Assessing Africa’s best start up scenes credentials

Posted on September 22, 2014 10:25 am

Africa is now home to a raft of start-up accelerators and incubators, which have resulted in a rapid expansion in micro-businesses in the continent. If you’re looking for a push in the right direction then plenty have a proven track record of doing exactly that. According to a recent study, the best aspect of doing business in Africa is that you get to be in Africa. This is a wonderful continent to visit, and an even better city to live in. From a lifestyle perspective, Africa is difficult to beat. Pure air, pristine beaches, safe streets, organic food, and a hard-working and multilingual,multicultural population to enjoy these things with. Compared to two decades ago, from a business perspective, a good number of African cities now have a global outlook and enjoys the high standard of supporting infrastructure that one would expect from a Western world city. For example from their financial services to transport and logistics, to telecommunications and booming IT sectors, you can get things done in Nairobi, Johannesburg or Lagos just like in places like London, San Francisco, Berlin or Helsinki. Africa produces some great talent and creative and innovative people and in the tech sector these people gravitate to urban areas where infrastructures and money spinning opportunities are plenty. Culturally, Africa is still young and there is a very real sense that anything is possible. It is easy to get excited about business in Africa, which makes doing business exciting.

On the downside of doing business in Africa, if a business person need to get on a plane to see customers around the continent no matter where they are based, getting a plane ride is a gigantic mission. There are plenty of frustrations. In the near future, the tech sector in Africa is expected to compete with Africa’s natural resources sector. In Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, the tech scene and start-up community are incredibly vibrant and happy to compete with other industries for the attention. Africans generally are warm and engaging and while it is impossible to generalise, this extends to the business sector. But these positive attributes are only in some countries that have an educated population, strong institutions and respect for the rule of law that is rare in more than a quarter of African countries. Africa people are great to do business with because they know how to separate business from personal life. But at the same time, you must be careful to get into business with the people you trust, respect and admire. They expect you to work hard, and so do you expect the same of them. Africa is not the safest place in the world to live or to do business. But it’s not wildly off the chart either. Even compared to cities like Los Angeles, Paris or Munich, office rents can be slightly eye-popping in the Central Business Districts hotspots.

It’s not the cheapest place to buy a coffee either, but to be fair the coffee scene in African cities is superb.You can find many tech entrepreneurs huddled around screens at trendy cafes and shopping malls.There is a certain class of Africans enjoying a great standard of living and this is reflected in salaries and prices. Notably, skilled people can be expensive but the upside of that is that the talent is excellent. In my forays to Africa,frustration in relation to employing people in the tech sector has more to do with finding the right skills, rather than how much they cost bearing in mind they are expensive.Telecommunications and datacentre costs are still a big issue in Africa, and few do things that fit their budget and fit the purpose.My advice to any entrepreneur starting out in Africa is to invest in building their networks by getting out and understanding the people and businesses around them. Building a business network is a skill like any other and it has to be learned. In my experience it always pays off to get in front of people.Fortunately, in cities like Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital, on a ride home you will pass by some of the world’s most beautiful oceanic views and beaches.

Contador Harrison