How to turn challenges of doing business in Africa into a ‘gold mine’

Are you an African Diaspora on holiday in your home country this festive season? Have thought of investing home but fear the many challenges of doing business in Africa?
Passion fruits and French beans at NAEB's packhouse. Agro-processing and horticulture produce export are some of the business ventures that Diaspora can invest in as they are still....
Passion fruits and French beans at NAEB's packhouse. Agro-processing and horticulture produce export are some of the business ventures that Diaspora can invest in as they are still....

Are you an African Diaspora on holiday in your home country this festive season? Have thought of investing home but fear the many challenges of doing business in Africa? It is not a secret that that there are issues like corruption, conflict, and power cuts that are a “put off” for anyone planning to open a business. It is natural to be worried about such risk factors.

I believe too many Africans, particularly those in the Diaspora, are held back by such worries when contemplating starting a business back home. However, you should worry not as these perceived risks often win over perceived opportunities (for many of us). Here is how you can make the big leap and navigate these challenges and turn them into a gold mine as a Diaspora investor:

Combat your fears by changing perspective

But let’s see things from a slightly different angle. I believe when we talk about ‘risks’ for our Africa business venture we need to change perspectives. Here are some thoughts: Africa is an emerging market and such markets are volatile in nature. If Africa was as developed or easy to navigate as the West we would not be having the discussion about unrepresented business opportunities in the first place.

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Dr Harnet Bokrezion.

The market would be fairly saturated and all that would be left for you would be a brave attempt to squeeze in. So the first perspective, have you ever thought about the risks of doing business in a saturated market? This requires you to be highly innovative, with excellent marketing skills to stand out amidst the powerful competition.

Africa, on the contrary, provides a rare opportunity to position yourself fairly fast and possibly even become a leader in your industry.

Secondly, millions of Africans are running successful businesses on the continent, and many Diaspora have shot rocket-high with their newly set up companies. They are doing well, working in the same environment you call ‘too risky’. So, if you use the right business model and market entry strategies your growth can happen pretty fast in any part of the continent.

Thirdly, what is a ‘no-risk’ or ‘low-risk’ market, anyway? When millions of business owners and employees lost their earnings and jobs in the West and across the globe during an financial meltdown a decade ago, Africa’s economies and businesses continued to grow. In the end, ‘risk’ is somewhat relative and can strike anywhere.

Of course, none of us can deny that there are countries in Africa where opening a business would be a very bad idea because risk is high and business opportunities and dynamics are poor. But you have 54 countries to choose from! As I always advise, go for low risk/high opportunity markets in Africa in order to get started. They exist and will make your life so much easier.

Therefore, the issue of Africa being too risky for business comes down to our own viewpoint and attitude – a matter of the glass being half empty or half full. So, if the perceived risks in Africa have been the main reason holding you back, I hope this article will allow you to challenge yourself to see things from various angles.

Leading a special life requires doing things differently

Here is another life fact that may serve us when we feel we are being held back. You see, most people choose the safe route in life: The little risk-little obstacle-great familiarity-route. And most times this route keeps you safe in the lap of world average. We know that security is ‘everyone’s friend’ and fear our greatest challenger. Playing it safe and seeking contentment at best is what most people opt for. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but this limits you and, often, you will never be able to free yourself from the voice within that is asking and longing for more in life.

What many of us do not realise is that there is also a world of abundance out there that is unknown to us, yet so accessible if we just know how to go for it: Living for a greater cause, making an impact on the life of thousands, building prosperity and a grand lifestyle for ourselves and our family, living life to the fullest, releasing and unleashing our individual potential and seeing how far we can get and what it is each one of us is truly capable to create in this world.

For me this is what doing business in Africa is all about. It’s about taking part in Africa’s exciting renaissance while growing personally towards greater horizons and living a grander version of life.

The issue is not about becoming your own boss just to be able to pay the monthly bills and being a slave in your business. You need to create something meaningful, that you can enjoy, and expand beyond your wildest dreams, allowing you to make a larger impact while enjoying the fruits of your wealth.

Yes, Africa faces a lot of challenges and will continue to do so for some time. But instead of becoming a victim of poor infrastructure and corruption you also have the opportunity to change things around: The lack of infrastructure or anything else for that matter allows you to offer solutions to Africa from which you can gain as a business operator.

Your first step is to make the decision to strive to make thing better

Many African markets overall continue to rise and our continent’s stories of chronic suffering are slowly being replaced by stories of increased success. This process may take a while with all its setbacks, the continent is on the move for the better. Remember, risks will not suddenly vanish in an emerging market, requiring persistence. This is your window of opportunity.

Africa is regarded as the world’s last frontier, and investments in all emerging markets come with much greater risk due to political instability, domestic infrastructure problems, currency volatility, corruption, and limited equity opportunities. The reason why emerging markets are highly sought after is the rare prospect of high returns because these markets usually experience less competition and faster economic growth.

Africa is a ‘pool’ of opportunities and it is waiting for its children to dive in. This is a unique time that you should not miss. This is where you have the chance to create and build something impressive for Africa and yourself. The train is moving all the way from Alexandria to Cape Town. Get on board… As Winston Churchill said, a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

The writer is a business coach and the founder of africajumpstart.com. She is also the co-author of the book ‘101 Ways to Make Money in Africa’.

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