The first time I visited Ghana’s capital, Accra, was in 2014 and it was an impressive experience. From the airport to the hotel, I met people who treated their country’s guests with dignity.
When it was time to hit the street market of Accra, I exercised caution because I was about to experience the discomfort that accompanies shopping in a typical African market where you must sweat it out under the sun, guard your wallet, and watch out for other types of social menace. My brain was very alert throughout my visit at the famous Makola Market. Within minutes, this unpleasant experience was replaced with one of pleasure as I entered the modern Accra Mall. The ambiance was relaxing and consumers were treated with respect.
The success of entrepreneurs in this economic system will be determined by how good they are at selling what consumers want, which includes respecting the dignity of people.
Customers crave a welcoming smile, honesty, respect, convenience and high-quality. Offering what matters to customers, but which is not always easy to find, will be where African entrepreneurs find success.
In Africa, there is a scarcity of love being expressed towards citizens. This is evident in the continent’s poor infrastructure, hunger, poor healthcare facilities, and lack of empathy from politicians. This is why Africans are longing for anything that represents dignity.
This is one opportunity that entrepreneurs cannot ignore. Despite challenges, the retail business is growing in Africa. Malls are always busy, not necessarily because the products are cheaper, but because many Africans, for the first time, are shopping in a dignified atmosphere. The demand for foreign goods is simply a result of customers craving self-esteem.
In Nigeria alone, the growth of modern shopping malls is fast and expected to double with new malls springing up every month across the country. The same is said of Nairobi that has the largest square meter shopping malls in sub-Saharan Africa. What is driving this investment? One reason could be the replacement of the humiliating market experience with malls that are clean and comfortable. The foundation of this business model is love for customers, driven by the need to restore dignity to the day-to-day shopping experience.
If you visit Lagos, Nigeria, at the moment, one of the things you will notice is the massive investment in infrastructure. This will enhance human dignity and promote business. A typical example is the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme in Lagos that is threatening the age-old yellow buses, popularly referred to as Danfo. In the BRT buses, customers are treated to air conditioning and comfortable seats. In a Danfo bus, you have to endure stifling heat and stinging insults from bus conductors.
Lagos public bus users will naturally flow to where the dignity of the consumer is respected at a competitive price. Similarly, an entrepreneur can either attract or repel people to their business. When you care about your customer, you will see increased patronage and profits grow.
In my years of reading and relating with other entrepreneurs, I have found that most strategies and models are vulnerable to disruption and prone to failure; but the love strategy never fails. Business disruptors are usually entrepreneurs who try to improve current systems. Since the law of service says that your reward in life is directly proportional to the value that you give to others, these people are able to attract commensurate value which sets them apart.
The reality is that a business that attracts consumers and investors alike is one that focuses on meeting the needs of people on a consistent basis. These needs go beyond the obvious to include comfort, dignity, respect, care and, ultimately, love. – Written by Victor Mamora
Cryptocurrency for Africans
George Gordon is on a quest to revolutionize the financial system. The director of Africa Master Blockchain Company talks digital currencies, blind risks and board games.
What is this new African cryptocurrency you are offering?
Where the majority of current digital currencies are based on speculative models, AfriUnion Coin (AUC) and the AfriNational Tokens (ANT)are designed for a transactional purpose allowing international payments, remittances, foreign direct investment as well as day-to-day transactions at local retail stores and other outlets. While the option for speculative trade is available with AUC, the focus is not around that.
Each African country will have a specially-designed ANT which will allow users to pay for goods and services and bills easily through completely digital means without requiring any bank account. AUC and ANT will be fully interchangeable to one another and there will be no fees for the user.
It’s the natural next step for digital finance from mobile banking which most Africans are accustomed to. The ability to freely have the power to send and receive money locally and internationally will allow the freedom of choice and spending power many Africans don’t have currently.
What is your own investment philosophy?
I am a gambler! I believe in taking risks and putting things on the line. That being said, blind risk or whimsical guesses don’t get you very far. Always acquire enough information to understand to a reasonable level what the thing you are planning on investing is or how it works and then trust your instinct and gut feel.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs wanting to invest in blockchain?
First, do some research in terms of what the blockchain technology is being applied for or created in terms of its application to an industry or project. Thereafter, check the white paper for the design of the platform as well as its functionality and applicability to what it is trying to achieve. If it aligns with your personal investment rules, then go for it,however, remember that blockchain is continuously evolving and thus you need to explore outside the usual and standard.
First cash-less, now card-less. What is the future of online banking?
If we are looking into what is currently science fiction, I would say the future is digital contact lenses that will be able to connect you to all your social media accounts, internet, news as well as make payments by just looking at QR codes or specialized barcodes to approve and accept payments.
Now, realistically we are not far off from such innovation and technology, but for the time being, I think the next step is scanning of QR codes at retailers and having the transaction automated from your wallet to the retailers digitally.
What is your most prized investment and why?
My mind. I believe that the work I have put into developing my mind, and continue to do so every day, is the number one investment that I have ever done. It allows me to look at things in a unique perspective as well as provides me with the tools to push boundaries and create new opportunities.
Money, success, fame? Which is most important to you?
I would have to say success… because it is most likely going to bring the other two as well, right? But success in the form of starting something and letting it grow and succeed and knowing that something new exists because of your efforts.
What do you spend your money on mostly?
Board games. I love board games and believe it’s a fantastic way to expand your mind as well as have fun with friends.
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King Price Insurance’s CEO Gideon Galloway, who built an insurance company in South Africa worth over $226 million in six years, talks investments, industry trends and how self-driving cars will change the entire car insurance landscape.
Offering The American Dream
Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan of Atlantic American Partners were in South Africa recently looking for high-net-worth individuals wanting to invest in the US.
It’s a warm spring day in September, and Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan have just arrived in South Africa. It is Lippincott’s first time in the country, and he is jet-lagged.
A little over two months ago, he was booked to fly here from the United States (US) but was turned back at immigration.
“At Atlanta airport, the lady looked at Daniel’s visa and let him through and she looked at my visa and she said ‘I am afraid you can’t get on the plane because you have to have a blank page on your passport’. I said ‘I have three blank pages’ and she said ‘no, it’s supposed to be the one that says visa on it’. She said it’s the rules in South Africa so I had to sadly go back home… now when I was coming, I was told that’s not an issue anymore so I am happy they have made traveling into the country easier,” says Lippincott.
With a brand-new passport, he’s here with Ryan looking for people who want to invest in the US in exchange for a green card.
Lippincott, the Managing Partner of Atlantic American Partners, says he has always been keen on South Africa for its growth opportunities and prospects.
“From what I understand, the things that are causing short-term decline in the economy in South Africa are set up to provide long-term growth and hopefully people will understand this,” he says. Ryan, the company’s Managing Director of Emerging Markets – Africa, agrees: “I lived in Malawi for 12 years and South Africa is still considered the shining one throughout the continent. Even with all the problems, everyone still wants to come here because of the opportunities.”
According to an AfrAsia Bank report, South Africa comes second to Mauritius in boasting the highest number of high-net-worth individuals.
These are the kind of people Ryan and Lippincott target through their work at Atlantic American Partners. The company has real estate investors and professional private equity fund managers that manage money for banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. In addition, they help people get US green cards and ultimately US citizenship through the US government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.
“Basically we look for people who want to move to the United States and we help them do so legally by investing and the nice thing is, with our program, they are also able to get a nice return on investment,” he says.
According to Lippincott, for a $500,000 investment that creates 10 jobs for American workers, you could get a green card in about two years and be a US citizen in about six or seven years. “Twenty seven countries have an investor visa program but with most of them, it’s essentially a fee you pay, or you need to be actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of a business. For example, you invest $1.5 million in Australia, but you need to hire employees and generate a certain amount of revenue. One of the biggest advantages with our program is you actually invest the $500,000 into a fund. We act as a trustee of that money and within five to seven years, they get that money back with a bit of return on investment and you are a permanent citizen in the US.”
Atlantic American Partners invests the money in real estate developments like hotels, apartments and student accommodation.
“What’s nice about the program is it doesn’t only cover the investor; it covers the spouse and children under 21. Our biggest family was a Hungarian family with seven children so they got nine green cards for $500,000,” says Lippincott.
The company says it has had positive response in South Africa. “Two months ago, we were here and we had scheduled six presentations for 100 people and we ended up speaking to 450 people. Most were business people, people worried about the economy, people worried about the political future of South Africa and people concerned about the education future of their children,” says Ryan.
According to Lippincott, despite the news of the clampdown on immigration, the US economy is booming and will perish without immigration. In the era of Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant views, that’s heartening news indeed.
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