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Insight & Analysis - February 10, 2022

5 Lessons from African Billionaires that’d Change your Business Forever

Some lessons are more powerful and valuable when learned early in life. But still, it's never too late to get it right.

Just as it takes years to gather life experience, becoming a billionaire doesn’t happen overnight either. It is, especially, a herculean task building a successful business in a continent like Africa, where the odds are stacked against you – from abysmal infrastructure to dysfunctional institutions. This is why it is always a wise decision to take lessons from African billionaires seriously, as they’ve crossed several hurdles in business.

However, not all life lessons are the same. Some are more powerful and valuable when learned early in life. But still, it’s never too late to get it right. Like American billionaire Mark Cuban once said, ‘You only need to be right once.’

According to Forbes, the combined worth of billionaires in Africa is estimated at $84.9 billion. Here are five lessons from African billionaires to help you transform your business.

Follow your interest even if you are not sure how it will make money

Mo Ibrahim opted to concentrate in the then unfashionable mobile communications sector after developing an interest in telecommunication. Although there was no particular method to make a lot of money in the industry, he selected it since it piqued his interest. He said, “I found the work to be both intriguing and engrossing. I had no notion that it was going to make me a lot of money.” The effect of generating a considerable quantity of value is wealth. If you focus more on growing your ability to offer value, the money will follow.

When they say no, take action on your own

While working with British Telecommunication as the technical director of Cellnet, Mo Ibrahim noticed that the company was unnecessarily spending billions of dollars on gear. His boss, however, did not subscribe to this idea.

After six years, he departed from the company and created his consulting firm, specialising in developing technical specifications for operators. Later, Later, the firm was sold for about a billion dollars. The lesson here is to see opportunities where others don’t and have the courage to take action.

Succeed Together 

Mo Ibrahim has a practice of employing brilliant individuals and rewarding them with stock options. By the time he sold his first business for $916 million, it had 17 worldwide subsidiaries and 800 workers, each holding 30% of the stock. He did the same thing with Celtel. Celtel’s workforce received $500 million when the company was sold for $3.4 billion in 2004, and 100 people, the majority of whom were Africans, became billionaires.

He recognises the value of having the right team and compensating them appropriately. And they were willing to go above and beyond for him. Keeping together is a step forward. Collaboration is the key to success.

Follow Your Gut Feelings

The ability to listen to your intuition, according to Jim Ovia, is an essential talent for success. While studying in the United States, Jim acquired an interest in computers. He intended to study computers, but his college counsellor persuaded him to choose business administration and management. On the other hand, his ardour led him to sneak into the computer science room whenever he had the opportunity.

He had a gut feeling that technology would be the future for businesses. This was why he prioritised incorporating digital technology and internet capability when launching his firm, even before the internet came to Nigeria. According to him, “What determines whether a great idea can ever come to fruition is the initial will to act on instinct”.

Hone Your Negotiation Skills

During his youth service, Jim discovered a plethora of rusted-out automobiles for sale. He purchased these vehicles, refurbished them and then resold them at a higher price. The cars were sold twice or even triple what was paid for them. But it was discovering and honing his negotiating skills with the original automobile owner, the technician, and the buyer that he learned the most. Although he was unqualified, this ability came in handy while applying for a banking license. However, he was able to obtain a license via negotiation. One of the most important life skills you can learn is how to negotiate.

However, it is pertinent to note that, while taking lessons from African billionaires is a smart move, it should not be assimilated hook, line and sinker. These rich folks don’t just take risks because a good entrepreneur must do so. They take calculated risks.

READ ALSO: 5 Important Lessons from African Billionaires for Entrepreneurs

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