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7 Lessons from Africa’s Successful Entrepreneurs?



So far The Benin Epilogue has attempted to tackle several different issues. Key among them have been:

Building awareness about the entrepreneurs behind a few of Africa’s most thriving enterprises
Helping to illustrate why foreign firms should do more foreign direct investment in Africa
Attempting to showcase the diversity that exists in Africa’s business environment

One of the topics which we have not touched on yet, here, is what can a entrepreneur in Africa do to find success? Have you ever asked yourself that question or wondered if the entrepreneurs being discussed on these pages share anything in common? Well, if you did, then we are on the same page-because that’s what this post is all about. The reason that I have waited for so long in bringing it into the fold here is that it seems like such a complex question. After all, there are many different types of entrepreneurs in Africa. By this I mean that they come from different social and economic backgrounds, different ethnic and language groups, different countries and regions of Africa, some of them are exporting products, while others are serving local markets, and then there are the different educational backgrounds. Maybe, attempting to find such a commonality is like attempting to put a square peg into a triangle peg’s slot-but then again there’s only one way to find out.

Before we move deeper into this discussion, let me say this-I know that ten entrepreneurs in Africa (that’s the number that we have done mini-profiles on) is a small number. However, my rational for starting here, with these ten, was that my hope to be unbiased and also to see whether we could spot a trend or two. For instance, if you had someone who just arbitrarily said that they think that doing x, y, and z could make someone wealthy, what would you think about that person? Now, what if that same person was able to say, “after studying the 5 wealthiest people in the world, I have found they shared they all shared the following 3 habits in common, which have contributed to their wealth” would you listen, then? My point exactly! So, let’s see what these ten entrepreneurs share in common:

Each of them has made their business into a platform or a bigger cause, almost taking on the an evangelistic role for their particular industry or products.

These entrepreneurs have shown a degree of perseverance in the face of heavy obstacles.

They have made building strong relationships a big part of building their businesses.

Adapting thinking, processes, products, and/or services to their local environments.

The willingness and ability to gain a very keen understanding of the overall social, economic, or political climate of the region in which they do business.

Most of them built their businesses around their own personal experiences and as a result ended up creating niche-targeted businesses.

Whether it was in obtaining start-up funds, seeking advice, or in finding others to help run the business these entrepreneurs were not afraid to seek help.

Now, those were the similarities found amongst the entrepreneurs who’ve been profiled here. However, this is probably no where near being exhaustive. Thus, if you an entrepreneur doing business in Africa and you’d like to add to this list or comment on it- we’d really like to know.


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By Benin Mwangi

About the Author: Benin Mwangi

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A credit analyst by profession, Benin Mwangi is one of the world's foremost experts on the topic of entrepreneurship in Africa. He is the founder of Benin Mwangi Enterprises, a consulting firm that specializes in promoting trade in Africa as a means to achieve self-empowerment and community development. His blog, BeninMwangi.com, serves as one of the most popular online destinations for those looking to learn about and discuss business and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is also a regular contributor to Global Voices Online and Kenya Empowerment News.
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