The Lion and the Ranger (Pt 6) – #SalutingAfricanEntrepreneurs!

Writen By Strive Masiyiwa (ORIGINAL)
The other day someone on my team sent me an article about some young entrepreneurs from Somalia who started an online shopping business called Muraadso. The story was on BBC. There were four things that caught my attention:

#1. What a mindset!

I have often said, as an African entrepreneur you must have a mindset which is that of a trained soldier: “We fight in whatever conditions we find ourselves, and not the conditions.”

If you think it is hard to find money in your country, think of a guy trying to start a business in a country where for decades the government has barely been in existence. For most of us, the only news of Somalia for years has been violence and lawlessness, until we mistakenly just tend to associate the country with that image…

Where do you even begin? “Do they even have banks?” you might ask yourself.

And yet despite all this, there are entrepreneurs there! Yes, some of the finest entrepreneurs I have met anywhere, are Somalis!

#2. What an amazing business!

I have written often about e-Commerce in Africa. This is an excellent example. This business will probably scale across Africa, and these guys will end up as some of the richest people this continent has ever seen!

The richest man in the world (Jeff Bezos) is from e-Commerce. More than half of the top ten richest guys in China are from e-Commerce. The richest company in Africa now is from e-Commerce.

You don’t need licenses or government tenders to get into e-Commerce. Often you don’t need much more than a computer, and some data bundles.

#3. What determination and grit!

You want to know about smart, determined young people who will shape the future of the continent, you need look no further than these guys. Working quietly away across this continent, are thousands of such people. You can meet some of them on this platform because I created it to give them — YOU — a voice.

#4. Liquid Telecom helped them!

Buried inside the BBC story was this line: “In 2013, fibre optic firm Liquid Telecom connected the East African country to its network of cables, which now spreads 50,000km (31,000 miles) across 11 other African countries.”

It took me back to what TL Osborne, the Evangelist once said: “If you truly want to be successful, identify a problem and reach out to solve it.”

Here is the link:

Here is my own story on this: In 2001 both the South African and Zimbabwean telecoms regulators refused to allow us to connect our telecoms network in Zimbabwe with SA Telkom’s network using radio frequencies. After a three-year stand-off, we found a solution which did not require radio frequencies: it was called fibre optic technology.

Once we started using this technology, we found that its cost had fallen so dramatically that we could run a cable from the SA border to Harare. Having connected Zimbabwe, we were approached by the Zambian authorities to connect their country to the sea cables, using our network. Then the government of DRC asked us to connect the southern part of their country. The list of countries just grew and grew.

__We were connecting the landlocked countries of Africa to the sea cables! A new business had been born which would go on to become a great company in our group!

One day, Nic Rudnick, the CEO of Liquid Telecom (the fibre company we created) asked me: “When do you want us to stop?”

“Let’s connect Cape Town to Cairo,” I said with steely determination.

Fast forward 13 years: 50,000 km of cable. Thousands of people employed. We are near that goal. We still have to connect Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. We’re working flat out to try and complete these last three countries before the end of next year! (and we’re not stopping there…)

Fast forward again: More than five years ago, a group of entrepreneurs from Somalia (not these guys) heard about what we were doing:

“Can you also link our country?”

“It’s our duty,” we replied.

We worked with them to connect their country. No fuss, no drum beating. If BBC had not mentioned it, you probably would not have heard about it.

The real story for me is the young entrepreneurs in these countries who have taken advantage of the infrastructure we built to build businesses that are transforming communities, nations, and the African continent.


To be continued. . .

Image caption: co-founders Abdiqani Ibrahim, Hamse Musa and Saed Mohamed.


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