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Africa: A Crucible for Creativity

Source |  Hbr.org| By|Ache leke ,  safi yashobha amanth kamath.

 

How many companies in Africa earn annual revenues of $1 billion or more? Most global executives we speak with guess there are fewer than a hundred. Many answer “zero.” The reality? Four hundred such companies exist—and they are, on average, both faster growing and more profitable than their global peers.

We have advised many of these companies as they have spread rapidly across Africa and beyond, and we’ve observed an unexpected side effect of this growth burst: Africa has become an important test lab for global innovation. If you can build a product, a service, or a business model that’s cost-effective and robust enough to succeed in Africa, chances are it will be competitive in many other regions of the world.

We don’t mean to minimize the challenges of doing business in Africa (challenges of which successful entrepreneurs are well aware). Inadequate infrastructure may mean that companies need to build their own supply chains, for example, and inadequate public education may mean they need to train workers in basic skills and mindsets. But as we shall see, those challenges also provide opportunities for value creation.

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