If you are bored with the many articles that suggest rearing chicken, investing in real estate, or developing the next app is the way to go to make a healthy profit in Africa, today’s 10 extreme African business opportunities are certainly less conventional. They are led by pioneers who stepped into rare African business niches with little competition, and many did extremely well for themselves. Read here why these niches work and how some Africans did succeed by stepping into less obvious African business opportunities and avenues.
There is only one question: Are you brave enough?
1. Maggot Production
Maggot farming in Africa? Does money come to your mind?
In South Africa, one business is doing the unthinkable. AgriProtein is breeding billions of flies on a farm to mate, lay eggs and produce maggots. Yes, maggots, those horrible looking creatures that are likely to turn some peoples’ stomachs. These maggots are fed on organic waste material – producing a nutrient-rich fertilizer in the process – before being harvested and dried into a natural and sustainable animal feed. AgriProtein’s maggot-based animal feed is more than 15 percent cheaper than other alternatives and has been proven to be highly nutritious for livestock, especially chickens (poultry), fish and pigs. It’s no surprise the company recently attracted more than $10 million in capital to build more fly farms in South Africa.
Best countries: South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Ivory Coast.
2. Silk Worm Farming
If you want to engage local farmer communities or rural women while stepping right into an exciting trend – in this case the growth of Africa’ fashion and apparel industry – you must consider silk worm farming for silk production.
Some old silk worm farmers are still operating in Nigeria, a country that once had a very thriving apparel industry. Silk worm women farmers also operate in Rwanda and they have reportedly abandoned their traditional crops because they make so much more money from silk production with silk worms!
So how do you get it started. Well, it is very cheap and requires very little capital, but you will need to put your time in until you can start production, because you will need to plant mulberry trees as the worms feed from their leaves. The trees need around 3 years to reach maturity. You could then import the worms (after you have obtained a permit to do so), set up a women’s cooperative, while you establish a little processing factory in your garage or a local workshop to get you going. Africa’s fashion and apparel industries are growing – local silk will be in demand and you can be sure to have little competition.
Best countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, possibly South Africa
3. Laser Beauty Treatments
Black is beautiful and African women are as concerned with looking good as everywhere else. Most of us think of hair care, dark make-up, or anti-bleaching creams, but there is certainly a niche for Africa’s rich and affluent women that is still widely overlooked: beauty salons that offer laser cosmetics where the quality of the skin appearance or various skin imperfections are improved.
This service can include cosmetic services such as Laser Hair Removal, Laser Skin Treatments of various kinds: Wrinkles and Fine Lines, Pigmentation, Age Spots, Leg Veins Treatment, Skin Tightening, Cellulite Reduction, Teeth Whitening, Treatment of Burns and Scars from Laser or Chemicals and many more. Of course, you will need to obtain the necessary education and training first; but it can be a great investment into your future in Africa.
Best countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Morocco
4. Local Hotlines
Setting up a hotline in Africa can mean setting up a profitable business. The lack of access to information or missing awareness across Africa can turn phone hotlines into valuable and lucrative ventures. Think of applying this unique business approach in a niche that may be profitable.
In Ethiopia, Afalagi is an indigenous pioneer in this sector that has been providing value-added services, as the first hotline directory.
According to the founder, “when we started, we used to get 10 calls per day on average and as time went by, we have reached a point where we get 10,000 calls per-day.” The company started with one secretary as its employee, today the company has 51 employees, including 35 operators.
Topics you could cover in your hotline venture can range from business services directories, health advice, business advice, addictions, domestic abuse, upcoming movie & entertainment events for a family day or night out, tourist hotlines.
Best countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Zambia, Egypt
5. Mobile Toilets Rental
Adequate human waste disposal in Africa is a big problem across the continent, and most people don’t want to talk about it. This leaves huge opportunities for those who see the profitability in it.
Dignified Mobile Toilets (DMT) in Nigeria is such a mobile toilet success story: Popularly known by his friends as ‘Otunba Gaddafi’, its founder Isaac Agbetusin (now deceased) trained as a graphic artist and worked as a security professional before he decided to get into the ‘human waste business’ in 1996. His inspiration came while he was making arrangements for a friend’s wedding party which would have several thousand guests in attendance.
How would these people answer nature’s call after all the eating and drinking? After searching for nearly four weeks, he couldn’t find any company that provides mobile toilet facilities for parties and public events. That’s when he decided to start his own mobile toilet company, Dignified Mobile Toilets, popularly known by its acronym – DMT.
To date, his company has manufactured over 3,000 mobile private toilets. It produces about 200 units every month for sale and for hire across Nigeria and in the West Africa region. DMT has also spread beyond Lagos (where it started) to over 20 cities in Nigeria and is present in seven countries in West Africa.
Best countries: Would work in many growth markets in Africa
6. Marriage Coaching & Counselling
Everyone longs for a happy or somewhat harmonious relationship and while it is certainly not common practice in Africa to seek professional help when things don’t go so well, the demand is absolutely there in many countries. In 2014 for example, relationship advice was one of the top Google searches on personal matters in Kenya.
As a marriage coach, you can target women or men individually who do not want to attend with their partners, but are on the lookout for ways to empower themselves towards a happier marriage. Charge by the hour and make sure you focus on the wealthier classes of society. If you work five days a week and you work only half a day – say for 4 one-hour sessions for $150 per hour (which is not even top tier), you make US$12,000 each month as a part-timer sitting on a chair. Amazing! You can also extend this to online products and DVDs to create passive income, meaning extra money comes in while you may be travelling or asleep.
(Insert: You will considerably increase your chances of success if you can earn relevant certifications in relationship/marriage coaching. ‘Titles’ are a good selling point in this business. It boosts your credibility and clients feel more comfortable confiding in an ‘expert’.)
Best countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia
7. Snake Farming & Leather Production
This is another niche that is not for the faint-hearted. But again it’s a niche some Africans have successfully stepped into. If you rear the right snakes and produce leather out of their skin you can sell that to the fashion industry where it is in particular use for bags, shoes and accessories.
Did you know that snake meat is a delicacy eaten in China, Vietnam, some parts of the USA, and several parts of Africa? Apparently, those who’ve tasted it say it tastes almost like fish and is nutritious. The snake meat should not be wasted, but could be sold to certain restaurants, delicatessen shops, or single customers. Be aware though, that the meat sale would only work on some parts of Africa, others would revolt, but you may still find niches such as Chinese communities.
Snake leather production on the other hand will work best where ever you have a growing local fashion and leather industry. Having said that I am not sure if, Ethiopia – which has both – would be acceptive of it.
Best countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya
8. Ostrich farming
Because they are not as common as other meats, ostrich produce fetches a very high and handsome price. Successful African entrepreneur, Mamadou Coulibaly, is an ostrich farmer with a flock of 3,000 birds in his native Mali. His income in 2011 was $1.4 million and continues to grow in leaps. In a world that is more than likely to switch to low-calorie and healthier meats in the near future, Mr. Coulibaly is positioning himself to cash in on the huge opportunity. Read on to find out more about this amazing business.
Mamadou started his ostrich farm in 2008 with about 100 birds. Today, his farm, which sits in the village of Banguineda, located South of Bamako (the Malian capital) has grown to 3,000 birds. Far from satisfied by this astounding success, he intends to grow his ostrich flock to 10,000 birds by the year 2014, making it the largest ostrich farm in the whole of Africa. This man has a big vision for a big bird that brings in big profits!
Best countries: Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sudan, Nigeria
9. Truffle production
“A truffle is a highly prized and wildly expensive species of mushroom, commonly used in European cuisine for its strong flavour. It can take years to cultivate and requires specific conditions to mature – such as a cool climate, high elevation and the right soil pH level and micro-organisms. But those with the right environment and patience stand to make a pretty buck from the fungi.
In South Africa there is a handful of areas or micro-climate pockets that have proven to hold the correct cultivating conditions, and last year the country’s first commercially produced black truffle was reportedly discovered on a plantation in Mpumalanga.
The Western Cape also holds prime conditions with its cooler Mediterranean climate and soil composition, according to South African mycologist and farmer, Leon Potgieter. He runs Truffle Growers SA, under the brand African Truffles, and has about 28 hectares of truffle orchards under cultivation, with a further 30 to be set up over the next two years in partnership with a European company.
His truffle inoculations began around four years ago and Potgieter suspects they will be ready for harvest next year. And, judging from past Australian export and sale values, he estimates that his South African-grown black winter truffles will sell for a whopping R22,000 (about US$1,648) per kilogram” (source: howwemadeitinafrica.com). Now there is a thought!
Best countries: Needs ideal growing conditions and moderate climate. The French black truffles for example could grow well in the East African Highlands in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi or Madagascar
10. Survival Training
Africa has rural communities that are amazingly adapted to their local environments, including nomads and herders, hunters and gatherers, and even farmers in peripheries. They often live in very extreme climates or in the wild hundreds of kilometres away from modern civilisation and own rare knowledge that has been passed on to them over centuries and millenia.
And yes, there is demand among tourists, expatriates, international survival trainers, and those looking for an extra thrill in life to try it all out.
One who has launched a business in this regard is the founder of Bear Grylls Survival who operates around the area of the Victoria Falls at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe attracting in particular Americans and Brits.
He writes: “So many people have asked me over the years where they can learn extreme, practical survival – the type that requires spirit, determination, and the skills to self-rescue against the odds, in some of the harshest terrain around.” He finally founded Bear Grylss Survival Academy charging £1,299 per person for a 5-day experience (without flights) for a group of 10 and posting:” Oh and it may hurt a little.”
Well, I am sure no-one is spending on lush accommodation for this one, so it’s a nice income if you do that just once a month. But not everyone is that skilled or brave so why not get some very skilled locals to become part of your team.
Hmmm, in any case, now that you read about Bear Grylss Survival Academy you should put one of those trips into your to-do-list for the next five years…to toughen you up for the business world in Africa.
Stay hungry and brave!
This article was written and first published by Dr. Harnet Bokrezion on Africajumstart.com
About the Author
In addition to being my good friend and amazing business partner, Dr. Harnet Bokrezion is the Founder of africajumpstart.com and co-author of the book ‘101 Ways to Make Money in Africa’. She coaches individuals and consults for existing companies, assisting them to make smart and strategic business decisions in Africa’s new emerging markets faster and more confidently. Dr. Harnet also regularly writes for the renowned DHL powered publication howwemadeitinafrica.com. Get in touch to inquire how she can be of assistance to your own Africa business endeavors: firstname.lastname@example.org