Africa is a continent full of opportunity and entrepreneurial spirit. African entrepreneurs are having more of an impact on the international business community than ever before, and businesspeople from Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, are especially well represented in global commerce today.
What it takes to be a successful entrepreneur
What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Some people believe that the best businesspeople are born with the skills and drive that it takes to succeed, while others believe that succeeding in the business world is something that can be taught. However, there are several specific personality traits that can be found in most successful entrepreneurs. These include personal drive and ambition, an ability to focus clearly on a task, excellent interpersonal skills, and a good head for business strategy.
Although being an entrepreneur requires fantastic drive and ambition, it also requires some very objective business skills. Through education it is possible to learn how to sell better, how to market a product, how to manage a workforce, and how to satisfy customers. While some individuals do have a natural ability to lead, others learn the skills needed to succeed in business and often perform as well, if not better, than those born with the entrepreneurial spirit within them.
Successful African entrepreneurs
- Kunmi Otitoju
Kunmi Otitoju is a 30-year-old Nigerian fashion designer. She actually studied computer science and holds both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Masters. Although her academic focus was on computing, her first love was fine art and fashion. Kunmi lived in America and Europe while studying and it was during this time that she saw an opportunity to introduce Nigerian art and culture into Western fashion. She started by lining high-quality leather bags with Aso-oke fabric, which is a cloth made by Nigeria’s Yoruba people.
She worked for a while at Goldman Sachs, and used this time to raise funds to launch her own business, Minku. Kunmi continues to work with European partners to manufacture luxury bags in Barcelona, Spain, which are then sold in Nigeria’s luxury boutiques. She is a great example of how a good education can lead to great things; it does not have to be an education in business or marketing though. What she has is the drive to succeed.
- Tunde Folawiyo
Another successful entrepreneur from Nigeria is African Leadership Academy Global Advisory Council member Tunde Folawiyo. Tunde heads the Yinka Folawiyo Group, which is involved in several industries including oil and gas, shipping, agriculture, real estate, and engineering. Tunde has also worked in banking and international petroleum distribution. He sits on several boards including MTN Nigeria, Unic Insurance, and Access Bank. His continued support for young African entrepreneurs and Nigerian business has resulted in him being appointed honorary Consul of Barbados in Nigeria. Along with having the drive and ambition to succeed, Tunde also gives back to his country by helping young entrepreneurs learn how to achieve success.
A future business leader to watch
One young African businessperson to watch is Barclay Paul Okar. Although still only 22 years old Barclay has developed Safi Pads, an inexpensive, reusable, washable sanitary towel for low-income women.
After Barclay was awarded a degree in Finance from the University of Nairobi in 2011, he volunteered as a teacher in a poor town in Kenya. He noticed that many of the girls often missed school for several days every month. He enquired why and learned that poor girls could not afford sanitary towels and opted to stay at home during their periods.
Barclay saw this as an obstacle for girls looking to receive an equal education so he set about developing a reusable sanitary pad that even the poorest people could afford, and with a $1,500 loan from his parents he developed Safi Pads. He was a finalist for the 2013 Anzisha Prize, and you can expect more great innovations from him in the future.
Today there is excellent support available for young, up-and-coming African entrepreneurs including the African Leadership Academy, which teaches young businesspeople how to run their own companies.
Nigeria is leading Africa in business today, and every year new businesses are developing and new leaders are appearing. The future for Nigeria is looking very bright indeed.