How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur in Africa: A Practical Guide and Cases

Prof. Felix M. Edoho, Director Institute of Entrepreneurship & Business Development, School of Business, Lincoln University, Jefferson City, MO, USA. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Authors: John Kuada and Madei Mangori 

Year of Publication: 2021 ISBN: 978-1-913976-08-8

Reviewer: Prof. Felix M. Edoho

If the African economic environment is difficult, the African business environment is even more challenging. In spite of all this, however, there are glimpses of hope that entrepreneurial capitalism is gradually but surely gaining momentum in Africa.

In this fundamental regard, entrepreneurial success stories in the African environment is not at all an oxymoron. Across the African continent, individuals in several countries, such as Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, have enacted entrepreneurial triumphs, and the success stories are largely untold.

Narrating the eventual successful entrepreneurial journeys of humble beginners who have built business empires, the book by John Kuada and Madei Mangori is a fascinating read.

The book is unique in staking a new frontier for a proper understanding of business terrain in Africa and the individuals who have emerged as entrepreneurial trailblazers.

Fourteen chapters, profiles of eight successful entrepreneurs, and five illustrative cases constitute the fulcrum of the book. Faithful to its title, the authors offer practical guides that capture the experiences of those who are already doing well in various business ventures.

More importantly, the book promises to be an invaluable template in the hands of those who are contemplating business ventures in Africa.

The book is organized into three parts. Part 1 comprises 14 impactful chapters (pp. 1-98).

Each chapter explores different angle of entrepreneurship in the African context as well as providing practical guidance for prospective entrepreneurs in the region.

Part 2 contains well-documented profiles of eight successful individual entrepreneurs (pp. 100-142); while Part 3 contains five case studies (143-153).

In Chapter One, Kuada and his associate set the stage for the entire book by exploring the mindset as a catalytic agent that fuels latent entrepreneurial ambition and subsequent manifest behavior.

They made the point that entrepreneurial mindset can be cultivated and nurtured. The key that unlocks the entrepreneurial mindset is the determination of the individuals.

With determination emerges the desire and commitment to achieve and succeed. Personal efforts and inner determination help stimulate in individuals the creative abilities and potential to see success as an achievable task.

The authors crown the chapter with the story of Mr. Roland Agambire who illustrates the embodiment of entrepreneurial mindset and personification of determination to succeed.

From hawking kerosene and cigarettes in the border towns, Mr. Agambire has become an entrepreneurial genius, presiding over a vast business empire with an annual turnover of two billion U.S. dollars.

Well told by the authors, such a breathtaking entrepreneurial success is a story that prospective entrepreneurs need to know and try to emulate.

Chapter Two examines the issue of making profits for a purpose. In other words, making profits is not just for its own sake; rather, profit-making ought to be for a social purpose.

The chapter is designed to help guide entrepreneurs in their approaches to making critical decisions centering on their visions and missions for their ventures.

It chronicles the lives of two prominent Ghanaians who have leveraged their entrepreneurial successes for the benefits of the larger society.

The authors documented the experience of Fred Swaniker who saw the need for leadership in Africa and used his vast knowledge in the corporate world to set up African Leadership Academy, African Leadership Network, Global Leadership Adventures, and Africa Advisory Group.

Drawing on his Silicon Valley connections, Swaniker raised funds to launch the Academy in 2004. In 2016, he established The African Leadership University in partnership with Scotland’s Glasgow Caledonian University. The overriding goal of the University is to train high caliber leaders who will drive Africa’s development and inspire future generations.

Located in Mauritius, the University has a towering ambition of building 25 campuses across the continent and training three million leaders in five decades.

The authors also narrated the story of Mr. Robert Asare who took the handicraft industry in Ghana from a mere US$200,000 in annual sales in the 1990s to a multimillion-dollar (US$28 million) industry in 2011, creating blossoming export market for local producers, who previously were struggling to sell their crafts locally, and generating employment for hundreds, who previously were jobless.

The entrepreneurial ingenuity of Mr. Asare helped extricate hundreds from the clutches of poverty.

Chapter Three focuses on growing entrepreneurial ventures. The chapter identifies the key drivers of business growth. Growing businesses requires entrepreneurs to be focused – targeting time, energy, and financial resources.

Kuada and his associate identify key attributes of growth-oriented entrepreneurship to include: tenacity, perseverance, persistence, determination, commitment, resilience, self-confidence, adaptability, flexibility, networking abilities, and passion.

They entered a caveat that although these attributes may not be present at the embryonic stage of entrepreneurial journeys, they can be developed as the entrepreneurs harness knowledge and gain experience with their business ventures.

Central to building growth-oriented ventures are clear intentions; passionate commitment; and consistent actions. The importance of growth- entrepreneurship is the ability to recognize and take advantage of opportunities in the business environment.

The authors cast entrepreneurial orientation as the ability to identify a problem or gap, and come up with innovative solutions.

The evolution of Danso Fruit Drinks is used to demonstrate how Mr. Charles Danso was able to identify the lack of fruit-processing industry in Ghana as a potential business opportunity to establish a blossoming tropical juice market.

He took advantage of the opportunity to become the pioneer local Ghanaian company to produce, expand, and grow a variety of tropical fruit juice for both local and international markets.

In Chapter Four (Designing a Winning Strategy) and Chapter Five (Managing Efficiently and Effectively), Kuada and Mangori spark the interests of both practicing and prospective entrepreneurs in designing a winning strategy and addressing the management concepts of efficiency and effectiveness as they pertain to entrepreneurial ventures, respectively.

The authors not only defined entrepreneurial strategic planning processes (Chapter 4) as well as efficiency and effectiveness (Chapter 5), but they also operationalized and contextualized them.

The chapter brings to life some important ideas to help guide entrepreneurs in their understanding of the strategic planning process and how to design and implement strategies that have high potential to achieve goals.

The strategic planning process helps entrepreneurs to establish the long-term goals and objectives of their enterprises; identify steps to be implemented and allocate scarce resources for achieving the goals; and evaluate whether or not the goals have been achieved.

In designing a winning strategy, entrepreneurs ought to be cognizant of the import of efficiency and effectiveness as they pertain to managing successful business ventures. Scarce resources need to be used in efficient and effective ways to achieve business goals.

It is commonplace for African entrepreneurs to assume that strategic planning for business ventures is an exclusive territory of large corporations, and that efficiency and effectiveness apply only to such corporations. By contrast, the authors lay out granular steps and specific processes to guide entrepreneurs who undertake small-scale business ventures.

The process of strategic planning helps to instill discipline not just in terms of resource allocation, but also with regards to efficient and effective management of the resources and maintaining entrepreneurial focus.

Chapter Six addresses the critical question of developing and maintaining trust with business partners. Kuada and Mangori indicate the difficulty for people to engage in long-term business relationships in Africa.

This means a pervasive trust deficit in the African business environment. The authors enumerate the adverse consequences of trust deficit. According to them, “The lack of trust imposes additional costs on businesses, including shortages of critical inputs, delays in payments of wages and salaries to employees and non-delivery of goods to customersˮ (p. 49).

Building trust is the key to creating and expanding networks in business. There is a truism in the dictum that “one’s network equals one’s net worth.”

If trust is the foundation of successful business undertaking and trust-building is a learnable skill, how do entrepreneurs go about developing it? The authors provide practical learnable skills in building and sustaining trust.

Chapter Seven dwells on managing employees well. In this chapter, Kuada and Mangori navigate the terrain of hiring and firing employees. In African context, hiring one’s family member is considered an absolute obligation, while firing a non performing family employee who actually hurts the business is almost an unpardonable taboo.

The authors indicate how creative entrepreneurs have endeavored to successfully navigate this treacherous terrain to circumvent “the predatory demands of the families” by staying away from family social gatherings to avoid undue pressure until they have built up substantial financial resources before re-joining the family and be welcomed back into the family fold, “just like the biblical prodigal sonˮ (p. 55).

The authors provide useful practical guidance relative to how to identify and hire talented employees and the do’s and don’ts of firing employees that hurt the business.

In Chapter 8, Kuada and Mangori explore the choice of an appropriate leadership style for business ventures. Leadership is everything for any organization, but even more so for the success of entrepreneurial ventures.

The authors explain the two dominant leadership styles: task-oriented and employee-oriented. Sometimes these two leadership styles are perceived as polar opposites and mutually exclusive.

But as Kuada and his colleague made clear, the two leadership styles can be practiced by the same individuals, depending on the circumstances they face, or the maturity and competencies of the employees they lead.

While employees are generally considered stakeholders of the organizations, the authors sue for them to be given a psychological sense of ownership.

They also discuss the seven roles a leader can assume as a mentor. The “ACHIEVE” model – Ability, Clarity, Help, Incentive, Evaluation, Validity, and Environment – proffer a useful framework for gauging successful leadership performance.

Chapter Nine addresses the issue of communicating with maturity. Kuada and Mangori anchor communication as a phenomenon that facilitates daily operations of ventures and mediates effective coordination of business activities.

According to them, while both external and internal communications are crucial, the latter binds employees together and improves morale in the business; facilitates planning and coordination of business activities; and helps employees make the right decisions.

While speaking up is important, the authors argue that managers need to learn and understand the import of active listening. They discuss the role of personality in interpersonal communication processes.

The chapter is concluded with a touchy, yet thought-provoking story of the beggar that clearly demonstrates that there is a better way to communicate and elicit the intended positive responses.

Chapter Ten deals with engaging in fast learning. Learning is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship. Kuada and Mangori discuss the role of absorptive capacity in learning.

That entrepreneurs assume they know a lot more about running their businesses than they actually do often prevent them from investing requisite time and resources to upgrade their knowledge.

Rather than engage in such self- deception, entrepreneurs need to humble themselves and recognize the inadequacy of their knowledge and seek opportunities to improve on it.

The authors delineate four stages of learning or the hierarchy of competence that will be helpful in guiding the entrepreneurs to be aware of the need to adopt a constant learning mindset.

Henry Ford, the pioneer entrepreneur in the U.S. automobile industry, is reputed to have said that “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Chapter Eleven is concerned with how to generate and sustain positive human energy to drive firms to higher levels of achievements. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to become conversant with emotional knowledge to enable them explore ways to energize themselves and their employees. 

Engaging in meditation and self-reflection could help them sharpen their intuitive capabilities to make decisions that could change the trajectory of their enterprises for the better. Attributes of positive human energy include appreciation, collaboration, virtuousness, vitality, and meaningfulness. Kuada and Mangori contend that the inherent positive characteristics of employees means that they should be managed as “assetsˮ in contrast to “resourcesˮ.

Because individual human beings are transmitters of energy within organizations, they should be encouraged to transmit positive energy to induce self-reinforcing effects. Finally, drawing on Asian religious philosophies, the authors discuss 10 fundamental life tendencies of human beings. Of these, six are lower level life conditions (hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility and rapture) which are governed by external circumstances, while the four higher level life conditions (learning, realization, altruism, and compassion/wisdom), are inner-driven and attainable by deliberate personal efforts.

In Chapter Twelve, Kuada and Mangori tackle entrepreneurial effective time management. Central to effective time management, they argue, is the ability to appropriately define and label those tasks that are urgent or not urgent as well as important or unimportant.

Effective entrepreneurial time management is informed by the well-known adage that “time is money’’. Entrepreneurs in Africa often conflate social and business affairs during working hours.

Time squandered on trivialities will not be available for ‘urgent’ or ‘important’ tasks facing the company. The authors discuss the importance of delegation and the associated concepts of authority, responsibility, and accountability in time management.

Managers who understand and practice effective delegation would free up their valuable time to deal with thorny issues confronting their companies.

Managers who show fidelity to these guidelines by putting them into effect will evolve a new entrepreneurial culture with potential to raise employee productivity and performance without extra resources or costs.

Chapter thirteen advocates for putting customers at the center of management decision-making. In this chapter, Kuada and Mangori articulate the pivotal role of customers in the success of any business venture.

They provide practical guides to entrepreneurs on how customer orientation can help them develop a strong business management culture that can enhance the prospects of their business performance.

The authors highlight meeting the customer expectations as critical to building up a customer support base to guarantee sustainable business success.

Employees play a crucial role in making customers happy, by treating them as kings and queens as well as princes and princesses. Managers need to develop vital skills in customer care and relational management as well as how to handle and address customer complaints.

In Chapter Fourteen, Kuada and Mangori discuss the importance of effectively managing business finances for creating a stable financial future.

Entrepreneurs need to understand financial statements (cash flow statement, income statement, and balance sheet) in order to properly understand how their businesses perform. 

The authors state the truism that “Without [understanding] these financial statements, business owners will be blind to the financial health of the business.”

If total revenue equals total expenses, entrepreneurs can continue in business as long as they want. The goal of every business is to operate above the break-even point.

The authors painstakingly explain the financial ratios in granular details. The entrepreneurs need to know and understand what each figure on the financial statements represents.

Knowledge and understanding of the basic key financial indicators are not esoteric skills reserved for financial gurus; they are very basic skills that will help entrepreneurs to monitor the financial health of their enterprises.

In Part 2 (100-142), Kuada and Mangori provide synoptic profiles of eight successful African entrepreneurs.

It is not uncommon for young Africans who are dazzled by successful entrepreneurs who live flamboyant lifestyles to want to be like them.

The simple reason is that many prospective young African entrepreneurs are familiar with how well successful entrepreneurs do, but not how they started and what they went through to arrive at where they currently are.

The stories of the individuals and their journeys profiled by Kuada and Mangori inform that the road to entrepreneurial success is not paved with gold.

So, both practicing and aspiring entrepreneurs should not only learn the lesson of successes, but they should also learn the lesson of failures. While the lesson of success will guide them in developing a successful mindset, lesson of failure will help to avoid the proverbial entrepreneurial valleys of death.

In Part 3 (143-153), Kuada and Mangori present cases of successful business ventures in a variety of industries, ranging from poultry farming, waste management, hospitality, to clothing.

In each of them, there are case study questions to engage the minds of the readers and provide additional insights about the inner operations of the enterprises.

Taken together, the book makes invaluable contributions to our stock of knowledge of entrepreneurship in the African context.

The profiles of successful entrepreneurs and case studies of successful business ventures in a variety of industries across the African continent are all a testament to the growing and deepening entrepreneurism in the region.

The book is enriched and very informative by embedding the stories of specific entrepreneurial journeys; profiling of individual entrepreneurs; documenting cases as well as operationalizing and applying contemporary management concepts to the African business environment.

This book belongs in its own class in contrast to comparable work in the field. I have enjoyed the book and I recommend it to researchers, students, entrepreneurs, and policy makers who are interested in practical guidance on how to navigate and succeed in the African entrepreneurial environment.

-Prof Edoho is a Professor of Business and Management and Director Institute of Entrepreneurship & Business Development, School of Business, Lincoln University, Jefferson City, MO, USA.


John Kuada is Emeritus Professor of International Management at Aalborg University, Denmark. He holds two doctorate degrees – PhD from Copenhagen Business School in Business Economics, and Dr Merc from Aalborg University in International Business. He has extensive experience as business consultant and training advisor in areas of management, marketing and cross-border inter-firm relations in many European and African countries. He is author and/or editor of 25 books on management. He has also written over 100 articles in scholarly and professional journals on a wide range of international business issues including entrepreneurship, international marketing, intercultural management, leadership and strategy.

Madei Mangori has over 36 years of experience as an organizational and management development expert in Southern Africa mainly based in Gaborone Botswana. He turned academic in 2015 after obtaining a PhD in Business Management from Aldersgate College in the Philippines. Prof. Mangori has published a book and co-authored another. All are available on Amazon. He is a founding member of Mentoring African Research Network ( He is also the co-ordinator for business and contextual ministry and is currently leading the team working for the accreditation of Botswana Bible Training Institute into a multi-disciplinary tertiary institution operating in four countries in Southern Africa.

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