The Anomaly of Africa:
Africa has long been an anomaly. The continent is rich in mineral resources, has ample land area, yet contains some of the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped countries. A closer historical inspection, however, provides context to the current state of affairs. The continent has suffered through colonial conflict, internal power struggle, and corruption for much of history. Being rich in resources such as gold, diamonds, bauxite, etc., has been more of a curse than a blessing since it attracted colonial powers like the French and the British.
Africa-At the Cusp of Development:
There remains the much-untapped potential that could make Africa a power player in international economics when appropriately harnessed. Home to some 1.2 billion people, the continent is the world’s most significant free trade. Half of its population is under 25 years of age, meaning the region will become an essential labor supplier globally.
Several misconceptions about Africa, specifically African entrepreneurship, make it hard for international players, such as investors, to understand the African market and realize its full potential.
Reality Vs. Expectations:
Here are some common misconceptions regarding Africa:
- Africa Is Homogenous:
While African countries are usually grouped under an umbrella term, this is far from the region’s reality even in reputable publications and analysis. This oversimplification completely disregards the considerable diversity that exists among countries and people within the area. African countries have their own distinct cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic identities. The overuse of the term ‘Africa’ is a remnant of the colonial mindset that was only interested in exploiting the region.
Since diversity exists, so do opportunities for entrepreneurship. Diversity in population translates into diverse demands and thus creates lucrative markets for entrepreneurs, both local and foreign.
- There Are Grave Income Disparities:
Most people think that African countries consist of large populations living well below the poverty line and a few rich who own all the resources. While income disparities exist, there remains a sizeable middle class. The middle class in African countries has been on the rise. This is an encouraging sign for entrepreneurship since it is the middle class that fuels entrepreneurial endeavors.
- Africans Lack Entrepreneurial Thinking:
Like Sudan and Libya, many countries in Africa have suffered through decades of dictatorship, and many still do. There is a belief that such suppressive regimes harm the entrepreneurial mindset. The reality is that due to the harsh circumstances, many in African nations are even more resourceful. They have a stronger survival instinct and can take on the stress of establishing a business. Limiting choices and freedoms has conditioned citizens to think outside the box and look for creative ways to resolve problems, which is a hallmark of a good entrepreneur.
- Africa Lags Technologically:
The rate at which many African countries have embraced new technologies has been mind-blowing. Telecommunications has, by far, been the fastest growing sector. The simultaneous increase in e-commerce and e-banking has proven revolutionary for the region. Silicon Savannah, the technological ecosystem in Kenya, is one example of the significant paradigm shift that Africa has undergone in a few short years. This widespread use of technology is a very positive sign for entrepreneurial ventures that rely heavily on digitalization to thrive.