No one succeeds in Africa by following a straight line. The field of frustrations is extensive, and I have hardly ever known anyone who succeeded in Africa without encountering endless obstacles.

Mostly, these are the daily obstacles of life in a system that only halfway works. I spoke with a young Nigerian who was back in the United States after a summer at home, wondering if she had what it takes to succeed in Africa. “It’s a struggle,” she told me, recalling her last job in Lagos. “Just getting up every day and fighting, not just in your work, but for the phone, electricity, to get from point A to point B, it’s tough.”

Born and raised in Nigeria, she was no stranger to this pace. But she found it difficult to navigate and break through the veil of frustration to succeed in starting a business. It’s this veil precisely that holds many back.

One must be able to overcome obstacles much more challenging than the daily inconveniences. Ken Njoroge directly attributes his success to the tenacity he gained in his childhood. He experienced real poverty, the kind found in these border markets.

“I think it instilled in me a mindset that whatever happens, things need to be done. Whether it was not being able to afford textbooks, working during my schooling, or working on the Cellulant project years before it became profitable, it’s the simple act of not giving up that makes the difference.”

For Funke Opeke, tenacity in the face of obstacles in a frontier market is a critical criterion for selecting potential partners. She describes the tenacity of her Chinese partners in the face of government obstruction, which could frustrate the hopes of Western executives (and even Funke on occasion):

“For an American businessman or woman, you have to get used to this degree of frustration instead of saying, ‘We come with money and are ready to make this investment, why don’t you just let us help you make it work?’ Many American companies would see this as just a big mess and give up. The Chinese, coming from a recently emerged economy, are used to dealing with some of these obstacles and are more persistent in the face of difficulties.”


This text is an excerpt from the book “These successful businesses in Africa” written by Jonathan Berman.

We invite you to read the following article “ADAPT YOUR PROJECTS TO LOCAL CULTURE


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