Category Archives: EABDC

EABDC News

How to Get Your Business Funded

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Banking & Finance

Contrary to popular belief, business plans do not generate business financing. True, there are many kinds of financing options that require a business plan, but nobody invests in a business plan. Investors need a business plan as a document that communicates ideas and information, but they invest in a company, in a product, and in people.

Small business financing myths:

  • Venture capital is a growing opportunity for funding businesses. Actually, venture capital financing is very rare. I’ll explain more later, but assume that only a very few high-growth plans with high-power management teams are venture opportunities.
  • Bank loans are the most likely option for funding a new business. Actually, banks don’t finance business start-ups. I’ll have more on that later, too. Banks aren’t supposed to invest depositors’ money in new businesses.
  • Business plans sell investors. Actually, they don’t—a well-written and convincing business plan (and pitch) can sell investors on your business idea, but you’re also going to have convince those investors that you are worth investing in. When it comes to investment, it’s as much about whether you’re the right person to run your business as it is about the viability of your business idea.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a business plan. You should. Your business plan is an essential piece of the funding puzzle, explaining exactly how much money you need, and where it’s going to go, and how long it will take you to earn it back. Everyone you talk to is going to expect to see your business plan.

But, depending on what kind of business you have and what your market opportunitiesare, you should tailor your funding search and your approach. Don’t waste your time looking for the wrong kind of financing.

Where to look for money

The process of looking for money must match the needs of the company. Where you look for money, and how you look for money, depends on your company and the kind of money you need. There is an enormous difference, for example, between a high-growth Internet-related company looking for second-round venture funding and a local retail store looking to finance a second location. In the following sections of this article, I’ll talk more specifically about the types of investment and lending available.

Venture capital

Continue reading

EABDC News

Gambia Women Farmers Urged to Maintain Lead Role in Agriculture

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cassava-africa-scientist-woman

Women farmers in rural Gambia have again been urged by the national women mobiliser of the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) to take a lead role in the country’s food security drive and support the ‘Vision 2016 food self-sufficiency agenda’ of President Jammeh and his government.

The call was reiterated by Isatou Jiffanga Jarju, who, accompanied by a high-powered delegation has begun an eight-day nationwide tour meant to reinforce President Jammeh’s food security call and to engage women farmers to ensure their successful participation in this anti-hunger drive.

The initiative, which was sold out to Gambians during the 2014 presidential tour, seeks to stop the country’s decades-long dependency on imported food, with a first priority on rice.

President Jammeh, it would be recalled, first made the pronouncement in his 2013 ‘Dialogue with the people tour’ and used the initiative as his agenda for the 2014 tour.

Speaking at a meeting in Kerewan, the administrative town of the North Bank Region (NBR), Women Mobiliser Jarju expressed hope that the V-2016 targets will be met, but hastened to enjoin women to take the lead in its implementation.

“Since 1994, the Gambian leader has been calling on Gambians to consume what is grown locally, but many people did not understand at that time. Many of the skeptics who thought that President Jammeh’s targets will not be attained are now convinced that if people go back to the land, the country can feed itself. What we have never thought of since 1994 is what we are about to see in The Gambia’s development,” she told the women. Mobiliser Jarju also challenged the party women mobilisers at all levels to always be the first to respond to President Jammeh’s calls, urging them to engage their colleagues at the grassroots so that they can effectively participate in the food security drive.

“President Jammeh has sympathy for Gambian women and now it is our turn to reciprocate that gesture by working with him to achieve the Vision 2016. Let us work to be food independent,” she challenged.

She called on the women folk to continue being proactive in whatever they are doing, saying they have earned the respect and admiration of the head of state.

The deputy national women mobiliser, Fatou Njie-Fofana, said the country is blessed with arable lands that can be cultivated to feed the entire population. She pledged women’s total support to all endeavours of the head of state, noting that they are ready to actualise the Vision 2016 initiative. “Let us all work with Isatou and accomplish President Jammeh’s vision. Let us change our attitudes, the president trusts us and we should also do our part to make sure his targets are attained,” she said.

The president of the West Coast Region chapter of the National Women Federation, Aja Binta Sabally and Ida Faye of Sabach Sanjal, both agreed that President Jammeh has done his part in terms of providing farming equipment, seeds and fertilizer to Gambians, arguing that it is now the turn of the citizens to do their part.

Njambeh Njie and Isatou Jallow, Lower Baddibou women councilor and mobiliser respectively, both commended the national women mobiliser for the visit, saying it will offer women the opportunity to dialogue among themselves. They pledged that women of Lower Baddibou and the entire North Bank Region will always support the president in the successful attainment of his vision 2016 target.

They however appealed to the mobiliser to ensure that any project that comes for women is handled and implemented by women themselves. “For far too long, projects will come in the name of women and they will be implemented by men and this made us to benefit very little,” they said.

© allAfrica.com (Source)

Africa EABDC News

Opportunities that Africa Presents – A discussion

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NewAfrica2014

How can business tap into the opportunities that Africa presents, while also maximising its contribution to long-term economic growth and broad-based socio-economic impact?

  1. What do you see as the main business opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa?
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa faces a number of socio-economic challenges – what is the role of business in tackling these?
  3. What role can others – in government, society, academia and business networks – play to maximise the contribution of business?

Can we hear your opinion on this.

© Africa Hub (Source)

EABDC

Bitcoin for the poor

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Bitcoin

Cash transfers in Africa

THE affluent Midrand area of Johannesburg is about to make history. By the end of June a local company, ZABitcoinATM, hopes to install Africa’s first Bitcoin ATM. The machine will allow clients to insert local cash and change it into the crypto-currency minted on the internet, to be used at nearby businesses which have joined the scheme.

Up to 80% of African adults have no bank account, but at least 16% use mobile-money platforms. The continent annually receives $50 billion in remittances, which are subject to fees of up to 12% charged by wiring services like Western Union. If one could improve internet access and provide immediate conversion into local currencies, entrepreneurs speculate that Bitcoin might be able to undercut remittance services. Zach Harvey, the chief executive of Lamassu, the ATM’s manufacturer, could train his sights on companies like Western Union. Continue reading

Africa EABDC News

Women Entrepreneurs To Get 60% Of SME Fund – CBN

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SMEs

VENTURES AFRICA – In line with women empowerment and entrepreneurship, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has earmarked 60 percent (N132 billion) of its N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) to women entrepreneurs in the country.

Speaking at an organised workshop on the scheme in Ilorin, Kwara State; CBN Governor – Mallam Lamido Sanusi, who was represented by the Branch Controller, CBN Ilorin, Mr Onoriode Olotewo stated that “the specific objective is to reach over 2.0 million MSMEs over a 10-year period. In addition, 60 percent of the fund is targeted at women entrepreneurs.”

The Central Bank of Nigeria launched the MSMEs fund in August 2013 to provide the much needed capital for that sub-sector of the economy with the view of channelling long-term, low-interest funds through participating financial institutions.

The fund, which was launched at the 7th MSME financing conference and D-8 workshop, in Abuja last year, would address challenges of access to capital operators in the sub-sector were facing currently.

“The successful intermediation of the financial sector lies in the financial market to integrate the micro entrepreneurs, with low income earners, farmers, artisans into the financial system to improve the effectiveness of the policy” Sanusi had said during the initial launch of the fund.

As at 2012, Nigeria had about 8 million MSMEs employing about 42.4 million people and contributing about 46.5 per cent of nominal GDP.

Meanwhile, Olotewo said the sensitisation workshop was organised to educate the State government, the participating financial institutions and the organised private sector on the advantages of the funds.

He said the apex bank has developed operational guidelines for the State government’s participation in the MSME development fund with a view of reaching the peoples at the grassroots, adding that the MSME development fund has two broad objectives of performing both social and commercial functions.

According to him, the “social /development fund” will constitute 10 percent which is made up of grant- 5 percent, interest drawback, 3 percent, and managing agents operational costs, 2 percent while the “commercial fund” will constitute 90 percent of the fund- 90 per cent of the commercial component; and guarantee/refinancing – 10 per cent of the commercial component.

In his remarks, the Deputy Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly, Prof. Mohammed Yisa, appealed to the CBN to make the criteria for accessing the fund less cumbersome for stakeholders and also ensure timely disbursement of funds.

© ventures-africa.com

Africa Conference EABDC

Nigerian Social Video Startup PublicVine Secures $5m Investment

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Nam-Mokwunye

VENTURES AFRICA – Nigerian Nam Mokwunye’s startup, PublicVine has been boosted by a $5 million investment as it readies for its June 6th 2014 global launch.

The US-based platform is a web-based marketplace for videos enabling vendors and consumers of videos to share, rent and sell.

“We have secured about $5 million investment in the United States due to the potential that people had seen in it,” Nam Mokwunye, PublicVine’s CEO was quoted as saying by Nigerian news platform, BusinessDaily.

The firm which Mokwunye said was designed to rival existing platforms is also aimed at revolutionizing the global use and distribution of video content.

According to him, video vendor registration (VVR) had already started on its website, with Nigeria chosen as a starting point of its VVR events due to the large market already existing in the West African country.

PublicVine recognizes Nigeria as one of its biggest potential markets as the country’s movie industry (Nollywood) remains the third largest in the world and its music industry one of the largest in Africa.

“We have seen the local film industry grow astronomically and observed that latent potential for further growth,” said Mokwunye.

He added that the new web-based marketplace can create greater market for Nigeria as vendors would be able to own channels through which they can distribute videos.

Publicvine makes it possible for video vendors to start their own online and mobile video stores to rent and sell their video content (music videos, documentaries, films, etc.) to consumers globally, the company said on its website.

Nigeria recently became Africa’s largest economy after a rebasing of its GDP, with its entertainment industry described as one of the major boost to its economy.

PublicVine is expected to foster this growth across sub-Saharan Africa as the continent seeks to send its content to the rest of the world.

© wentures-africa.com

Africa Conference EABDC

Africa Attracts Increased FDI Despite Growing Insecurity – Report

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FDI

VENTURES AFRICA – Emerging economies continuously need Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for sustainable growth and development, with governments having recognized the importance of flow of financial capital in economies of countries, now making policies and political decisions that would encourage it.

Investors in developed economies like Europe and the US are major sources of FDI for emerging economies, who became the greatest beneficiary of FDI in 2012.

A report just released by UK-based consulting firm with operations in Africa, Ernst & Young titled “2014 Africa Attractiveness Survey” showed improvement in the continent’s attractiveness to foreign investment, as $52.6 billion worth of FDI entered Africa in 2013.

Insecurity not deterrence

Usually, economies that enjoy massive FDI inflow are relatively stable as investors are often wary of the risks of their investments, particularly in volatile regions. No investor would also like to do business in an environment where security and safety is not guaranteed. While investors are well aware of the growing insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa (total number of new FDI projects declined by 3.1 percent in 2013 as a result of political uncertainty in North Africa.) and the potential effect it can have on a stable business environment, recent events show that the continent still enjoys a considerably high FDI.

According to the report, Africa’s share of global FDI projects reached 5.7 percent in 2013, the highest level recorded in the past 10 years. The number of new FDI projects in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) increased by 4.7 percent, with the average size of FDI projects increasing from $60.1 million in 2012 to $70.1 million in 2013.

Growing insurgency in Nigeria and Kenya notwithstanding, Ernst & Young regarded them as one of the “emerging hotspots for investment”. Other countries are Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. South Africa remained the number one go-to place for investment in Africa.

The attracting scent

The African growth story is built on “strong macroeconomic growth and outlook, improving business environment, rising consumer class, abundant natural resources, democratic dividend and infrastructure development,” the report indicated.

Intra-African investment has also been a major driver of growth in sub-Saharan Africa, with investors like Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, the continent’s richest man expanding his business portfolio across Africa, creating jobs and economic growth in the process.

Aside the strengthened regional integration, Africa has started diversifying economic activities, with oil-rich countries like Nigeria looking at other opportunities like Agriculture, thereby growing employment levels and creating a new consumer class. The Ernst & Young said the development had paved the way for increasing FDI in consumer-focused services and manufacturing sectors. The report also revealed that African investors nearly tripled their share of FDI projects over the last decade.

Perception differs still

According to the report, “those already active on the continent rank it as by far the most attractive investment destination in the world today, while those who are yet to invest are far less enthusiastic, ranking Africa as the least attractive investment destination in the world.”

Ernst & Young noted further that “even though investment perceptions have improved so dramatically, actual investment in Africa has not accelerated as much, since many potential foreign investors continue to view the entire continent as a high-risk destination.”

Despite this perception by some, about $68 billion investment was said to have been secured by the continent following the recently concluded World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), showing that several foreign investors still see the potentials in the continent.

The report submits however that “Africa is an inherently challenging place to do business, but many companies pursuing a long-term African strategy have generated excellent returns from their investments.”

Africa’s future

The future seems bright for foreign investors on the continent as Africa continues to showcase its resolve to grow despite a broadened list of challenges.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa’s GDP is about $1.5 trillion. Analysts however say the figure would increase when countries rebase their GDP (Nigeria became Africa’s largest economy when it rebased its GDP).

© ventures-africa.com

Africa Conference EABDC News

British Billionaire David Sainsbury To Launch African Investment Firm

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VENTURES AFRICA – British retail mogul and philanthropist, David Sainsbury has revealed plans to launch an investment company for startups and business owners with high growth potential in East Africa.

The investment company which has been dubbed, Msingi (a Swahili word for “Foundation”) will grant market and technology research to business owners and also run an enterprise incubator that will support entrepreneurs and company in business planning and development.

It will support the establishment and growth of new companies in key sectors like agriculture and offer advice to East African governments on growth and innovation policies related to priority sectors.

A statement released by the Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development also revealed that the investment vehicle will support innovative projects that demonstrate business models and reduce barriers to investments by providing more access to funding to select businesses.

According to Sainsbury, the creation of Msingi will enhance his commitment to create jobs, improve incomes and achieve sustainable industrial development in Africa.

The billionaire’s great-grandfather is the founder of Sainsbury’s, the second largest chain of supermarkets in the UK.

He is also the founder of UK-based The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, which will operate Msingi.

Sainsbury has been investing in Africa actively through his foundation for the past three decades.

“We have worked in Africa since 1985, with the overall objective of creating jobs and improving incomes. With the setting up of Msingi, we are confirming our commitment to [achieving] sustainable industrial development through a number of ambitious sector development programmes,” he said.

© wentures-africa.com

EABDC

Sanlam Earmarks $279.8m For African Growth Prospects

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Sanlam

VENTURES AFRICA – Sanlam, South Africa’s second biggest life insurer, on Wednesday said it had set aside R3 billion ($279.8 million) for growth prospects in Africa and South East Asia for this year and beyond.

Sanlam said at the end of the last financial year, it had more than R4 billion ($373 million) on hand meant for redeployment in these opportunities.

Since then a total of R1.6 billion ($149.2 million) had already been used, including R1.3 billion ($121.2 million) for the acquisition of a 51 percent stake in Malaysia’s MCIS Insurance.

The other R300 million ($27.9 million) was used to buy a further 2.4 percent shareholding in its Botswana operations and to fund increased capital necessities of specific non-life group units.

Sanlam made this disclosure on Wednesday as it released its operational update for the first four months of the year.

During the period under review, Sanlam saw new business volume surge 21 percent to R59 billion ($5.5 billion).

This was a robust performance given the tough operating conditions during the period under review. The performance was boosted by higher “average investment market levels” and marked improvement in Santam’s underwriting margin.

South African insurance firms have large amounts of money invested in the equity markets. If the markets do well, the company’s top line earnings growth also becomes evident.

Santam is South Africa’s biggest short term insurer and it is a subsidiary of Sanlam.

© ventures-africa.com

Africa Conference EABDC News

Meet The Entrepreneur Working To Challenge Nokia, Blackberry And Samsung In Africa

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Mi-Phone

Alpesh Patel, a Ugandan-born entrepreneur, served as director of sales in Africa for Motorola before quitting the American telecommunications giant to launch Mi-Fone, an African mobile phone brand. Mi-Fone was launched in April 2008, and the company produces mobile phones for the mass market, ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ African consumer.

Five years on, Mi-Fone has been a solid success. The Mauritius-headquartered tech company has sold over 1.5 million handsets across Africa. Patel recently announced plans to build a $30 million manufacturing facility in Nigeria. The company has also done close to $30 million in revenues since inception. Patel recently spoke to me, recounting his journey, revealing his audacious plans for the future and musing on Africa’s mobile revolution.

You served as Motorola’s Director of Sales in Africa for four years, and then you quit to launch Mi-Fone. Why did you leave?

I did not quit to launch Mi-Fone. I quit because as the first cellphone brand on the African continent, Motorola was not doing justice to itself and to the average African consumer. There were some good things that they did, like the amazing V3 Razr, but at the same time a short term mindset from the powers to be in the West did not take advantage of the momentum that the Motorola Africa team had created.

I helped sell 5 million Motorola devices in the space of 3 years, generating $500m in revenue. None of that was reinvested back into Africa. We took Motorola to the number one market share position in Kenya, Zambia, DRC, Uganda and a strong number two position in South Africa. It was tough getting there and it took a lot of hard work to build our sales platform, but within a matter of months the cards tumbled, and now look where Motorola is. They do not even do phones anymore. What a shame.

Motorola could have had the first smartphone in Africa. Motorola could have been the first to introduce many initiatives in Africa. But the likes of Nokia, Blackberry and now Samsung put the final nails in the coffin.

So, after leaving Motorola I was approached by some of the big brands to manage their African business, but I could not see myself working for brands that I had competed with fiercely a few months before.  Besides that, I thought to myself:

-Why should I run around creating, fostering and growing relationships on the continent for the benefit of a big brand who could quite easily have a corporate mindset shift in some ivory tower somewhere in the West and pull the rug from under our feet?

-Why is it not possible for us as Africans to take the best of our Western education, our corporate experience and put it to work for ourselves ?

-Why and what is stopping me from putting into practice how to give mass market African consumers the type of phones and pricing and services that they need and want according to their pocket?

-Why should I at the age of 41 leave the last few years of my energetic life to be dictated to by some guys in the West who still think Nairobi is in South Africa?

-Why can’t we be in control of our destiny and build something that belongs to us?

This is why I came up with the idea of introducing something different to the market. Motorola may have been the first mobile device brand in Africa, but Mi-Fone is the first African mobile devices brand. There is a big difference here and it is mainly because our vision, strategy, decisions and execution have a complete 110% African focus. I have always believed that Africans are best served by Africans themselves.

You founded Mi-Fone in 2008 and within 5 years you’ve done remarkably well. You operate in over 17 markets in Africa and you’ve now sold over 1 million units as of December 2012. What’s your recipe for success?

I left Motorola in November 2007 and by January 2008 I had decided I wanted to do my own brand. On our first day of business, April 1, 2008, we had our first purchase order from an operator in Ghana. I will always be grateful to these guys for giving us a chance. We proved ourselves in a very transparent pilot project and we beat other big brands quite simply because we were very flexible and we listened to what the customer wanted. Big brands don’t listen. They are too caught up in their own egos.

Since 2008 we have gone on to supply our products and services into 17 markets, although we have 8 focus markets that deliver the bulk of our revenues. From day one we have been a true embodiment of what a pan-African start up should be. It was never our intention to focus only on one African market.

We started with no outside funding, no outside interference and with only 3 people working together for the first 2 years. We used Skype a lot and we used freelance support functions across various time zones. In essence we were a 24 hour, 7 days a week operation. We did not even have an office, just so we could keep our overheads low.

It is because of this that we have managed to survive so far. We were not going to fool ourselves that someone was going to come and give us a handout. We had our work cut out and we had to prove to ourselves first that we had something here.

Founding a start-up like Mi-Fone must have cost quite a bit of money. How did you raise the finance to set it up?

This is why I came up with the idea of introducing something different to the market. Motorola may have been the first mobile device brand in Africa, but Mi-Fone is the first African mobile devices brand. There is a big difference here and it is mainly because our vision, strategy, decisions and execution have a complete 110% African focus. I have always believed that Africans are best served by Africans themselves.

I used most of my life savings and put it into Mi-Fone as initial startup capital. I am my own angel investor. There was no need to put money elsewhere as everything else was crashing. Putting my own “skin in the game” meant that I had everything to gain and everything to lose. It was a gamble and till today it still is, although the odds are much better that we will go all the way. I always tell young entrepreneurs: please ensure you put your own money down. You will have more respect for your own business and you will naturally be more careful. There isn’t exactly a big queue of funders wishing to dish out cash in Africa. You are on your own.

I reached out to my longtime friend in China (who I first sold phones to in 1990) and I asked him if I could come and spend a week with him. So he invited me over and within that one week he had bought into the Mi-Fone vision (reluctantly) and within that one week we had met factories, packaging people, software engineers and chosen our first 3 models. I had my supply chain set up, so now with that reassurance I started calling all over Africa to all my contacts, my old Motorola distributors, etc., and asked them if they were willing to take on a new brand.

They all thought I was mad. How am I going to be able to compete with the big brands? How can I compete with the cheap substandard Chinese phones flooding the market? How were we going to differentiate ourselves by marketing the brand when we had zero marketing dollars?

I did not have the answers, but I asked them to try nonetheless and just believe in what we are doing. At the same time we had received our first order from Ghana. This order was then produced, shipped on time with no quality issues, and the customer loved it and immediately placed another order, but not without wanting me to visit Ghana so they could check me out. Everyone wanted to check us out. A lot of people thought we were bullshitting or running some kind of pie in the sky business. At every stage we have had to work three times as hard just to prove who we are and why are doing what we are doing.

So with these orders and carrier referrals we started generating income and started investing back into building the brand through clever use of social media, word of mouth and straight up underground guerilla marketing.

Some of our marketing has been very innovative, daring and cutting edge. I could not do this whilst at Motorola.

Today we follow the same ethos. Always negotiate and don’t underestimate the value of what we bring to the table to any supplier, any customer, any investor, any bank, etc . We are in the hottest growth market in the world. There is immense value in being in Africa right now and we have paid hard dues all the way. What we have done in 5 years would have cost most companies more than $20 million. We have just managed to figure out our own way of surviving in this tough business. We are not the biggest or the best, but we are very good at what we do with what we have. This is why today Mi-Fone has an attractive book value.

Furthermore I must emphasize that we have not bought one piece of business. Our credibility and reputation is extremely important to us. We are living proof that in Africa good things can happen if one works hard and has faith. We have always wanted to ensure from day one that we run our company on a strong foundation of ethics, morals and sound business and humanitarian principles. The Mi-Fone story is a good example of how we can fight the negative stereotypes about doing business in Africa.

We are very far, however, from being what we want to be:  a global African company. We are very far from our ultimate success. We have a long way to go but with the foundation laid and with our new offerings in consumer lifestyle products, mobile financial services and entertainment offerings, I believe it is time NOW for Mi-Fone to move to the next level. Our announcements over the next few months are going to be a welcome surprise to many, and will show the world that African companies can also be just as innovative as Western and Eastern companies.

Your company seems to be focused mainly on sub-Saharan Africa. Might you be looking elsewhere for growth, say North America or Europe?

Not for the foreseeable future. We have our work cut out in Africa. We are only shipping to 17 countries. There are another 35+ that also need our brand offerings. With limited resources we will invest in what we know best – Africa!

In the next 5 years, 500 million low-cost smartphones will be sold in Africa. We wish to get a nice share. We don’t want the whole cake. We just want a piece of the pie, and we believe we can do it as the first African devices brand.  Everyone in Africa is moving to smartphones. With Mi-Fone we are ideally placed to provide a window to the world to our consumer and in return a mobile billboard to companies wishing to target the fastest growing market in this world. It’s a win win for everyone and with our device we are happy to bring the best of the hardware, software, content and services out there to ensure that our African consumer gets a brilliant user experience and at the same become more productive and prosperous.  Africans don’t want aid – they want the tools to enable them to feed themselves. A Mi-Fone device is that one such important tool.

Tell me about your phones. What makes them so special? 

What is special is the care that we take in delivering a $20, a $50 and $100 device. Just because it’s low cost does not mean the quality and the experience has to be cheap.  Our specialty is our innovation and speed to market. So whilst the big brands jostle PowerPoint strategies from one department to another via multiple gatekeepers, we just get on with it.

The Mi-Fone brand is a people’s brand. Our messaging is all about aspiration…within reach. We are not selling a device. We are offering a lifestyle that Africans can resonate with. With our emphasis on youth, music and culture we are also known today as the “Hip Hop brand” of the telecoms industry.

Today with my hand on my heart I can safely say we will beat any Nokia and any Samsung and any Blackberry phone hands down when it comes to feature for feature price for price comparison.

Yes, we are a David in the field of Goliaths, but see what has happened in the last few years. The giants are in trouble. Motorola is gone. Blackberry has lost favor in the market. Nokia is in turmoil. The only difference is that they have more money than we do. Hence they can make more noise than we can. Imagine if we had their resources. Imagine if we had a bit of muscle behind us. There would be no stopping us.

An African consumer will buy a Mi-Fone because we fit their needs in terms of affordability, low cost internet data access all packed within a quality superior looking device.  For far too long Africa has been a dumping ground for substandard products. We are changing that. Our African consumers are extremely quality conscious.  You can see that today in the streets of many African cities. People wear nice clothes and people want nice phones. Why can’t poor people also have access to luxury offerings? That is what Mi-Fone is all about: luxury for the masses.

Are your phones manufactured here in Africa or is manufacturing outsourced to China?

All our phones are designed in Africa but made in China.  In fact most other brands are also made in China, like Apple. China just happens to have a superior manufacturing base because they had the vision many years ago to create and develop their manufacturing base. I have a lot of respect for their business acumen but it’s time now for us to start controlling our own production in Africa. It will help create our own African ecosystem and help create jobs.

You have plans to build a $30 million factory in Nigeria. Why Nigeria?

Nigeria is the biggest market in Africa for all types of goods. You have a population base of 160 million and one that will grow to 200 million in the next 5 years. It makes sense therefore to have our first backward integration done in Nigeria. The country has only 30% internet penetration. More than 100 million in Nigeria need data access. They all live on less than $500 a month. They are not going to be able to buy $500 laptops, but they can surely afford $50 smartphones and $100 tablets. That is where Mi-Fone will play its part.

Nigeria is also a place which I call my “second home.”  I grew up with Nigerians and some of my closest friends are Nigerians. We have Nigerian shareholders as well.  I admire the Nigerian attitude towards business and life in general.  Some of the smartest people I have met are Nigerians. You can learn a lot from them. There are tons of talented Nigerian software developers. We aim to work with them to create solutions that address Nigeria’s problems.

So much has been said about Africa’s mobile revolution. In your opinion, is this revolution fueling economic development in any way?

Yes and no.

Yes, because Africans have leapfrogged from nothing and straight into wireless. They have become much more productive due to access to basic mobile telephony. In turn the GDPs of countries has increased and this has led to higher disposable incomes but the wealth created out of this remains in few hands.

No, because most of the investment in Africa has been fueled by outside money. So naturally most of the returns are also taken out of Africa. Today Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world, but there is a lack of funding to empower African entrepreneurs. A company in the USA can raise millions by targeting the African market – so why can’t we in Africa raise those same amounts to fuel our own growth?  Look at the Chinese. They have taken over Africa, but how much of their money stays in Africa?

Look at the West. Some nations still believe Africa is a basket case and needs Aid. Africa does not need Aid – it needs trade. We want access to other markets as much as people want access to Africa. Economic development should be a two way street and currently it is not.

African banks can do so much more but the cost of borrowing money kills all your profits – so how do you grow?

African governments can do so much more – how about empowering all your citizens with basic life tools? African corporates can do so much more- how about taking a leaf out of the USA and empower and foster startups and entrepreneurs. A lot of big telco’s for example only want to do deal with big foreign suppliers. Why? How about having a more flexible mindset and fostering your own?

What has been your biggest challenge in running a successful business in Africa?

Again there has been and still are too many challenges to name only one. I always say “the easiest day was yesterday.” As a young unknown company our work was always cut out for us. We have had to constantly battle to prove our existence. We have had to go over and beyond the call of duty to gain credibility. We have had to build a new business from scratch, a blank piece of paper. We have experienced all the pain of doing business in Africa. We have to juggle the typical stereotype views on Africa and fight for what we believe is right. We have had to endure issues on all fronts: African customs delays, logistics issues, payment issues, etc. You name it, we have faced it. But then again, I guess that’s what makes us stronger.

One of our main challenges is the fact that we are in Africa. Had we done the same thing in the USA by now we would have been celebrated all the way to the White House.

Where do you see Mi-fone in 5 years?

I just see us getting better and better at what we do. I see us creating our own African mobile ecosystem that works with partners to create compelling mobile experiences, whether it be through our device or through one of our services and content offerings.

There is nothing stopping us from creating a billion dollar African mobile company. We don’t want to be the jack of all trades – we want to be the master of this trade. We are in the right market at the right time with the right product.

What will your African legacy be?

Essentially Mi-Fone will go down in history as being the first African mobile devices brand. Who knows? If we play the game right, at least 200 million will have the Mi brand in their hands in a few years time. That is 200 million people’s lives that we will touch in some form or another. That will be very fulfilling.

Follow me on Twitter @EmperorDIV

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