African Entrepreneurs Face Multiple Hurdles

There is something of an opportunity in Africa at the moment, for people who are comfortable online. Although Africa as is often the case has lagged behind the digital revolution, this is now beginning to change. THe infrastructure is improving quickly, partly due to the mobile phone which spread across Africa like no other technology in history. African’s love their mobile phones and these have developed so quickly that now many people have access to the internet through their phone networks rather than needing expensive computers and tablets which are often not available.


This means that there is a huge potential for ordinary African entrepreneurs to set up digital businesses. THere is no need for lots of capital, which is one huge barrier for Africans although financial systems are improving too. Goods and services can be marketed and sold online by anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge and a drive to succeed. Of course some investment is required but this is firstly quite minimal and secondly is often in knowledge, an investment that will pay dividends in other areas.

Some African entrepreneurs are even selling globally, although there are some extra difficulties they face. One of the biggest is the stigma of many African nations with regards to other people – Nigerian business people can have huge problems online because of the existence of the Nigerian scammers reputation. There are unfortunately a lot of online criminals based in Nigeria which makes it more difficult for legitimate business people who tend to get tarred with the same brush. This can mean not only a reputation causes problem with potential customers, it also can be difficult to get payment processors like Paypal and Credit Card companies to accept Nigerian businesses without a track record.

Fortunately there are methods around this, software like this can be used, to actually hide your real location. Combined with a remote virtual office and foreign postal address, an African businessman can operate virtually from another country if needed. This can be combined with a foreign based bank account to put them on an equal playing field to a European or North American online business man.

These might seem trivial obstacles for an online business, but in reality they’re substantial ones that people in the developed world don’t face. However there are increasing signs that digital entrepreneurs are creating wealth and prosperity in Africa. In Nigeria there are many thousands of legitmate online businesses being created, whether they’re internet marketers, programmers or web designers these are real people earning income online. The potential earnings may be small initially but compare favorably with African cost of living, and supplement many families incomes.

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Internet Usage in Africa

There are many people who believe that one of the biggest chances that Africa has to develop and vastly improve the standard of living there is the internet.  There is no doubt that throughout the world there is a huge correlation between successful developed countries and internet usage in those countries.  Of course you could argue that it is merely representative of previous success which enables the infrastructure to be developed and implemented.  However I believe that is far too simplistic.

The internet is more than a way to keep up with your friends or waste a few hours browsing around.  The internet is the most powerful, market place for skills, goods and services that there has ever been.  There is simply no sort of physical business that can’t benefit from some sort of internet presence and literally millions of businesses that simply exist online with no physical location. For Africa this is important, one of the biggest obstacles faced by the African entrepreneur is the lack of seed or investment funding to start a business.  African banks have simply not provided this service in the past although thankfully it is changing.   However an internet business can be started for virtually nothing, time and effort goes a long way online and it’s a great way for an entrepreneur to start and make a worthwhile living.

It can be used to promote or develop a localised business or with a little investment in things like proxies or VPNs as illustrated here, you can reach markets globally.  However if you look at some of the statistics representing internet usage in Africa you can see a worrying trend developing.  Have a look at some of the stats on this site – Africa Internet Usage, you can see that internet penetration is dominated by the traditional economic successes in Africa.  Countries like Egypt and South Africa have a very high proportion of internet users, also Kenya has invested heavily in an usable infrastructure.  However the largest by far is that of Nigeria where at least a proportion of the massive oil revenues has been utilised to improve internet availability.   These countries alone have well over 50% of the internet users in Africa, but places like the Congo or Ethiopia have a depressingly small amount of internet users.

Of course the internet is going to solve all these countries problems but falling behind in yet another economic advantage isn’t going to help them either.

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