrepreneurs.
Adaptability Even During Challenging Circumstances
Olugbenga Agboola, the founder and CEO of a software company called Flutterwave, not only adapted to the unique and challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic but also offered adaptability to other businesses, particularly small businesses in regions lacking ICT infrastructure such as Africa. They used his product to set up digital storefronts to help keep the business running.
Due to this poor or non-existing ICT infrastructure, a lot of African businesses have no online presence. Flutterwave helped such businesses by giving them a digital storefront and a means to process customer online transactions during checkout. The company processed over $USD 7.5 billion worth of transactions in 2020, making it Africa’s largest payment solutions provider.
This is something that we already have and perhaps take for granted in the first world but the key lesson here is that innovation comes from understanding the challenges in your environment and finding ways to adapt. It is, after all, something that is inherent in all thriving species.
The Importance of Education
Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy is the founder of PraxiLabs, which is software that facilitates science experiments within a 3D virtual laboratory. Therefore, young scientists and students can test their ideas through experimentation even with modest resources. Khadija has a Ph.D. in Computer Science, and she consistently promotes the importance of education in helping bring positive change to the world.
This is an absolute gem from Khadija and makes sense too. One of the easiest ways to become an entrepreneur is to have expert knowledge in your field of interest. Investing in yourself through education gives you the credentials to validate your thoughts and ideas. It also gives you the skills to solve problems in your field of expertise and gives you a competitive advantage against a novice trying to set up a business in the same field.
Focus on a Good Cause
It can certainly help market a company and its products when it’s directed towards a good cause. For example, Andrew Mupuya from Uganda created a company called YELI, which stands for Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments. The company is responsible for creating paper bags, helping reduce the overall usage of plastic in Uganda. He has also been awarded for his work as a social entrepreneur.
Even in the worst of circumstances, focusing on doing the right thing with ethical business ideas has proved to be a winning formula over the last decade. The developed world has become more environmentally conscious with the help and support of government initiatives. However, in Africa things have not been so easy even for those with the best of intentions as environmental issues often rank low on government agendas. So entrepreneurs in this region like Mupuya, who are focusing on the good cause and not financial rewards are investing in the future which will eventually pay off.
Modest Backgrounds Should Not Be a Limiting Factor
While it certainly helps entrepreneurs to be born rich, as they have the resources to make their ideas a possibility, a modest financial background should not be a limiting factor if you have an entrepreneurial mindset and vision. A good example of this resourcefulness is Beth Koigi from Kenya who created Majik Water, which is a device that collects water from the air and then dispenses it via a Water ATM to avoid wastage.
This young entrepreneur came from humble beginnings but her passion to solve the complex problem of water shortage in Africa overcame the challenges and stacked odds. Her approach to solving the problem was simple and resourceful and demonstrates ingenuity at its best. Majik Water uses silica gel which absorbs water from the atmosphere then when the gel heats up, it releases clean ready to drink water.
Belief in Oneself
An important characteristic that nearly all African entrepreneurs have is a strong belief in themselves. Even though they may have questioned it at points, they only reached success because they continued to think that they had an idea worth investing in and that belief and determination eventually were fruitful.
As they say, ‘necessity is the mother of all creation’ and according to Empower Africa (an initiative set up to liaise with governments, major corporations, and investors to facilitate business opportunities in Africa), African young people are generally more optimistic about the future, are more likely to believe that they can positively impact their country’s governance, and are more likely to start their own business. The increasingly challenging circumstances they are facing have not dampened their ambitions instead, it has fueled them and made them more resilient. Something we can all learn from and put into practice right away.
Last Few Words
Now that you have 5 important things you can learn from African entrepreneurs, it’s time to start working toward your entrepreneurial goals. With commitment and consistency, you will gain something positive.