Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Is Returning Home To Build Your African Business Simply Not Possible? Then Do This

I remember an article I read several months ago titled: Why the Nigerian Diaspora won’t return home. It is still featured as the most popular article two years later on the dynamic site ventures-africa.com (I did ask myself a couple of times  if they disabled the feature ‘popular posts’ so it just sat there, but it looks like it is simply an article with a rather long shelf life).
It’s true, we all like stories in which we can somehow identify ourselves or that inspire us…especially if there is something that is holdingus back to return to Africa. It is simply not just that easy for many to make such a major decision.
So yes, we do want to know why Nigerians won’t return home and we still want to read about the young Tanzanian who built a million Dollar solar businesses in Tanzania with a small loan from mum (warning:  there is actually a danger that both articles equally depress you).
I think what is really widely missing is the HOW. I hugely felt that when I started thinking of doing business in Africa. How do I go about this all? How do I make the right decisions, how do I get started?  And how on earth would I manage considering that I can’t…don’t have…should not…(the list is long).
It looked like a huge mountain. And I was standing right at the foot of that mountain wondering if this is not simply too much of a climb…Besides, where do I fit in? Do I go with the Diaspora that simply won’t move or the young Tanzanian entrepreneur who built a solar empire from scratch and now exchanges climate change ideas with former US Vice President Al Gore?
Hey, was there some kind of middle way for a humble optimist?
The article about the Nigerian Diaspora mentions politics, lack of infrastructure, being out of touch with Nigeria, and feeling comfortable with the easy life in the West…
I am not sure I fully agree.  Sure, all of these can be serious worries if you entertain them long enough, but frankly, I think they only grow into this elephant because people still do not get enough inspiration and in particular no instructions how to start an Africa business. You need both to be empowered to move forward.
I continued reading and researching for months, and only when I felt inspired enough by the stories of others and informed enough about what I had to do next, was I prepared to make the first step to climb that mountain. (Yes, I want that beautiful view right there from the top even if the journey looks incredibly steep and rocky. What about you?)
I think it is not correct to simply suggest Diaspora Africans are too comfortable where they are. It’s a little more complex than that. There is more to many of those stories…
A Nigerian told me he would love to go back home and open a business, but his son was in a special school in the UK and he was worried that his son would not receive the same kind of support and acceptance in Nigeria.
An Ethiopian woman who is a mum at my son’s kindergarten wanted to go back home to start a business, she still struggles with her language skills and doubts if she will ever find a job here at all. “Back home is so much I could do”, she says. But her husband does not share that view, he wants to stay in Europe or possibly move to the US.
And then there is a friend of mine who like many Africans, we should not forget, is a refugee. You come out of certain countries…, but you don’t go back there. Many Africans have simply no chance to go back to their country to build a business or stay with family. Others may not have the money to buy several air tickets and cover for their expenses until the business starts to make profit.
But: You still should be able to dream and pursue your ambitions!
 You may need to take a somewhat longer route to get there, but you can still be a part of Africa’s renaissance and build a successful business and grand lifestyle for yourself.
Here are 4 ideas, how you can get where you want despite some obstacles or worries that may not allow you to simply go back to Africa.
#1 Start facilitating imports from or exports to Africa
This is one of the easier business concepts. Think of products that are popular or urgently needed in Africa, but either not sufficiently available or not accessible for certain segments of the population. Or assess what Africa is able to produce that is in demand in the country where you live right now. Get in touch with your contacts in Africa and see if they can source buyers or producers while you do the same here in the West. Payment transactions between the buyer and the supplier can then go through your account, which means you do not need to buy the entire shipment with your money and there is no need to travel to the continent if you have a partner who takes care of business relations at the other end.
     #2 Organize Africa events
Interest in Africa is now rising fast and you can use that. Bring for example African entrepreneurs or investors in the Diaspora together, or people who are interested in African art and craft, tourism, or business match making events. Again the ideas are many and you do not need to hire fancy hotels or major exhibition halls to get started. A catchy intriguing concept that delivers clear value to event participants and a strong marketing strategy are much more important. Think of a certain niche or use a talent of yours and see if you would be able to create an event around it in the country you reside. This way you will also build your network and partnerships for the future.

# 3 Use ICT to build your business
solution2Online businesses and the use of mobile apps are expected to increase fast in the coming years. Online marketing services specializing on the African market, serving African companies with your skills or solutions, setting up an online platform for investors, or building mobile apps for the millions of phone users and businesses in Africa…you can work on your ICT business from anywhere in the world and with minimum financial capital. There are so many opportunities, and if your idea fills a clear gap or need and you use the right business strategies, you can build a lucrative Africa business abroad.
# 4 Get hired
African firms and multinational companies in Africa are hiring! You will be amazed to find out that wages are very competitive, in some sectors- finance for example- you can even end up with a better salary in Africa than in the West.  They are seriously looking for skilled people! So if the fear of cash flow is holding you back or starting a business back home after living abroad for so many years brings up fears in you, then it may be a good strategy to seek employment in Africa first and then explore business opportunities later and with a safety net locally. 
These are just four ideas how you can meet some of your concerns and obstacles and start your Africa business despite of them. Knowing exactly why you are doing it is important to keep you focused (e.g. finally realizing your life passion or using your initial business concept as a stepping-stone-strategy that you will grow into a bigger plan). Once you make progress and you have met people in your niche your business will lead to so many more opportunities. It will then be much easier to find solutions for any initial obstacles. You can now expand your business and head straight for your dreams.
What is holding you back to start an Africa business?

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