Start-ups for charityRecently, the JoongAng Ilbo wrote an editorial titled “Only micro start-ups increase in Korean society.” According to the Korea Statistical Information Service, only 28.3 percent of business start-ups survive after five years, as of 2012. To those who are planning to start a small business, I would like to suggest, “How about Africa?” while sharing my experience.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization’s ST-EP, Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty, has started various projects including millennium villages, sustainable tourism and human waste solutions to reduce poverty in countries around the world, mostly in Africa, to attain the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs). The “Thank You, Small Library” project began in 2007. I have visited the library sites about 50 times and am always excited to see the changes and improvements the project has brought to the underdeveloped environment.
Africa is changing rapidly. In Accra, Ghana, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, highways are paved and modern buildings are constructed. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s November report, “Lions go digital: The Internet’s transformative potential in Africa,” 16 percent of the 1 billion people, about 167 million Africans, are online, and 67 million use smartphones.
In 2013, the International Monetary Fund called Sub-Saharan Africa the second-most rapid developing region after the emerging Asian market. Koreans have cooperative spirit, diligence and pioneering minds, and with proper understanding of the local culture, economic conditions and a strategic approach, Korean entrepreneurs will be able to take advantage of great opportunities.
Aspiring entrepreneurs may want to consider automobile-related businesses such as rental, maintenance, servicing and used-car dealerships for foreign tourists and international organizations. Hospitality and restaurant businesses are also demanded constantly by visitors and tourists.
Thirdly, construction and building industries are enjoying brisk business as many projects to build infrastructure are being promoted. While winning a construction bid is very competitive, entrepreneurs may want to consider furniture manufacturing and retail businesses as well as construction material sales, distribution and logistics. Fourthly, we need to shake off the prejudice that IT levels in Africa would be behind. In fact, computer equipment sales, distribution and repair businesses would have constantly growing demand in government and private sectors. Lastly, a customized business for local culture would work. For example, local women are very interested in cosmetics, and beauty supplies and the wig industry are seeing brisk business. Moreover, many opportunities and potentials can be found in various industries, including chicken restaurants, jewelry, leather, water filtration, toilet, tourism, consumer goods, parts and shopping malls.
For successful and stable investment and business in Africa, entrepreneurs need to use their own funds to do business responsibly and hire local employees. Here, government policies are a must. The government should install a business assistance center to offer systematic free education on basic political, economic and social conditions as well as culture and language in countries in Africa. Here, language education should focus on basic communication rather than English proficiency. After businesses are set up, the government should provide consistent remote education and training using online learning programs. The world is changing, and so is Africa. Opportunities are clearly present. Aspiring businessmen need to visit Africa in person to experience the changes in order to break prejudices. For a sustainable and successful business in Africa, they need to research what is needed and study constantly to find a new solution.
* Dho Young-shim Chairperson of UNWTO ST-EP Foundation