By Bruce Hakutizwi
Finding the business opportunity which will suit you best should never be a random process and always requires a sound strategy.
Your plans must obviously take into account your skills and aptitudes, as well as your interests and previous experience. And while such an approach should never rule out something entirely new, you must know your strengths (and weaknesses) in order to determine what path you plan to follow.
You must also look around carefully to find out what is popular and where there is a gap in the market. And fortunately, Africa is a continent full of business opportunities for both traditional and trailblazing entrepreneurs.
African art and traditional craftwork
Do you know much about the value of African art? You may be surprised to hear that Sotheby’s sold a collection of West African antiques in New York for the staggering sum of $41 million in 2014 (a record sum for African art in the US).
And elsewhere, Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwn’s wooden sculptures sold on the London market for $500,000, – three times more than they were expected to make!
While these are extreme examples, it’s also known that the marketplaces of Egypt and Morocco, for instance, enjoy a buoyant trade in original artefacts and locally created, hand-crafted goods produced primarily for the tourist trade.
There are undoubtedly many reasons for the resurgence of interest in this field, but the spread of multiculturalism and today’s ease of access via the Internet suggest this is a trend set to continue.
Africa’s renaissance farmers
African agriculture suffers from a bad press, associating it with poverty, aging farmers, back-breaking labor and subsistence-level returns.
As a result, there has been a pronounced drift away from rural areas. This industry has become an untapped goldmine crying out for new blood and full of exciting opportunities to develop an ancient industry in exciting new ways.
Sub-Saharan Africa has fertile soils, around three-fifths of the world’s unexploited arable land, an abundant source of agricultural labor and year-round sunshine.
These attributes put the region in pole position to become a major source of food for the world’s markets. This projection discounts the continent’s own ‘home market’ of one billion people – a huge opportunity for young agricultural entrepreneurs to exploit.
Eco-energy for the African market
Would-be entrepreneurs should note that hardly one-fifth of Africa’s population have access to an electricity supply, and even those who do mostly rely on dirty and noisy generators.
With much of sub-Saharan Africa able to enjoy an average of more than 325 days of sunshine a year, the continent has its own source of cheap, clean energy ready to be harnessed to get its people connected to the future.
The market for solar power has huge potential. To take just a single example, the smartphone has emerged as Africa’s most potent tool for communication, but millions have problems finding a reliable source for recharging their phones – especially in rural areas.
Solar energy now benefits from advanced technologies which make it fast and cheap to set up, even in the most remote locations.
In addition, solar-generated energy is a ‘green and clean’ product which makes it an even more attractive proposition for the future.
With equipment prices also falling, many observers believe that African solar power could start making a major contribution to the European energy market.
Africa’s potential education market
There is an ever-growing need for education and training all over Africa which is overwhelming governments everywhere.
For the entrepreneur equipped to meet such demands, there are numerous small and large opportunities right across the sector: in both primary and secondary education, for individual private tutors, in university training, for vocational training as well as professional certification needs of all kinds.
Africa’s growing population of young people see a good education not only as a pathway out of poverty but also as the key to securing a good job with prospects for advancement.
And in the corporate arena, businesses are looking to recruit an educated workforce who can service the needs of a 21st-century economy. For example, these needs alone have created an almost insatiable demand for language teachers.
These are just some of the many gaps in the market Africa now offers the young, dedicated and organized entrepreneur.
So, provided you carefully research the present and future demands of your sector, there are many businesses which could represent an ideal opportunity.