There is one thing for sure that being an entrepreneur in Africa has always been pretty tough. It’s certainly not impossible but it has traditionally been very dififcult for the majority of people simply because the usual infrastructure of investment, financial advice and facilities is not as readily available as in many countries. However the internet is being seen as a huge opportunity in the African nations for the development of new ideas.
Forbes magazine last year posted an article entitled – Africa could Make you an Internet Billionaire based on an original article by David Rowan of Wired. The gist was that the internet in Africa represents an enormous global market. Internet penetration is growing all the time in Africa, it’s obviously still behind more developed nations but is currently over 130 million people who are online and potential customers.
The auction sites, directories and classified advertising sites we take for granted are not yet established in Africa. There is potential to develop ’African’ versions of popular North American and European websites there. Obviously what works directly in London won’t neccesarily translate exactly to Africa but the potential is certainly there.
It’s also important for the African economy, traditionally internet businesses can be set up at a fraction of a cost than a traditional bricks and mortar business. A good idea can also be more easily financed from any location without the physical constraints of premises. There are many thousands of very web savvy individuals in many African nations – the countries who have invested most in education are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of course.
There are problems of course, there are lots of restrictive filtering and censorship in many African states which make doing business online more difficult. However most internet entrepreneurs are learning to use resources and technology to bypass these. I recently spoke to a young man in Nigeria who kept up to date with the BBC Business news by using a process he found online to access normally UK only media streams – http://www.theninjaproxy.org/tv/how-to-use-a-bbc-iplayer-proxy/. There are also similar methods available to allow access to online payment schemes like Paypal and Moneybookers which often are difficult to access from some African nations.