Africa’s entrepreneurial culture

The spirit of doing it yourself is growing in Africa, and help is now coming from unlikely sources.

The spirit of doing it yourself is growing in Africa, and help is now coming from unlikely sources.

Ask any entrepreneur what he or she needs to start a business and a few key themes would resonate.

Most would cite a source of capital as a pivotal factor, while others would name a secure customer base, network of like-minded individuals for advice or a secure base of suppliers as essentials.

The above factors go a long way towards determining the success of a new venture, and making them work in your favour is a demanding process which separates entrepreneurs from also-rans.

Now imagine having to do all that in a country which has no venture capital scene or ‘helpful’ bank managers, a supply chain dominated by bureaucracy and customers with little disposable cash.

However, research from Ghana-based think-tank IMANI has found that not only is the entrepreneurial spirit loud and proud in Africa, many budding businessmen are forming businesses over a variety of sectors.

Its research, of 189 successful entrepreneurs in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, finds that they own, on average, six companies each in areas ranging from cleaning firms to a letting agency.

It now appears that this spirit has spread north and has led British-based American businessman Doug Richard to open his own school for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

Richard says that, in Nigeria, ‘there’s everything from web start-ups to snail farms going on’.

The entrepreneur is now hoping to help 1,250 people set up companies, with aid coming from both the Nigerian and UK governments.

While starting a business in the UK often allows people to either escape from the demands of the corporate world or turn that eureka moment into a profitable company, for Africans it is often the difference between in employment and being out of work.

Now with the telecoms market opening up and making mobile phones increasingly readily available (Nigerian telecoms tycoon Mike Adenuga’s Globacom empire has seen him set a personal fortune of $4.3 billion) and high-speed internet entering the continent via underwater fibre-optic cables from as far as Portugal, African entrepreneurs are beginning to access some of the key ingredients needed for business success.

Richard’s new start-up programme is bringing in perhaps the most important variable, cash.

The Nigerian government itself is setting aside $50 million (£32 million) to help budding businessmen and women start their new ventures.

However, it remains to be seen whether the war-torn and natural resources dominated nation can become the ‘African entrepreneurial superpower’ that Richard believes it can be.

More on business opportunties in Africa:

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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