Do you want to start a successful business in Africa, but you feel trapped or hindered by the lack of money?
The lack of financial capital is one of the main obstacles that prevent Africans from starting a business on the continent. Many postpone their idea only to find that a few years later not much has changed.
To relax and see what the future would bring was somehow Ok ten years back, or even five…, because time largely seemed to stand still in Africa, surely, you could start your business a few years down the line…or any time.
Let’s get real
While most of us were simply not aware of the great opportunities that even existed then, Africa is now strongly emerging as the ‘final frontier market’. Africans across the continent and the globe, governments from the West, investors from the East, multinational companies, and the international media have now woken up (some waking up considerably slower than others) and they are moving into Africa. Are you?
As someone who has now followed the developments closely over the last 19 months I can tell you that things are notably changing even in such a short time span. The right time for doing business in Africa is now. Right now.
You should not be held back. Not by the worries about risks, by a comfortable lifestyle or a busy job in the West, and certainly not by the shortage of financial capital you have at hand. And I think it is valid to make this additional point: Especially not as Africans. This is our opportunity above all and it now happening fast on our beloved much bruised continent…yes, who would have thought, but it is happening and better times are knocking on the doors of Africa.
Make sure you grab this rare chance now before the windows will start to close a few years down the line. The sooner you start, the more will you be able to succeed in a dynamic market with little competition. And exactly that is the reason why the chances are good that you will make it big even if you have to start small. Because if you chose the right business area in the right country you will find huge demand…and that allows you to serve and own a market segment even as a new, small player; and ultimately this allows you grow.
About getting investors
I think if you have a proven success record in Africa, seeking and winning over investors can be a great avenue to considerable business growth. In fact, the situation at this moment in Africa is such that they will spot you and come after you!
But chances are that you are one of the many millions who want to start doing business in Africa, who are considering ideas, looking for the right avenues, or doing some research. Yes, there are seed investors, but there are not too many around for Africa and to find them, to get in touch with them, win their interest, and prepare for a pitch may take a lot of energy and time out of you with no guarantee that they will invest in you in the end. But by all means go for it if you are in touch with a supportive seed investment company.
For the rest…
Here is my 4 point step-by-step strategy to starting off in Africa with nothing:
STEP 1: Find a niche for yourself that is scalable
If you are starting with minimum or no capital don’t try to win the whole of Africa over at this point. Find a niche where you can have first mover advantage (no or little competition) and one that is of high interest to consumers or leading companies in Africa. Such niches are still plentiful around in Africa. This is the circumstance that will increase your chance to make it from small to big in relatively little time.
Make sure your niche is scalable! If you are targeting government ministries or private hospitals you quickly reach your ceiling. If your target market are a country’s consumers or the management teams of operating companies, you will have a higher ceiling and enough room to scale up.
STEP 2: Build a low-cost business structure
Build a start-up structure for your business in your preferred industry (the niche you chose) that does not require you to buy expensive equipment, products, or set up a high street store or office – remember you have no capital for that, so don’t plan to sell second hand cars you have to ship in from Europe or to build a bottle manufacturing company in West Africa! At least not at this point.
Instead, build a low-cost business structure. This is vital for your jump start. You can do so the following way:
- Start your business online managing it from home selling services, expertise, and knowledge. You don’t need to pay for getting that, it’s in you and you can sell it if you package it attractively.
- Sell, trade, or market other people’s products working from your home /online. Create partnership with these people or companies so you work jointly.
- Build a network with buying power, so for example a group of clients and customers whom you offer products or services, but you are then sub-commissioning already established companies or freelancers to deliver that to you.
- Bring together communities online or offline in an area of high interest to leading companies so you can make money from sponsorship deals and/or advertising.
- Make concrete propositions to businesses or companies in your field of expertise (possibly but not necessarily starting with companies where you know someone ) that would add value to their business operations by offering them to run an event for them, train their staff, or open a new market for them. You then get paid by them for doing so.
Step 3: Get started the right way
Prioritize: This initial period is crucial. It is about getting the foot into the door (the market!) and about positioning yourself by building and slowly expanding the structure you chose at stage 2. Your future success will be build on that basis. Being the best in your niche, adding value to your customers and partners, and getting a good reputation is more important at this point than making quick money.
Become a reliable and well respected expert in your niche, so people trust and refer you. Own your niche. Learn, listen, and become your best.
This can be a testing period. Be patient and do not give up.
STEP 4: Grow your business – the sky is your limit
Use the income you make during stage 3, the experience you won, your growing reputation as an expert, and the contacts you made to grow your business further until you move closer towards your bigger ambitions and dreams.
As Tony Robbins said: Being successful is not about the resources you have, but about how resourceful you are.
Dream big, be resourceful, and be prepared to start your amazing journey with small steps. Many of the young and very successful African entrepreneurs now out there have done just that and you can do it, too.
So, which business are you planning to start on a shoe string budget? Please feel free to leave your comments or questions below. And then of course there is my upcoming e-book with 88 low-cost Africa business ideas plus some useful calculations if you need more concrete inspiration. I am working on it!
Written by Dr. Harnet
Be part of Africa’s renaissance.
Build a grand lifestyle for yourself.
And make a positive impact on the lives of others. Today.