Have you wondered how to identify an area for a profitable African business ?
When contemplating doing business in Africa, we are often told to address the needs on the continent: housing, food production, manufacturing, or health services for example. While these are fantastic business areas to invest in, some African entrepreneurs are simply looking for something…..shall we call it…..slightly more creative.
Demand in a market is not only driven by needs, but also by wants. By things that people enjoy because they make them feel good. While this is still a rare luxury for the majority of people in Africa, the fast rising middle class has now an increased spending power and is in a position to enjoy more things they do not necessarily need, but want.
So let’s talk about what Africans love and how to find profitable African business niches in that. This is by no means an attempt to generalize the population across 54 countries and put millions of people under one hat, but I think a few things are unique to our continent. This is actually beautiful and I think most of you would agree….
1. The Secret Drug – Craving Our Traditional Food
Taste is one way in which we as young children experiences the world. Taste is a composite sense that’s partly determined by the taste buds, but also affected by a food’s aroma, its appearance and even previous experiences. This is why our system is not just used to a composition of spices, but we also associate emotions with it, such as feeling loved or at home.
While I have hardly met any Westerner who can’t part from the food of his home country, as Africans we take this love to an entire new level. Food fills our suitcases when we travel, mama sends her home-made dishes to us as gifts, and when we have finally the chance to try some culinary extravagance with friends on the weekend, we opt for……our traditional restaurants.
There are African companies who have become successful in shipping traditional food and spices to the Diaspora. The Feed Green Ethiopia Company and Mama Fresh are two that come to my mind (by chance both Ethiopian) that made it recently into several African business news for their success stories.
But there are many other ways to create a rare business niche for yourself: what about a fast-food outlet offering traditional dishes, a take-away or food delivery company in a business district somewhere in Africa’s capital cities or even a ready-made supermarket food brand. With more Africans seeking jobs in the cities there will be a great market for that kind of convenience food.
2. Big Weddings – Or Make that Enormous Weddings
A friend of mine – German – invited me one day to her big, fat German wedding in a park with almost 100 guests. One hundred guests? For most Africans that is just the immediate family, really. Africans have a tradition to invite the entire village and that tradition somehow still continued for those moving to big cities generations ago. Several hundred guests is the norm and catering for them is almost a routine. Now: The real challenge is not the five-hundred guests, but out-performing the weddings of other brides (right, sisters and mother-in-laws?!).
And what is an invitation on Saturday from 1 PM to midnight here in the West, is an invitation from Saturday to Sunday…..of the following week in Africa. Yes, you gotta fit it all in….You got the wedding at her house, the wedding at his house, the wedding in a white dress and the one in traditional gowns. You got the pre-wedding traditions and celebrations and the post-wedding celebrations (now that’s what I call having a party).
Wedding is big business in Africa, but it is hardly commercialized – you can even barely get a decent white wedding dress in most African countries. This is where you come in. Think of wedding planning, or offering unique venues, entertainment, decoration, flower bouquets, or amazing video & photography with an edge to it. Something that no-one else is offering in your country that way. Be sure that the word will spread fast.
3. Socializing: Meet my Family – Yes, these guys over there are my cousins
When you grow up with seven siblings, you are taken care of by aunties, neighbors, and ….hmm, the community at large…..when the doors at home were always open to guests, or you depended on the unity of your community during times of conflict fleeing your country you will naturally develop a strong need to socialize.
When I moved in with a friend of mine during university, she always told me how her biggest problem was the silence in the house. She was happiest falling asleep on the couch when I was chatting on the phone and the TV was playing in the background, and when we had friends around she would go to sleep around dawn on a Wednesday.
Organizing special Africa socializing events, networks, and opportunities both online and offline are another great way to build a business. Offer something that would be unique or hip in most African countries: A wellness, spiritual, or business retreat, a cocktail or sushi bar, an Irish pub with live football games, a family park offering things like pottery, horse riding, or mini golf, or organize a posh evening business lounge for networking. You can really leverage the lack of creative socializing opportunities in Africa to your own advantage. Especially when you love to be among people yourself.
4. It’s like Being in Love and Staying in Love: Home-Made Movies & Music
Many of us have read about the huge success story of iRokoTV – founded by young Nigerian Jason Njoku (32). Residing with his mother in the UK he was unable to find a decent Nigerian movie online when his mum asked him to. He saw a market gap with great potential. iRokoTV grew it in a multi-Million Dollar company a few years later. Today it is the world’s largest, legal online distributor of Nollywood films. This is a concept you could replicate for other African countries and their movie industry.
Or take the Notjustok.com music blog: Ovie O. is Nigeria’s number one music blogger and Notjustok has become a brand name in Nigeria. You can run such a blog from home and build a serious income from it. Yes, many bloggers have become millionaires (guess, I got to read their ‘how to’ guides more regularly)
Music and movies made in Africa is something greatly enjoyed by most people living in Africa’s urban area and the Diaspora. There is plenty of room to build a profitable business in this regard.
Be part of Africa’s renaissance.
Build a grand lifestyle for yourself.
And make a positive impact on the lives of others. Today.
Feel free to add your ideas or comments below or to click the option below to receive my notification for my upcoming Africa business posts in your e-mail as soon as they are published.
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