STARTING A BUSINESS IN AFRICA, FROM THE DIASPORA


“When I decided to go back home - I thought I had figured it all out. I had been away for too long, got home sick and depression was playing games with my head making me completely confused as to whether I should go back to Africa and leave America and its comforts. Although I was not sure, I still packed some bags and I left. In no time, I find out that what I thought I knew - is nothing at all. Life in the fast world is
in many ways different from life in Africa”.

That was the reaction of a friend that lived in the US for seventeen years before deciding to go back to Nigeria to start a business.

Individuals change without realizing it and every second counts. Almost everything is quantified by minutes and seconds. One gets used to a schedule and it is relatively possible to tell what you will be doing tomorrow and what you will be having. That is in the developed economies and slightly in the developing ones.

The culture too is so different and change is involuntary. Be it way of life, ideals, infrastructure, education, systems and how thinks work, platforms, communication, etc. everything is different in Africa when compared to most nations in America, and Europe. But the worst thing about these countries is that while in diaspora you think you never left, yet, you have been away for years experiencing so many convoluted things in your mind and you do not realize it.

When you eventually decide to come back (to Africa) and embark on your business venture please keep these in mind. Or maybe, you have a family, close relative or friends aiming to come back to Africa to invest and start their business, give them this advice:

Your plan means nothing. You have to be on the ground to really know what goes on and how it goes on in Africa, especially Nigeria. Thank God recent rating by World Bank stated that times are much better in Nigeria in terms of ease-of-doing-business. However, never rest on your oars relying on whatever plans you have made before.

Ask as many questions as you can. Do not feel tried or embarrassed to ask questions about grey areas you are not clear about. Ask as many people questions but do not take all their advice to the point of action. Learn to be the final judge. By this I mean, most people will advise you based on what is in it for them before what is in for you: be careful. Do not trust anyone and at the same time do not harm anyone.

Your patience will be tried many times and it takes extra strength not to give up. If you struggle with patience, you will get hurt on a daily basis and for a long time. You will get used to everything happening so fast out there, that it takes mental strength to sit back and relax. Like I said earlier, Africa is different from Europe, America, Asia or Australia. In addition, every country in Africa is uniquely challenging, take note.

Make a point of coming back on a regular basis, at intervals to do your homework on what you would like to embark on before the major one. Initially, this might be hard but when your mind is made up, it will be fun and a piece of cake. Also, people may not understand you when you start and you will wonder why some things are different in Africa. In all, remember that change is the hardest thing to deal with and try as much as you can to embrace it as you start this new journey.

Practice humility. It will be tough and it will even get tougher when you think you know it all. Come back with expectations and excitement and expect altering results.  If you have a good network of reliable people, ask for tested referrals from them. And when difficulties arise, tell them what you are going through and map out ways to overcome them. Some people change in less than a year; the longer you are out there, the more you will have changed culturally, mentally and physically too.

Don’t wait too longOpportunities abound so much in Africa. Where is your native country? There are lots of opportunities there waiting for you to come and explore. In every sector of every African economy, there are opportunities lying fallow and for you. Remember, life is in cycles and some of these opportunities are being discovered and hijacked by non-African investors that are prowling Africa in the last two decades.

Come back home my friend. Don’t stay from afar and be saying “why and who?” don’t stay in diaspora waiting for lingering developmental challenges to be resolved; these challenges are actually your first points of wealth if you can act fast and join the train of Africans and foreign investors returning back to Africa to invest. Think about these things and do not fall victim to people’s ploy and scams. Always be the final judge if it is too good to be true.



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