The proper way to build a business is to figure out how to sustainably scratch a perpetual itch and in Africa we have no shortage of opportunities or brains that apply themselves toward that pursuit. As technology fashioned by Africa’s techpreneurs continues to be produced and taken to market, there are three issues that that I have identified as stifling their ability to take root and grow, outside of capital and talent.
Market equals revenue, and many times we use comparative metrics from markets that are more homogenous than those we operate in. China and the United States of America for example are taken as a whole, while in Africa we are fragmented courtesy of our boundaries, trade blocs and political intrigues. The challenge of Visa issuance ranks high here, where in many countries across Africa, simple business travel is hampered by what I frankly term as undue process and fees. We cannot expect to build pan-african businesses when the very basics of scoping the market, building and cementing partnerships, setting up a presence present both cost and inconvenience.
More pronounced in some markets than others are undertones that are best felt while holding one on one conversations. Factions and groups exist off physical geographies, shared pedigrees and in some cases race. If unclear or unaware of the existence of these bubbles, a technology entrepreneur or investor will find it hard to extract value or plug in. Many times a dance has to be learnt where both sides are delicately managed. I find this curious as opportunities are agnostic to any of these human issues.
One ‘Coach’ Robert Yawe says I plagerized his verb ‘egosystem’ so this is me crediting his…well…ego 🙂
This goes to our governments. Apart from making it difficult for documented entrepreneurs to travel freely, punitive tax regimes and misplaced priorities are forcing Africa techpreneurs to look for more conducive homes elsewhere. Global tech giants have pointed the way and while we may not see a dozen unicorns rise as in the West and East, the cumulative move by small and medium sized companies will add up and this will be a big loss for parent governments.
These I have seen garnered from speaking and interacting entrepreneurs, owners of capital, and government publics from across the continent and in my opinion it seems that we may have to contend with them for a while as there is no immediate panacea.