The internet is finally reaching the parts of Africa you’d hoped for. With the cost of computer equipment at an all time low, there’s no better time to combine the two and look at an online business. More and more people are going online to do business every day. The global markets are slow in building Africa as a continent to market to, so why not market from within and show the large international commercial companies how to do it first?
Trading in Other Languages
Out of 1+ billion Africans, English (130 million), French (115 million), and Arabic (116 million), Spanish (20 million) along with Portuguese (10 million) are the most widely used languages, although you’ll find another one hundred individuallanguages being used across the continent. Choosing which language to trade in is the most difficult task. Looking further forward, you will be best placed if you can employ people who use the other languages you don’t speak, using their native tongue to capture an even larger slice of the population.
How Do You Get Started?
It’s relatively easy to start up your own internet business – it’s deciding what to do (sell) that is the most difficult decision. The answer might be found in your favourite things to do, but equally you might need to think outside the box and see what other products or services could be successful online.
Luckily, computers are such a hot topic at school and college, that there’s a good chance you’ll have a wide range of computer expertise already. If you haven’t, you’re sure to know someone who has. They might be the first to join your online business.
Finding customers and keeping them is the hardest part of your business so the more time you put into planning your business, the better its chances of long term success.
How to Market Your Business
You need to look at your competitors to see what they are doing to attract business online. Sometimes it will be best to make special offers that don’t make you any profits, to get your business up and running. The foundation you lay will underpin your business long-term. You will need to know how much of your income needs to be redirected to pay your expenses from day one. Some choices of online business might not make you any income for a few months. Can you wait that long or should you choose a different business model?
Online business often has one major advantage over doing business in traditional ways. Your customers will almost certainly pay you before you have to ship their product or service. If not, can they part pay to tide over your cash flow? Customers in major cities (and especially those that travel globally for business or pleasure) will be used to paying before work is even started so naturally buying online keeps up with that style. This cash flow might allow you to buy your stock at a discount rather than keeping your stockists waiting to get paid, enhancing your profits.
Between major cities and towns, delivery isn’t a real problem, but as soon as you venture into rural areas to take orders for work, any product you need to ship will have a time delay. The longer the time, the less value customers place on you. You need to be fully aware of how long it takes to ship to the furthermost zone. If you quote a realistic, perhaps even slightly longer period for delivery, the customer will be pleased if they receive your goods a day earlier.
It might be that you want to avoid all shipping of goods and want to provide a service completely online. Your service will need to be outstanding for someone to choose you as opposed to a business in their local town. You will need to set extra special service standards and offer them something they can’t easily get locally.
Setting yourself up to be different from the global opportunities can be trying, but success is only found in hard work. There’s no reason why you can’t extend your services worldwide once you’ve found a successful trading model in Africa.
It’s great to think big, but it all starts small. When it comes to promoting your business locally, there’s no better way to gain people’s attention than wearing your brand. Get t-shirts printed so you, your family and close friends can promote your website whenever you’re out of your home.
Izzy Woods is a writer, amateur illustrator and nomad extraordinaire. She’s nearly always on the move, and funds her extensive travel by writing regularly for a number of in-flight magazines. She also writes on behalf of a late ski deals company and a few other luxury holiday providers.