Sunday, December 03, 2006

Today's Profiles in Entrepreneurship in Africa (Week 3): This Could be You!

Good day to all! I hope that you are rested up and ready for week 3 of Today's Profiles in Entrepreneurship in Africa. Although this is a realtively new column (and blog for that matter), so far the tone of this weekly column has been that entrepreneurs from Africa can and do find success in their respective communities. Well, what if I told you that not only are entrepreneurs from Africa making big strides in their local regions, but that each year growing numbers of entrepreneurs are leaving their homes in the Americas to pursue business in Africa? What if I said that you could too, would you believe me? And, before you say it...this is not an enlistment of any sort, but simply a challenge for you to investigate and learn for yourself whether you could picture yourself doing business in Africa.

For this reason, we are going to highlight not one; but three entrepreneurial success stories- all starting in the America's* and ending in various African countries. In the interest of keeping your attention, these will be summaries rather than full profiles.

First, let us meet Mr. Greg Wyler. He is an entrepreneur from the U.S. who has built his reputation in the IT field. One of his most notable achievements involves what he is doing to boost Rwanda's tech industry through his Terracom venture. Terracom is an internet communications provider which has recently made headlines after announcing plans to build Africa's largest fiber optic cable network -connecting telephones, internet, and tv access across the central African country's population. So far Greg Wyler's company has installed roughly 220 miles of cable underground and still plans 700 more miles of fiber over the next few years. This has been beneficial to Rwanda's consumers in the form of savings ( in 1999 broadband connections were $1,000USD/month now they are roughly $60USD/month ), not to mention that connection speeds are much higher now than ever before. His aspirations don't stop there, over the next five years Mr. Wyler believes that he will be able to reach more than one million customers in this small nation. That may sound like a tall order, but from what I've heard Rwanda is rapidly amongst international IT circles, coming to be known as the IT hub of Africa. Now we may not own a crystal ball, but doesn't it seem like there's a very bright future for Rwanda and Mr. Wyler?

Next on the list is Mr. Samer Bishay, founder of Iristel, Inc. Samer is from Canada, but that is only 10 percent of the reason that he is being mentioned here. It started for him when he was granted a carrier licence by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission at his tender age of 26 years. From Canada he went to the Ivory Coast to set up part of his VoIP technology business there. What is most striking about this gentleman is that he was able to build a solid foundation in the Ivory Coast during a time of unprecidented civil unrest there. He was eyeing the market for African expatriates in Canada and America who wanted a more affordable way to speak to their friends and families at home. If you have ever tried to make a phone call from that part of Africa to the Americas or vice versa you surely must see the same lightbulb that motivated Mr. Bishay to stay when many others fled the country. Staying turned out to be a valuable decision for him-from his VoIP telephone system in the Ivory Coast he was able to expand into two other West African Francophone countries-Senegal and Benin. The contract that his company negotiated with Senegal is estimated to be worth over $Five Million USD, while his contract with the Republic of Benin is worth over $ One Million USD. Next on the agenda for Mr. Bishay is the completetion of a VoIP software program designed to allow cellphone users in Africa or abroad to call outside of their local coverage area without the extra long distance costs. Will someone please let me know when I can get that service?

Our final highlight of this post is on a husband and wife duo known as Dr. Paul Lartay and Dr. Alexandra Graham. They were actually born both in Africa, Dr. Lartay in Ghana and Dr. Graham in Nigeria. Likewise, they each came to America to complete their graduate degrees and eventually made America* their homes. They each have strong organic chemistry backgrounds and have worked as executives in the pharmaceuticals industry. Starting a pharmaceutical company, LaGray Chemical Company, that produces drugs in Ghana seems like a natural outgrowth of their commonalities and experiences. It might even sound simple, but consider that their company is planning to manufacture drugs that could help cure among other ailments-malaria and HIV/AIDS. Their company is the first in Sub-Saharan Africa to do this, just as noteworthy is the fact that they are employing trained labor from the regions which they are serving. They plan to pave the way to lasting impact on health in Africa by building a business that's able to maintain modern production in Africa, while also creating profits. This is a company that just may have what it takes to succeed in changing lives, changing industry trends, and profits all at the same time.

I hope that you have enjoyed this segment and see why it's subtitle is "This Could be You". As always, I would like to know what you think, please feel free to post a comment and/or tell a friend about this post. If you are not able to comment on this particular post but would like to let us know that you were here , please sign our guestbook. View my guestbook


Troy & Tara Livesay said...

We are anxious to see Africa someday. We found your blog from a missionary in Kenya's blog ... be blessed!

Benin "Mwangi" said...

Thank you very much. Kenya is a "must visit".

Please remember to let The Benin Epilogue know about your visit-particularly what you perceive about the business environment there.

Thanks, again...

African Entrepreneur said...

I love your optimism! It will keep us all going. I am also one of those entrepreneurs born in Africa that started in the US and has ended back up in Africa.

Although I had been doing business here on a one-off basis for several years, it wasn't until 2002 that I actually opened an office. By 2004 I started to understand why investors are afraid of Africa.

I still encourage everyone to consider Africa for their investment but chose your country carefully and talk to local entrepreneurs first.

The reality on the ground is so different from anything I had ever experienced or had ever imagined. But as difficult as it has been, I do not regret having done it. This is our continent. If we don't jump in, who will? If we are not part of the solution, we might not like the result.

Cheers and keep posting positive stories!

I also have a blog (kind of depressing but a reflection of reality)

An African entrepreneur


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