Why do I do it?
In case you were wondering why do I care to write about entrepreneurship in Africa, these are the answers. I do it for the love. Is it a secret that my heart has never left the African continent, I think for most people who have been able to talk with me for more than five minutes it can't be a secret. I did not always feel this way. It started, though, when I went to Ghana, for the first time while in school.
Don't know why this happened, it was not something that I had planned but while in Ghana some friends that I had met, one was a computer science professor, another a fellow student, and then there was a visual basic programmer and the group of us all got together and decided to start a software education company aimed at the Ghanaian primary schools. Our primary energy was spent on designing the program and upon talking with folks in the know as to what might work. We started no long after I had arrived in Ghana-maybe 2 or 3 months. Would you believe that by the time it was departure time for me the software was 80% complete? Unfortunately, after leaving and returning to the hustle & bustle of just trying to graduate from undergrad' and running a totally different company, which had achieved some moderate success, I somehow lost touch with the software developers that I was working with in Ghana. Back then email was availbale in Ghana, but back then I couldnt describe it as convenient or reliable. Our primary method for communication was phone call or fax, which were both expensive.
If there were something in life that I could redo, it would be this-just staying on top of those efforts and keeping it a priority. Since then there have been at least three or four African related businesses that I have tried from the States without much success. We tried importing amber beads from Mali, which proved very difficult, since our contact was in Ghana and had to travel all the way up to Mali to bring the beads and then ship them to us. By the time we managed to sell one or two of them here-my father and I realized that we had actually lost money. We tried importing ebony wood furniture from Ghana, which I was unable to find consistant buyers for her in the States. Then my wife and I brought back some hand woven garments and women's accessories from Kenya. We took them to small stores around Atlanta for consignment and although they looked very nice the consumers were still choosing the cheaper hand made goods from Asia. Looking back on it, although the dedication was there, I can see a few things that could have been done differently in each instance to make those ventures more successful-the main two are research and more preparation. Of course, both of these are necessary before entering any business venture irrespective of the location or the entrepreneur engaging in the business-so this applies to you too :)
In fact, let me take this opportunity to stress that any of the ideas that you see here should be treated this way. Always do your homework and find out for your self, first if the type of enterprise, then the business fundamentals, and the place of business make sense for you before you leap into anything that you may see here. Or anywhere else for that matter, you know? After all, what you see here is just a reflection of my own personal opinions and experiences..
Anyhow, back to why this whole African enterprise solution enthralls me so much. Probably, my father has had a lot to do with my desire to do business in Africa also. He has always said that his generation would be the one to bring modern day science into the mainstream in Modern day Africa, and that it would be up to the younger generations to help turn transfer the science and research into practical application-i.e. into revenues and profits. I guess my sub conscious absorbed more of this than I thought, because there aren't many weeks that go by without me thinking of it.
At the end of the day, this would not mean anything to me if it did not mean an overall improvement in the livelihoods of the general populations throughout Africa. I hear many folks talk about governments and politicians in Africa, but to me the emphasis should be on empowering the people to change their situations , instead of waiting for governments to change (however there are perhaps a few exceptions...Zimbabwe-case in point). Trade has always had a very tangible way of transforming regions and the people within them.
Where I'd possibly like to go with this in short term and long term:
1) Keep blogging!
2) Possibly add blog focusing on West African, East African, and Southern African regions.
3) Get some help from contributing bloggers.
1) I'd like to build a foundation to help provide Africa's youth and women with the technology, training, and other tools necessary to become competitive in the global marketplace.
2) I'd like to continue to chronicle the stories of entrepreneurs in Africa and act as a guide for foreign businesses who'd like to gaining market entry or export into or from Africa possibly by helping them to partner with successful local entrepreneurs in Africa.
So in a nutshell, that's why I do it!
Please stay tuned for Africa Investment in the Diaspora series, followed by Kenya Diaspora Investment Forum 2007 highlights and coverage...
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Monday, March 19, 2007
Why do I do it?