There is a lot out there these days about becoming and being successful in Africa, and the opportunities are growing by the day. But one thing that I want to pursue in Africa Business JumpStart is not to merely share things that are happening (we know by now that almost everything is somehow somewhere growing and many great Africa websites already cover that), but I want to focus on the best strategies and sectors and let you have those insights.
You could certainly decide to breed chickens in Burundi or open a travel agency in Senegal and somehow, if well executed, your business would certainly grow. Nothing wrong with that at all and we will most certainly support you in jumpstarting that if this is what you chose to do. But if you want faster or exceptional success then simply implementing a business idea is usually not good enough. Instead you need to know the current African market dynamics, the decisive push and pull factors, and then apply certain Africa business strategies that deliver both better results and a strong business model for the long-term. I’ve written a whole guest post on that, called ‘5 Business Strategies to Increase your Success in Africa’. It was published on one of Africa’s leading business sites and featured under top stories on April 2. I invite you to read it, so you know what I mean.
Most Africans are not very strong in strategizing, maybe this is because our schools in Africa largely use work systems that are based on repeating and memorizing content instead of encouraging students to build structural concepts, recognize patterns, and draw their own conclusions. But strategizing can be learned and it can be powerful.
Right, that brings me to the Ugandan student and his success story. His name is Titus Mawano and he left the US just recently, in 2012, to follow his passion and build an ICT business in Uganda. He gave himself a year to succeed with his start up company Ffene, and if it was not really successful he would go back to the US to finish his studies.
But Titus used an excellent strategy. It could only be a winner and this is why he is still in Uganda thinking of growing his business across the continent.
I read his story back in February when it was published in howwemadeitinafrica.com. I am not here to replicate stories. Yet weeks later and that story still stuck with me, I simply have to share the strategy with you, because it is so powerful! You see, out of the hundreds of stories and sector updates I read, there are only a small number where I think ‘wow’, because both concept and strategy are simple, smart, and successful.
It cannot get better than simple, smart, and successful, right? Yes, there are a lot of very unique or complex success stories out there, and many of them astonish and inspire us, too (some of us may actually still hope to save up the $200,000 to build our own manufacturing company after we read there are great successes to be reaped with this). But who does not love simple, smart and successful to get inspired and started?! These are the stories that really hit home, because you suddenly think, surely I can do this, too. And I could practically start this today. And achieve great success in 2 years, too.
You see, reading about success is not the only factor that motivates us. Much more important psychologically (consciously or unconsciously) is that we strongly feel that we can do and achieve it and that the first rewards are not waiting for us a whole decade later. This motivates us to take a first step (here is a hint – if you have been procrastinating a lot: your current business idea may simply look too daunting).
Finally, here is what Titus, the young Ugandan entrepreneur did. Like his own approach – let’s keep it simple:
1. He realized there was a problem.
The problem was that companies in Uganda managed their financial records poorly. It was mostly done manually.
2. Titus was ready to meet the problem (a strong driver in a successful business!).
He designed a business management software that enables companies to easily keep financial records online using their computer or a mobile device.
3. He introduces and sells his product.
Titus sells the software for $12 a month. A very affordable rate for most African businesses. Meaning he can scale up easily.
Now 2 years later, 600 companies in Uganda are using his software.
Sorry, guys, but I did the maths (we want to know the maths to measure success, right?): $12 each month for 600 companies, makes $86,400 per year.
He just got started! He has not even reached all companies in Uganda yet ….And then there are the companies across East Africa…and…across…Africa.
And he is already approaching the 100,000 mark at the very beginning of his journey !
A product that does not need significant starting capital, no import licence or a huge office and utility bill, no monthly production costs, shipping, etc. In short, he has hardly any expenses during the crucial starting period AND can now grow his business exponentially.
Simple. Smart. Successful. Titus used a simple strategy to meet a need in an area that he could easily scale up within Uganda and across borders. He is further helping African companies to become more efficient and competitive, which is so essential for Africa’s growth story.
Here is how you can simply use the same business success strategy:
1) Look for a business management problem in Africa that you can fix
A post by Ventures-Africa ‘Why African companies erode their profits and what can be done to stop it’ is perfect for identifying some of those problems. But I am sure you are able to find more unique challenges locally. By the way, they do not need to be confined to finance, but could address issues around general management, communication, marketing, or trading.
2) Create a software or mobile app that solves that business management problem
You don’t know how to do build a software or a mobile app? You can learn some of it online (check out appyet.com to build the basis) or hire a professional freelancer to build it all for you, for example at elance.com. The site features currently over 250,oo programmers and mobile developers from around the world online, so you can find one in your country or anywhere in the world. I have used elance.com myself and after careful selection you can get great professionals to do the job for you.
3) Market your product
Marketing is of course key to get the word out. Titus took a local approach, which I think is perfect for a start up. You will be able to apply more focus and word will spread quickly among local businesses.
You can either start this business entirely in Africa, prepare the technical solutions somewhere abroad (if you live outside of Africa) and then implement it personally on the ground, or even run and manage it from anywhere in the world, which has of course some disadvantages, but can still be done. But from where ever you run your business, I think you would greatly benefit from targeting one dynamic growth country first. It is so much easier for a start up entrepreneur to make your experiences and build a strong track record in a well defined area before you expand. But really depending on the kind of product or solution you offer, you could also target several countries at once.
Achievable Africa business strategy?
Be part of Africa’s renaissance.
Build a grand lifestyle for yourself.
And make a positive impact on the lives of others. Today.