Scaling in Africa: Practical Strategies to add to your playbook(Part 1)

Scaling in Africa: Practical Strategies to add to your playbook(Part 1)

Conducting business in Africa is no small feat and very entrepreneur with skin in the game can attest to this.

The business system is truly for the players who will go hard on strategy and execution.

Founders have risen, some have fallen, and the playing field will only get tougher. With increased funding, a saturated market, spontaneous consumer behaviour and rapid expansion efforts, the African startup ecosystem has proven many times that your arsenal must be equipped with a variety of growth yielding tactics.

This post has practical insight from brilliant startups who have played the game and are still thriving. Here are the insights.

Learn to Pivot

Your business model is the determinant for your operations. From talent acquisition to partnerships and customer acquisition, the business model is the yin to the yang of your growth. But what happens when there are roadblocks, and your business model isn’t viable for the market?

Here is what you can learn from a Nigerian ride-hailing startup turned e-commerce delivery business, Gokada. The ride-hailing business kicked off and received acceptance from its target audience, but everything came tumbling down in 2020 when the Nigerian government imposed a ban which led to a stop in ride-hailing operations for the startup.

However, Gokada pivoted from transporting people to transporting goods for SMEs and since their pivot in 2020, they have successfully transported 2million goods for 30,000 merchants.

Pivoting is a concept that founders with skin in the game are all too aware of, most businesses do not plan to do so intentionally but when the market demands it, then founders who want to scale follow suit. The ability to pivot is an essential skill in the fierce business scene of Africa.

Rethink your Talent Strategy

If you pay attention to the African startup ecosystem, you may have heard founders express their views on the talent gap. In a 2020 survey by PWC, founders in Africa said that their talent woes stemmed from hiring and training people, only for them to move on to bigger opportunities. The importance of quality talent cannot be undermined. Who else is going to build that vision of yours and help you accomplish unicorn status in the next decade?

“The quality of people you hire is important. We’ve made mistakes with the people we hired, but we’ve hired some very amazing people”- CEO, Field Intelligence.

As a founder who aims to win, you need to close the talent gap in your field. How? You can do so in the following ways:

  • By creating a strong employer brand for your business: The pandemic changed a lot of dynamics in the job market. Workers are a lot more intentional about their career trajectory and you must convince them that your company is a right fit for them. By having a great company culture and reputation, quality talent will be attracted.

  • By investing in early-stage professionals: In a recent conversation on tech Twitter, one tweet stuck out to us. “Senior developers do not fall from the sky.” That statement draws light to a core issue in the broader talent gap conversation. Your chances of retaining a senior developer are quite slim, so why not invest in early-stage career development for new entrants and build them up? Andela and Gebeya have been doing this and more recently, AltSchool Africa (for software developers) and EZGrowth School (for growth marketers) have popped up to handle this issue.

You can join the bandwagon and create intensive internship and training programs for your company. Easier said than done of course, but the rewards will be immense.

Join a Mastermind Group


As a founder you are constantly on the go, dishing out knowledge and overseeing growth to your team who are mostly upcoming talents. In retrospect, how often do you pause to learn from people on your wavelength or with more experience than you?

A mastermind group is a collection of people who get you completely. They may be founders like yourself or individuals who have built successful companies in the past.

A good example of one is Seni Sulyman’s BlackOps Africa community. Seni being the experienced builder that he is created a community dedicated to training African founders and startup executives by pooling resources and insights to help them become world-class.

Investing in yourself is key to the continued growth of your business.

Invest in Partnerships

When you think of WhatsApp messenger, what comes to your mind? Texts, family group chats and annoying broadcast messages are a winner. But South African based fintech startup, Ukhese technologies in a partnership with Telkom, Mastercard and Nedbank created a virtual payment gateway that allows e-commerce businesses to conduct transactions all from WhatsApp. No bank accounts needed.

You have heard the saying “Two heads are better than one,” and it could not be further from the truth. If you can secure meaningful partnerships in your field, go for it!

Invest in customer success

The buyer journey is not a straightforward process and converting a prospect is not the end of the road. You would have to provide a safe landing for that prospect to assimilate to your product or service. Imagine this, you see a catchy ad on Twitter from a company marketing a handy data visualization software, and you are slightly interested.

After your research into the software, the company, and a meeting with a sales rep, you buy it. Keep in mind that this process happened over the course of 6 weeks.

Now after your purchase, you are finding faults with the software and the onboarding material provided by the company is not helping. You email, tweet, and reach out several times but it is a dead-end with them. What do you do? Of course, you are going to churn. Now if they had a customer success rep, you may have resolved your issues, but you were ignored and are no longer a customer.

The lesson: Cater to your audience, post-conversion. It is super important!

There you have it! We delivered as promised. This is the first part in our series of insights that will aid your growth as an African entrepreneur. If this resonated with you, share it within your circle and follow us!

What other insights can you add to this list? We would love to hear your thoughts.