Founders of She Leads Africa, Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei, talk business opportunities in Africa and tips for entering emerging markets.
“What organizations exist in Africa for aspiring female entrepreneurs who have high earning potential?” For trailblazers Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei, the responses to this one question sparked a powerful conversation that led them to create She Leads Africa. Founded in 2014, She Leads Africa was created based on the premise that there are numerous Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and skill building programs focused on micro and small businesses, but limited attention has been paid to investing in high growth female entrepreneurs who have the greatest potential to create large enterprises. It is these women who have the power to become global leaders and effect change on a mass scale.
In just one year, Yasmin and Afua launched a business pitch competition attracting applicants from 27 countries, awarded over $10,000 to budding female entrepreneurs looking to launch a startup in Africa, and facilitated introductions to investors, and mentors to help foster business growth on the continent.
Black Enterprise caught up with the two young power women to learn some tips for working in emerging markets and how they’re providing opportunities for women across Africa and the United States.
On starting “She Leads Africa?
“While working together at McKinsey in Lagos, Nigeria, we found there was a lack of support available for female entrepreneurs on the African continent. We also realized that most of the organizations that existed targeted low-income women and focused on helping them set up micro businesses. There really weren’t a lot of organizations working with women who are considered subject matter experts and have the potential to scale a 15 million business.”
On common misconceptions people have about business opportunities in Africa.
“Not enough people recognize that there is a dynamic business opportunity in Africa. They think Africa is a very risky place to invest. There’s risk in any thing that you do, especially as it relates to entrepreneurship. But it’s just a different type of risk such as a political risk. She Leads Africa is here to help educate people about business opportunities available and help them understand the type of risk involved.”
On providing workshops and support in the United States and Africa.
“We partnered with the African Technology Foundation for Diaspora Demo Day. The idea is that there are young African entrepreneurs in the area who want to do business in the emerging markets as well. So we brought together 20 of the most innovative people and gave them a platform to shine by putting them in a room with investors, mentors, etc. For our event in Africa, we brought people from New York, Boston and Chicago who had interest in doing business in the community and taking advantage of the business opportunities in Africa.”
On skills needed to expand into emerging markets.
1. Ability to communicate your vision clearly – You can’t always see the opportunity clearly when you’re working in emerging markets, but you have to be able to communicate your vision effectively and passionately.
2. Have a strong desire to build relationships – Working on the continent is not as transactional as working in other places. People want to know who you are. So you have to work on becoming a trusted member of the community. Integrate into the community by attending the weddings, family dinners, etc., of people you want to do business with.
3. Get very comfortable with tracking down the data – In the U.S. we have data readily available, but in Africa, some times the data jus doesn’t exist. So you have to get creative and comfortable with extracting information or conducting the research h yourself.