Stop looking for the next Zuckerberg in Africa. Mark wouldn’t last a day in here…
Yes, i seddit!
Now, do not get me wrong. Entrepreneurship is never easy. Be it in London or in the Valley. The guy is brilliant, and building what can be considered the biggest “revolution” since… the iPhone?… is no mean feat.
But, looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg in Africa is a bit like looking for the next… Nelson Mandela in Donald Trump’s basement. While you can definitely picture someone stuck in a jail cell down there, that person’s pain can never be compared to what the South African legend had to endure in Robben Island. See what i mean?
I do understand that the media mostly use these expressions as a “cool” way to mean that, said entrepreneur is a huge success in his/her field, but the implications are way more impactful than you’d think.
Young and impressionable African entrepreneurs will look to build the next Facebook, not knowing that Mark received some mad “love money” that most of them will never have access to.
Not knowing that they are evolving in an ecosystem that is far from ready to offer the support that Mark benefited from.
Not knowing that Mark simply did not need to make money from Facebook at first, when that is most definitely not the case for most African entrepreneurs.
I repeat: “Mark wouldn’t have lasted a day in here!”.
Ok, maybe one day. But he would be on a plane back to the valley the very next morning.
Again, I am not saying building Facebook is simple just because of the developed environment Mark is evolving in. What I am saying though is, the fact that he was able to start it in his dorm room says a lot about the differences that exist between those two worlds.
Building a business in most African countries is often a matter of life and death. Once you understand that, you realise that most African entrepreneurs don’t build things because “it’s fun”. They build companies so they can eat. So that their families can eat.
Building a business in most African countries means not being able to rely on mentors, as they are too busy trying to stay in business.
It means not being able to rely on the laws to protect you from even slightly bigger companies since you can’t afford to sue anyone.
It means not being able to find funding, despite what all the tech blogs are reporting (our very own AfriqueITNews included).
It means not being able to rely on talent since it is either too expensive, safely ensconced outside of the continent or working for some NGO.
It means dealing with international companies lurking around to do better than you once your market becomes mature enough.
It means not having access to decision-makers because they spend most of their time in Europe… I could go on all day.
So please, let’s all stop looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg, and let’s celebrate the Verone MANKOUs and Jason NJOKUs of this world who are building things they had NO RIGHT to build.
Verone Mankou had NO RIGHT to even dream of building his own phone. Kabirou MBODJ had no right to build Wari. Sim Shagaya had no right to build Konga, Rebecca Enonchong had NO RIGHT to build Appstech (notice this is a mix of French and English speaking African entrepreneurs. Next time you want to write a top ten list again, Forbes, please call me…)
The environment all of them had to evolve in to become what they are today is hard enough that they don’t need to be compared to what they may rightfully consider lesser accomplishments.
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