Profits, Process, Partners… and Patience

Mentors across Africa were interviewed about how African entrepreneurs successfully confront challenges. Even though Africa is 54 countries and economies, 3 common sets of advice were found: how to get to profit, have processes using technology, and how to get the right partners.


from Joseph Thornton, an American investor and micro-lending entrepreneur working in Rwanda and Kenya

Profits“I believe entrepreneurs must devise a business model that will allow you to make a profit early on so it allows your business to be self-sustaining. The best way to get there is to focus on something that you enjoy or are very interested in, as this will allow you to channel your passions and curiosity into the business.

Your business first needs to show that it can consistently generate value for customers and profits for shareholders in your local market. Local market is called the unit-level. Then, showing strong unit-level performance requires discipline, with a focus on continuous improvement until performance is very strong in the local community before expanding to other geographies (cities or countries).”

You are responsible for getting to the profit level quickly, before expanding, because access to funding will continue to be difficult for African entrepreneurs for another 10 years.

Processes Must Use Technology

from a Cameroonian business owner with businesses in Europe and the US

Process Technology“Gone are the days where one could start a sustainable business as a “bayam salam” which Cameroonians relate to a simple “buy-and-sell” business model.

Businesses must absolutely include tech solutions in everyday business models. Whether it be for a waste transformation project, a cassava processing factory, an education-based project, or for even seemingly less technology reliant ventures, there’s a part of the process that involves some sort of technology, very often Intern-based or mobile phone (SSID) technology. Is the local electricity and internet infrastructure adequate to allow for the implementation of the project?”

Successful startups muse use tech to scale their businesses in rapidly growing markets. Moreover, African entrepreneurs can enjoy the power of smaller communities. This means that it is not only cheaper, but easier to test technology solutions – for now.


from Joël-Eric Missainhoun, leading a business development group in the Ivory Coast.

“Being an entrepreneur in Africa is first of all being able to find the right person to talk with. There is a lack of “partner” in this entrepreneurship environment. And this is the same at different levels, all over Africa. There is a lack of people who are dedicated to entrepreneurs, and able to listen to them, understand them and give them advice.  

But I constantly ask entrepreneurs “Do I have all the skills to push this business in the right direction?” It is your responsibility to find those partners and get them involved in a way that benefits your effort.”

Entrepreneurship may appear to be an individual activity, for those who think outside the box and are less prone to work as part of a larger structure venture into entrepreneurship. Sometimes the individual-effort comes from a lack of trust or maybe to prevent distraction. However, partners or advisors are critical to your success.

… and Patience

Finally, Missainhoun advises: “The entrepreneur needs to be patient, to be able to identify the right person to talk to, and most of all to maintain a sense of patience to search for the right partner.”