Building a successful business: Five lessons from top African entrepreneurs

Running your own company is an intense rollercoaster ride, where the highs are high, and the lows debilitatingly low. HOW WE MADE IT IN AFRICA: THE BOOK, published in association with Business Partners Limited and the UCT Graduate School of Business, tells the stories of 25 entrepreneurs who’ve built thriving businesses.

Here are some lessons from the businesspeople featured in the publication on how to grow a startup into a flourishing enterprise.

1. Know why you are doing what you’re doing

When starting out, most entrepreneurs typically have a rough idea of where they want to take their businesses. But as they are confronted with real-world realities, vision and mission statements quickly become little more than PR tools and words on the company website.

However, for Ken Njoroge, co-CEO of pan-African digital payments business Cellulant, the original vision remains front and centre of everything the company does, even more than 15 years after starting the business. In fact, Njoroge and his co-founder, Bolaji Akinboro, decided on a goal before they were even 100% certain through which type of business they would achieve it.

Their vision is to build a $1-billion company. They didn’t pick this goal because they were particularly interested in driving Maseratis. No. It symbolised something bigger. It was to demonstrate that it is possible to build a world-class company in Africa without political connections or paying bribes.

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