There is an abundance of amazing business opportunities in Africa. And the success stories you’re about to read prove just how much these opportunities are worth.
According to the IMF’s recent World Economic Outlook, six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa. And by 2050, the continent’s economy could quadruple its current size and be worth up to $29 trillion.
Like China and India, Africa’s journey to economic prosperity will create a lot of big winners. And, sadly, a lot of losers too.
The big difference is that most of the smart entrepreneurs who are building a fortune in Africa right now — like the entrepreneurs in the success stories you’re about to read — have a unique perspective on the continent.
All of them are actually succeeding because they see Africa differently.
You see, when most people look at Africa, all they see are problems and challenges: hunger, disease, unemployment, illiteracy, waste, financial exclusion, inadequate electricity, and a long list of others.
If you’re a victim of the one-sided poverty story of Africa that the mainstream media constantly feeds us, you should be familiar with the picture.
Strangely, while most people are irritated and frustrated by these problems, the entrepreneurs who are building a fortune and impacting lives in Africa are excited and inspired by these tough problems.
Because they see problems differently, the entrepreneurs who are succeeding in Africa apply their creativity and innovation to solve tough problems in a way that makes money, creates jobs, and positively impacts people’s lives.
Africa is a market that overwhelmingly rewards problem-solvers. Therefore, the bigger the problems you can solve, the higher the potential rewards you get.
As strange as it sounds, this is the secret behind all the success stories you’re about to read.
This article is a snippet of over one hundred of the most interesting business opportunities in Africa right now.
The business opportunities you’re about to learn do not belong to the ‘old-school’, traditional and uninspiring industries – like crude oil, gold, timber, agricultural commodities, and diamonds.
Rather, you’re about to witness some of the most innovative and refreshing opportunities that smart entrepreneurs are currently exploring across the African continent.
The success stories you’re about to read prove that there can be a goldmine of wealth and unexpected success when you take on tough problems.
Let’s meet the top business opportunities in Africa:
1. SoleRebels (Ethiopia)
Bethlehem Alemu, Founder of SoleRebels, Republic of Leather, and Garden of Coffee
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu grew up in Zenabwork, a poor village in the suburbs of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
She stumbled on an interesting business opportunity after years of noticing how artisans in her community remained jobless and poor, despite their excellent craftsmanship and ability to make great-looking and high-quality footwear.
What these artisans lacked was access to a lucrative market. And rather than blame and criticize the situation, Bethlehem decided to find a market.
In 2004 she started her company, SoleRebels, by successfully raising capital of $10,000 from family members.
By using locally-sourced, hand-loomed and organic fabrics combined with recycled materials like old car tyres and uniforms, she created a unique eco-friendly brand of footwear products that became one of the most popular African footwear brands in the world.
Today, SoleRebels, sells its ‘eco-friendly’ brand of footwear in more than 50 countries around the world, including the USA, Canada, Japan and Switzerland.
Some years ago, SoleRebels became the first footwear company in the world to be certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO).
By using local craftsmen, Bethlehem has built a global brand and a hugely successful business that has created jobs and improved livelihoods in her local community.
Today, the company has more than 100 employees and nearly 200 local raw material suppliers, and has opened several standalone retail outlets in North America, Europe and Asia.
Despite its very humble beginnings, SoleRebels makes up to $1 million in sales annually.
Buoyed by her success with SoleRebels, Bethlehem is applying the same business model to Ethiopia’s massive leather industry.
In 2014, she launched Republic of Leather, a new business that makes and exports luxury leather products like bags, belts and other non-footwear leather accessories.
And she is doing the same thing for her country’s coffee industry.
In 2016, Bethlehem launched Garden of Coffee, a coffee retail chain that specializes in Ethiopia’s legendary hand-roasted coffee recipes that could become the ‘Starbucks of Africa.’ The chain plans to open up to 100 coffee shops in China by the year 2022.
By transforming local Ethiopian products into attractive global brands, Bethlehem has not only created wealth, jobs and fulfilling work.
By successfully exploring three different business opportunities in Africa, she has also earned international recognition for her work and has made her country immensely proud.
Bethlehem was selected as the Young Global Leader of the Year 2011 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and was a winner at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship in the same year.
Bethlehem and her inspiring success story have been featured severally on Forbes, the BBC and CNN.
2. Africa Felix Juice (Sierra Leone)
Production staff at work on a fruit sorting facility at Africa Felix Juice factory, Sierra Leone
Due to its location in the tropics, Africa is one of the largest producers of fruits in the world. However, due to poor processing and storage capabilities, a significant portion of the fruits harvested in Africa every year is wasted.
In some countries, this situation is so bad that fruits and concentrates are imported from overseas despite their local abundance.
For example, did you know that Nigeria, which produces oranges in large quantities, still spends millions of dollars to import orange concentrates for its fruit juice industry?
As a result of this widespread problem, Africa is losing out in the huge and fast-growing global demand for raw and dried fruits, concentrates, juices, flavorings, and a wide variety of fruit-based products.
In West Africa, a company in Sierra Leone has created a lucrative opportunity out of this problem.
Africa Felix Juice is a Sierra Leone-based company that produces juice concentrates from mangoes and pineapples that are harvested across the country.
The company buys mangoes from more than 4,000 small farmers in Sierra Leone.
It collects the fruits and takes them to its processing facility where they are processed (sorted, washed and crushed) into juice concentrates, the main ingredient for making fruit juices.
By buying fruits from local families and farmers, the company is creating value from millions of mangoes that otherwise rot away and go to waste every year.
The company’s mango and pineapple juice concentrates are mainly exported to Europe where they are used to make fruit juices and flavorings for the food industry.
These concentrates were the first major export from Sierra Leone since it came out from a devastating civil war nearly ten years ago.
3. Paystack (Nigeria)
Co-founders off Paystack: Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi
Compared to the rest of the world, payment systems in Africa largely run on a manual and cash-based model.
More than 60 percent of adults on the continent do not have access to formal financial services. And most transactions are still done in cash, which can be very inconvenient.
But there’s a much bigger and interesting problem.
With a large market of over 1.2 billion people and some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, Africa presents a promising market for e-Commerce, just like India and China.
However, poor access to digital payments systems presents serious technical and financial problems to thousands of merchants who want to sell online in Africa.
After working at beer giant Heineken for two years, two young Nigerian entrepreneurs – Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi – decided to develop a solution to the payments problem.
Their solution was Paystack, a smart and surprisingly simple app that allows Nigerian merchants to accept a wide range of local and international online payments. And to process transactions, Paystack charges very competitive rates – only 1.5% of the transaction value for local transactions, and 3.9% for international.
This ingenious solution led to Paystack’s acceptance into the prestigious Y Combinator Accelerator program in Silicon Valley, USA — making it the first Nigerian startup to ever join the program.
By 2018, Paystack had processed over $20 million in monthly transactions for more than 17,000 businesses in Nigeria.
After raising $1.3 million from a group of international investors in 2016, the company raised an additional $8 million in 2018 from a team of investors that included global payments giant Stripe and Visa.
And in December 2020, Paystack was acquired by Stripe for a whopping $200 million.
4. Anna Phosa (South Africa)
Anna Phosa with pigs on her large-scale integrated pig farm
With a population that is expected to double in size to over 2 billion people by 2050, Africa will have the fastest growing population in the world over the next 30 years.
And with all these mouths to feed, food will be one of the biggest business opportunities in Africa as we enter the future. This includes everything from grains and meat, to vegetables and processed food.
The World Bank projects that Africa’s agribusiness sector could be a $1 trillion opportunity by 2030. And according to the UN’s forecasts, demand for meat, milk and eggs in Africa will almost quadruple by 2050.
However, currently, Africa spends over $35 billion on food imports annually. This problem presents an interesting business opportunity for local producers who can produce food that can substitute these expensive imports.
That’s exactly what Anna Phosa is doing with pork in South Africa.
Before hitting the limelight, Anna was an ordinary entrepreneur who made a livelihood from her small vegetable farm business in Soweto.
She was introduced to pig farming by a close friend and instantly developed a liking for the venture.
In 2004, Anna invested 1,000 South African Rand (about $100) to buy four pigs which she used to start up her own small pig farm.
A little less than four years later (in 2008), Anna was contracted by Pick n’ Pay, the South African supermarket and retail chain, to supply its stores with 10 pigs per week.
Due to growing market demand, the order quickly grew to 20 pigs per week. And in 2010, Anna signed a breathtaking contract with Pick ‘n Pay to supply 100 pigs per week over the next five years under a 25 million Rand deal (roughly $2.5 million at the time).
With a contract in hand, Anna received funding from ABSA Bank and USAID to buy a 350-hectare farm property. From just four pigs, her new farm holds nearly 4,000 pigs at a time and supplies roughly 100 to 120 pigs a week to retailers in South Africa.
As Africa’s population grows and the demand for meat booms, opportunities like these will open up across the continent for major meats such as beef, pork and chicken, as well as niche meats such as snails, rabbits, and insects.
5. Takamoto Biogas (Kenya)
A happy biogas user and customer of Takamoto Biogas in Kenya
Over 700 million Africans still depend on cooking fuels like firewood, charcoal and kerosene.
Apart from being dirty polluting fuels that contribute to global warming and health problems, the production of firewood and charcoal takes a lot of time and energy, and has caused the destruction of vast forest areas.
Also, the price of kerosene, another dirty fuel, is very vulnerable to the unpredictable price swings of crude oil on the international market.
To solve these problems and still meet the energy needs of its large and fast-growing population, Africa needs cooking fuels that are renewable, eco-friendly, widely available, and affordable to most people.
That’s exactly what biogas presents: one of the most promising business opportunities in Africa.
Founded by a team of American and Kenyan entrepreneurs, Takomoto Biogas has created a system that enables rural dairy farmers to convert cow dung (animal waste) into a clean and cheap fuel (biogas) that is used for cooking, lighting and heating.
Takamoto Biogas provides Pay-As-You-Go biogas systems to its customers, mainly smallholder farmers, who pay a small fee to install the biogas system and then pay small monthly installments for the biogas they use.
Takamoto monitors the biogas system through a GSM-connected smart meter that sends information regarding the maintenance of the unit and customer payment status.
In addition to the biogas system, Takamoto provides biogas household appliances.
By providing a clean and affordable biogas solution, this business has found an innovative way to solve a serious economic and environmental problem, and make a lot of money too.
6. Omega Schools (Ghana) and Bridge International Schools (Kenya)
The standard and quality of education in many parts of Africa is in very bad shape.
On a continent with over 50 percent of its people below the age of 25, and one in every three children out of school, it is estimated that more than 60 million African children may reach adolescence lacking even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills.
But is it possible to provide quality education to poor people and still make money? Could it become one of the viable business opportunities in Africa?
Yes, it’s very possible and some entrepreneurs are already doing it.
Two for-profit businesses, Omega Schools (in Ghana) and Bridge International Schools (in Kenya) are changing the face of education in Africa through an innovative and highly effective low-cost primary education model.
Both companies have become successful social enterprises and have received various awards for outstanding social impact.
Omega Schools, based in Ghana, is a chain of low-cost private schools that offers basic primary education to children from poor families for an incredibly low and affordable fee (less than $1 a day per student).
Co-founded in 2009 by Ken Donkoh, a Ghanaian entrepreneur, and British professor James Tooley, the pay-as-you-learn education model for Omega Schools was developed by Donkoh during his MBA program.
Bridge International Schools, a chain of low-cost private schools in Kenya, Liberia and Nigeria, uses a similar low-cost model to provide affordable education to thousands of children in East Africa for less than $5 per month per student.
Pupils at Bridge schools consistently perform above the national average in Kenya, and a study by the UK’s DFID found that Bridge schools in Nigeria provide equality in learning, regardless of a child’s socio-economic background.
Before these amazing businesses started, most people thought it was impossible to provide good-quality education to poor children at a profit. It’s a problem billions of dollars in charity and aid hasn’t been able to solve for decades.
But today, both private school chains are educating over 200,000 children in East and West Africa, most of them from poor homes.
7. Patrick Ngowi (Tanzania)
Access to electricity is a big problem is many parts of Africa, especially in rural areas.
Even in big cities, most households and businesses have to depend on backup power generators that are noisy and produce toxic fumes that contribute to global warming.
On the other hand, Africa is the home of free all-year-round sunshine. That’s why it’s strange the continent suffers serious power problems.
With more than 320 days per year of sunshine in most parts, Africa has access to enough solar potential to power the entire world with clean, renewable and reliable energy.
This is one of the business opportunities in Africa that Tanzania’s Patrick Ngowi has successfully built a thriving company on.
He first started a lucrative business that sold Chinese-made mobile phones. But then he discovered that only a tiny fraction of his customers had access to electricity to charge their phone batteries.
He continued traveling to China, but instead of mobile phones, he focused on solar power supply hardware and installation systems.
Today, his company, Helvetic Solar Contractors, has installed more than 6,000 small rooftop solar systems in Tanzania and four other East African countries – Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Although renewable energy makes up about one percent of Tanzania’s electricity sources, Patrick’s company already boasts of high profile clients like the United Nations, the Tanzanian government, World Vision and the Tanzanian Army.
To date, Helvetic Solar Contractors has installed several solar water heating systems in government institutions and several UN projects including schools, hospitals and hotels.
In 2013, his business made more than $5 million in revenues and the company was valued at $15 million by KPMG!
His astounding success story has attracted quite a lot of media attention.
A few years ago, Patrick was featured by Forbes Magazine as one of the “10 Young African Millionaires To Watch.” His company was also ranked at the top of KPMG’s East Africa’s Survey of Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies in Tanzania.
8. AgriProtein (South Africa)
Workers at a maggot processing station on Agriprotein’s facility in Johannesburg
Waste is a big problem around the world, including Africa.
Every day, we produce tons of food and organic waste from households, markets, farms, restaurants, hotels, markets, parks and schools.
Naturally, flies feed on these organic waste and lay billions of eggs in them. The maggots that hatch from the eggs feed fat from the waste and play a crucial role in waste decomposition.
But what if I told you that it’s possible to build a profitable business from maggots? Yes, maggots.
Founded by two brothers, David and Jason Drew, AgriProtein is a business in South Africa that has figured out an innovative and profitable way of solving the world’s organic waste problem by producing maggots that are used as animal feed.
The company breeds billions of flies on a farm to lay eggs and produce maggots. The maggots are fed on organic waste material (such as human and animal waste, leftover food, and blood from slaughtered animals in local abattoirs).
After the maggots are fed and fattened on the organic waste, they are washed, dried and grounded to produce animal feed meal that is very high in protein.
This high-protein meal has proved to be a natural and cost-effective alternative to fish meal which is used for feeding chickens, fish and pigs.
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.
And more importantly, AgriProtein’s maggot-based protein meal will save thousands of tons of small fish that are caught in the world’s oceans every year for fish meal production.
The company attracted more than $10 million in capital to build more fly farms in South Africa. AgriProtein was also offered one million Euros to set up a fly farm and maggot production plant in Germany.
In 2018, Agriprotein raised a whopping $105 million for global expansion into the Middle East and Asia.
The company is now working on its first-generation fly factories that could take up and recycle up to 250 tons of waste per day.
More business opportunities in Africa…
The business opportunities in this article represent just a teaser of the most interesting and innovative ways to make money in Africa.
We have put together one of the most comprehensive guides ever written on the top business opportunities in Africa and the success stories of entrepreneurs that prove their worth.
These business opportunities in Africa and the success stories you have just read are only a few of the 101 opportunities profiled and explained in this book.
If you’re looking to inspire yourself with fresh ideas, interesting business opportunities and exciting success stories of real entrepreneurs who are creating wealth and impact in Africa, this book provides a rich source of facts, information, tips, and resources that will help you find and refine your own unique business ideas.
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I look forward to sharing your own African success story in a few years.