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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

Library of Articles

SME/Business Development

Sam Onigbanjo, author of ‘37 Business Thoughts’, talks about his tips for succeeding in business, promoting women, and creating a sustainable enterprise.
Image How well do you market your business when you meet someone?

By asking some 'Sneaky Questions for the Budding Entrepreneur', business coach Steve Gardner offers some tips on how to talk about your business without losing clients.

Sneaky questions for the budding entrepreneur No. 1: 'What do you actually do in your business?'

Imagine you are at a party and someone you know but haven't seen for a couple of years comes up to you and says "Hello, I haven't seen you for ages, what are you doing now?"

Well, your business brain should be screaming at you:

"Customer alert, customer alert. Opportunity, opportunity!"

If, however, you then twitter on enthusiastically about (for example): 21st century mouse trap technology, a fascinating international symposium you attended recently on rodent psychology, new extermination techniques in the home, and the need for government grants to improve the lot of the business entrepreneur (small mammal specialist), your potential customer's brain will be screaming at them:

"Idiot alert, idiot alert. Run. Hide. Avoid."

You have just lost a potential customer and the sad thing is: you didn't know it.

If, on the other hand, your answer was more along the lines of: "I run a successful business that specialises in killing mice quickly, cleanly and cheaply" the response from your potential customer is more likely to be something like "Whoa! That's a bit weird, but tell me more." And then you are (or should be) into selling mode.

You need to appreciate that potential customers can get quickly bored with too much excruciating detail.

It is vitally important that you are absolutely crystal clear about what it is that you do in your business. If you are not, there is a strong chance that you will either lose business or you won't gain it in the first place.

To succeed in business you've got to have a passion for what you do, BUT you need to appreciate that potential customers can get quickly bored with too much excruciating detail.

So what are some of the solutions to this?

  • Develop one short, snappy sentence that gives the essence of what you do.
  • If your potential customer is then interested, give them a little bit of detail.
  • Then, if necessary, feed the potential customer increasing levels of detail....
  • Linked closely to their needs....
  • Break up your information into bite-sized chunks.
  • Nail your customers' feet to the floor so they can't escape.
Sneaky questions for the budding entrepreneur No.2: 'What business market are you in?'

Parker Pens are not 'in the pens business', they are in the luxury gift business. National Express is not 'in the rail and coach business', they are in the transport business. Barclays are not 'in the banking business'. I am not in 'the coaching and training business' - I'm in the developing potential and transformation business.

Image So, what business market are you in? As with defining what you do in your business, it is very important that you understand clearly which market you are operating in. If you do not, there is a strong likelihood that you will waste a lot of time, money and effort targeting the wrong people and trying to sell them something they don't want.

By understanding which market you are in, you may be able to identify additional business opportunities.

At the risk of extending the mouse example beyond its useful life: if you realise that you are not in the mouse extermination business, but in the pest control business, then you might also offer means to eliminate cockroaches, woodworm and hoodies; or provide means of preventing infestations occurring in the first place.

By understanding which market you are in, you may be able to identify additional business opportunities.
Know Your:

By clearly understanding the business you are in, you will find it easier to identify exactly who your customers are: where they are located, what they do, how they think, where they go and what they actually want from you (rather than what you think they ought to have).


By clearly understanding the business you are in, you will find it easier to identify the businesses/people with whom you are competing. And then you will be better positioned to do something about them.

Here are some solutions to consider:

  • Ask yourself the question: "yes, but which business am I in?" until you are satisfied that you have the market clearly identified.
  • Then ask the question again.
  • Take the time to ask some customers what they want from your business.
  • Listen carefully to the answers, and....
  • Provide your customers with what they want.

Imagen the first of our series of articles to help you succeed in enterprise, business coach Steve Gardner looks at how a lack of self-discipline and social interaction can affect you when you start working for yourself from home.

So, you think you've got self employment pretty well sorted out?

In my case, I had a good business plan, eight years experience as an employee in a similar business, a whizzo new computer, and enough skills and qualities for two people, including charm, shyness and modesty.

And yet after about a week I found myself feeling out of sorts and lacklustre; I just couldn't understand it. Then my wife started complaining that, when she came home in the evening after a hard day at the office, I was machine-gunning her with words because I hadn't spoken to anyone all day.

Doing All the 'Good Things'

You do what all the books tell you are 'Good Things': cash flow spreadsheets, marketing plans, writing to potential clients. I was also ringing up all my chums to tell them how glad I was to have left the old company and set up on my own (aka networking), constructing a sophisticated database of contacts in case anyone ever returned my letters and calls, and learning about accounting for small businesses.

True, I was also playing computer games and working my way through a catering pack of chocolate cakes each day, but hey, I'm my own boss, I don't have to ask permission. So this malaise just didn't seem to make sense.

You find excuses for postponing doing things. I found I was "too busy" and "didn't have the time" for such essential tasks as following up speculative approaches with a phone call. And when my wife asked me, in her own peculiarly penetrating style, what I'd accomplished during a day, I found I had difficulty remembering anything significant, and tried to justify my apparent lack of activity by falling back on excuses and generalities. It was only when I caught myself one day watching a daytime TV chat show – surely they're actors? - that I got scared enough to question my behaviour.

I realised that I was lonely.

The Need for Feedback and Support

Full-time-employment involves lots of social activity. No-one working, especially your boss, will admit this, but it's true.

I realised how much I missed having a quick chat with colleagues by the coffee machine or as I walked around the office; I missed having a whinge about life and the universe with mates in the canteen at lunch-time; I missed being able to collar my boss at inconvenient times to discuss my latest Bright Idea; I missed general office chit-chat around me, and I missed being able to discuss the semiology of the images in pre-Columbian Hopi Indian cave paintings with similarly well-informed colleagues. (Actually we talked football, but I'm trying to impress here.)

You need feedback and support. Although I found it great that I didn’t have someone whose IQ was only slightly larger than their shoe size telling me what to do – and this was one of the key reasons why I went self-employed in the first place – I realised that it was less than great that there was no-one to tell me that I had done, or was doing, a good job, no-one to bounce ideas off and no-one to tell me I was making or about to make mistakes.

Finding Solutions

For me, what made the difference was doing the following:

  • I started a Business Buddies group with some friends locally who were also working for themselves (and who weren't competitors!). We met once a fortnight for support and business socialising.
  • I joined a couple of networking groups, one on-line and the other in real life.
  • I forced myself to go out at least once every day – partly for exercise and partly to break the routine of being indoors.
  • I put on a suit every day.
  • I cut the plug off the TV.

The result? Within about a week of putting my solutions into action, I found I was back to feeling positive and enthusiastic about myself and about my business. As a result of my different approach, and probably some luck, shortly afterwards I got my first client and realised that I was actually in business.

Bear in mind that if you intend working for yourself from you, you need to be:

  • Self-reliant
  • Confident in your own decision making
  • Tough-minded
  • Very, very self disciplined

And you need to get out and talk to people – e-mail and telephone are not good substitutes for good ol' face to face meeting-people-in-the-flesh.


Employment Enterprise - SME Human Resources Management Support to Association of Ghana Industries (AGI)


Association of Ghana Industries and Interims for Development Sign MOU to build Human Resources and Management Capacity


 The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interims for Development, the UK based pan-African Human Resources development company, to build Human Resources management excellence in Ghana. 

The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) was set up in 1958 and is the leading business organisation in Ghana with over 500 members from both the private and public sectors. It serves as a mouthpiece for the manufacturing and services sector and carries out proactive support services with a view to contributing substantially to the growth and development of industry in Ghana.

A major challenge facing today’s private sector in Ghana is effectively developing and managing its human resources.  Under the terms of the agreement, the two organisations will co-operate in carrying out a series of activities to highlight and address the challenges faced in developing and implementing good Human Resources practices in the country. 

Interims for Development will assist the AGI through organising a series of training activities to focus on the key issues relating to the perception and actuality of Human Resources management and to help develop the competences of managers and Human Resources and Training professionals.  The company will also provide advisory services and support in this area for the both members and non-members of the Association. 

Mr. Kofi Kludjeson, President of the AGI, (pictured second from left above) welcomed the MOU as a significant step towards supporting the country’s human resources development agenda.

“The Association is strongly focused on working with its members to radically improve efficiency, particularly among the small and medium sized enterprises in the country.  SMEs make up around 80% of businesses in Ghana and, unfortunately, poor management and people practices are hindering the ability of such companies to develop and create further employment.”

Frances Williams, Chief Executive of Interims for Development, emphasised that the MOU lays the foundations of a partnership that will offer solutions appropriate to Ghana. “Ghana’s future competitiveness depends greatly on the ability of senior managers and HR professionals to unlock people’s potential.  The roles of business managers and Human Resources professionals have to be seen as a strategic partnership aligned to achieving business success.  We are looking forward to working with the AGI in its mission to boost the development of SMEs through sound and appropriate people management and development approaches.”

Business by Design - Textile Skills for Kenyan Knitters


Interims support a remarkable Kenyan textile company to build its capacity to compete in the international fashion markets

ImageKenana Knitters is a Kenyan company set up in 1998 to help the rural women of Njoro, Kenya to generate income from their spinning and knitting skills.  The group consists of over 180 women who buy locally produced homespun wool which they dye using natural plant-dye and knit into a range of toys and accessories for home sale and export.  The group generates two forms of income; buying the wool from almost 200 local families, then creating more work by turning the wool into a marketable product. 

To be competitive, the Knitters must produce new lines on a regular basis.  A key constraint for the company has been its limited access to trade journals and the internet, making it hard to achieve its full design potential. 

Through Interims for Development, Kenana Knitters were offered the services of Rehiat (Rea) Kabir, a textile designer skilled in accessory and textile design to work with them over a period of five weeks. 

The key objective was for the Interim to assist in developing new, marketable knitwear and accessories within the constraints of homespun wool, natural dyes and using the skills of rural women. Before leaving for Kenya, Rea undertook additional research funded by Interims to identify trends in toy and textile design.

Technical Assistance

ImageWith additional financial support from Coats Viyella, Rea spent several weeks on the farm in Njoro working with the Knitters. “My brief was to assist the group with developing new design concepts, share information and resources regarding trends in the fashion industry and train members of the group in alternative techniques and approaches to their designs,” explains Rea.

“Together with Caroline, my assistant, and five other knitters, we produced a range of knitted accessories for women’s wear for Autumn/Winter 2005.  The collection was based on an experimental piece of crouching which proved less successful than they had hoped and which I decided to turn into sculptural scarves.  In terms of design, I was given complete freedom, which I found a positive challenge!”

Rea’s expertise gained from her work at Liberty’s of London, which caters for wealthy clients with an eye for non-mainstream fashion, proved invaluable to her host company.  From Rea’s perspective, Kenana has much to offer its market.

“For the customer who appreciates experimental pieces, hand knitted products and also products which are naturally dyed, I feel Kenana Knitters have an edge on the rest of the current market”, she says.  “In the next few years the consumer market will be exhausted with mass produced products and the average consumer will be more willing to spend their money on quality hand-knitted products.” 

Learning was a two-way street as both Paddy and Sarah provided Rea with technical guidance in working with the sometimes unfamiliar materials to implement her new ideas.

Rea’s assignment offers Kenana a longer-term networking contact for increasing their visibility and market share.  Based on her knowledge of the Knitters’ work, Rea intends to continue opening doors for the group over the coming months.

“I will be showing the samples produced in Kenya to the Accessories Buyer at Liberty’s in the next few months for selection for Autumn/Winter 2005 and also helping the group in any other way I can by sending design ideas or other contacts in the future.”

Social Development

ImageThe Knitters have also become a source of social support in the region.  Funds generated by the group have been used to create a working area and to purchase storage and office facilities.

The group’s ethos is to expand their knowledge base and skills and social development activities at the Farm include daily newspapers, a radio, library and sponsored attendance on training courses for HIV/AIDS counselling. The office computer is also used to teach touch typing and computer literacy.

The success of the Kenana Knitters would not have come about without the hard work and dedication of the company’s Directors, Paddy Nightingale and Sarah Johnston.  In Rea’s opinion, the two women are inspirational role models who take on responsibilities well beyond the call of duty. 

As Rea observes, “they are both amazing women.  Paddy gives medication to women with very sick babies even late at night.” 

Coming from the often cut-throat ruthlessness of the international fashion industry, working in Africa has given Rea a different perspective. 

“Knowing that there are people out there who put something back into the community and work towards a better future has restored my faith in people.  Given the opportunity, I would love to go and work alongside Sarah and Paddy in the future.”

From the company’s perspective, Rea’s assignment significantly met its objectives.  Citing Rea’s skills in adapting the raw materials as well as her ability to motivate the Knitters, the Directors of the business have no doubt about the success of the assignment.

“Rea designed, produced and finished a range of functional yet fashionable accessories, using the resources available to her.  Her use of locally produced glass and beads as embellishment was most creative while her input with regard to high fashion influences has been very productive,” says Sarah Johnston. 

Rea admits that “having never visited Africa, the only encounters I had with the continent have been from seeing images on the television and stories from friends.  Before my visit I didn’t have any idea whether I would enjoy the project or not, and now I can wholeheartedly say I loved every part of the experience. Kenya is a beautiful country and full of creative people who use everyday materials around them to make extraordinary works of art.”

Calling for Health - Business Support for Malawi HIV/AIDS Helpline


Over 40 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV and AIDS.  Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than 70% of the global total of those living with HIV and AIDS and 80% of the total global AIDS deaths.


MAIN (Malawi HIV and AIDS International Network) was established in 2001 in London by Malawians around the worldto work with other African Communities and Service Providers in providing services that are culturally appropriate, community focused and sensitive to the rapid changes affecting issues relating to HIV and AIDS.

Background to the Project

Poverty, stigma, negative attitudes and denial are some of the barriers preventing people from getting the help and information they need regarding HIV and AIDS.  Reaching out to those affected by HIV and AIDS within Malawi raises some significant challenges and, given the nature of the country’s infrastructure, it can be difficult for information to be acquired and circulated regarding support programmes, service providers and other sources of support for those affected by HIV and AIDS.  This lack of co-ordinated information is a barrier to effective research and planning around these issues.

In view of these problems, MAIN has embarked on a project to establish a Helpline in Malawi to facilitate the flow of information within the country and to provide advice and support to those infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.

HIV/AIDS Helpline

The Helpline will be manned by volunteers recruited and trained by MAIN and will enable people to call in from around the country for information, advice, counselling and support.  Through the information received from callers, MAIN will also be able to add to available information on HIV and AIDS inside and outside the country and to disseminate information on where support may be available.  Figures suggest that only about 2% of Malawians have access to a landline (other than a public telephone, which wouldn't allow them confidentiality) and only 5% have access to a cell phone.  MAIN therefore plans to complement the Helpline with drop in centres.

MAIN is currently represented in Malawi by volunteers who offer their time and services on an ad-hoc and part-time basis.  The nature of the present structure makes it difficult to mobilise real development and MAIN needs to properly constitute the group and to put together an operational budget for the organization to sustain itself.  This information, properly presented, will give MAIN the foundation to seek donor funds for the Helpline project.

Interims for Development and MAIN

Interims for Development offered the services of an Interim Manager based in Malawi to assist MAIN.  As an experienced Business Accountant and Financial Controller visiting Malawi for one year, Mike Oswald was perfectly positioned to offer his help.  For Grace Manyika, MAIN’s London-based Executive Director, Mike’s assistance would provide a crucial starting point for the project.

Following an initial meeting with Grace Manyika in Lilongwe, it was clear that a number of operational hurdles needed to be cleared before the project could proceed.  As Mike reported,

“Some of the MAIN volunteers have passed away and the Malawian Trustees work full time on other things. As such, there is no full-time programme director to fully research and head the project in Malawi for the first few years.”

Following a review of the resources available, Mike advised that the key issue for MAIN was to develop a credible and costed proposal with which to approach donors and to appoint a programme manager with a health background and a thorough knowledge of Malawi to research and implement the programme’s objectives and strategies.

Combining his financial management experience and some additional research, Mike was able to provide MAIN with a budget template and spreadsheets covering the types of costs to include.  To assist with funding applications, Mike also developed a template for funding proposals, showing what would need to be addressed and provided some research on the steps the project needed to take to register in Malawi.  When MAIN appoints a programme manager, Mike will be on hand to offer further training as required until he leaves Malawi. 

Contact MAIN at: info@mainmalawi.org

Getting Back to Business


Business skills training for Zimbabwean returnees

A two day workshop on ‘Planning and Managing your Business’ was held in Harare in February 2006 to equip recent returnees to Zimbabwe with skills and knowledge on how to plan and manage their businesses.

The training workshop was commissioned by IOM, a leading international organisation, to provide returnees with training on how to manage their new businesses, for which the IOM had provided financial assistance through the purchase of equipment and materials.

IOM, which works with migrants and governments to provide humane responses to migration challenges, has through its Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP), provided over 7,500 individuals and families with return and reintegration assistance.  The VARRP programme assists returnees with access to education, training, employment or setting up a small business.  In this way, individuals are given the tools to rebuild their lives back in their countries of origin and to sustain their return on a long-term basis.

Reintegration Challenges for Entrepreneurs

A survey undertaken by the IOM indicated that returnees were often unsure of reintegration activities that would best suit their needs upon return as they had spent a considerable time away from their homes, with some returnees expressing the need for business advice.  With high unemployment affecting the identification of jobs, many returnees felt that training would further enhance their chances of getting a job or generating income.

Running a business in Africa is a challenge….. We are living in a global village and Africa is an important player.

The business environment has changed radically in Zimbabwe over recent years and the number of small and medium sized enterprises has increased at a rapid pace, leading to intense competition. For returnees to the country, particularly those without experience of running a business, understanding the business climate is critical to their survival.

‘Planning and Managing your Business’

The training programme, developed by Human Resources and Training providers Interims for Development, was designed to equip the participants with key skills in business and financial management at a time when competition is at higher levels than ever before in Zimbabwe.

The participants, who represented a wide spectrum of businesses, including welding, hairdressing, manufacturing and Internet services, were led by Dorothy Adebanjo, Interims’ Zimbabwean based Consultant and Trainer, through a number of steps; defining their business ideas clearly and concisely, taking stock of their various skills and identifying their strengths and areas for development. 

The programme, the first of four to be held in Zimbabwe, focused on working with the delegates to write and refine their business plans and understand how to cost their products and calculate their gross and net profits.  The importance of marketing and competitor analysis was highlighted, with additional training provided in financial management skills. 

Discussions were lively and participants shared their experiences and opinions of doing business ethically and dealing with external factors such as the country’s high level of inflation. Through workshops, group learning and case studies, delegates were taken through information and advice on setting up a business, developing a business idea, identifying sources of finance and resourcing and promoting the business.


The training programmes will enable the IOM to provide returnees with a broad range of information, advice and tools for rebuilding their lives and promoting self-sufficiency through entrepreneurial activity. 

Speaking after the programme, Dorothy Adebanjo stressed the importance of such training.  "Running a business in Africa is a challenge as it is elsewhere and many people underestimate what it takes to run a business and to run it efficiently and professionally.  This programme helped to provide marketing, financial management skills as well as highlighting the personal qualities required by an individual to run a successful business.  We are living in a global village and Africa is an important player.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for all involved."

Expressing her satisfaction with the outcome of the programme, Frances Williams, the CEO of Interims for Development, said. “We are delighted that the feedback from this, the first of four programmes, was so positive.  Setting up a business is never easy and when you have been away from your home country for some time, it is critical to assess carefully how to enter the market and what you will need to do to sustain your success.  This programme offers an excellent opportunity for participants to review their business planning and to share good practice.”

Reflecting on the value of the programme, Mrs. Adebanjo said, ‘As we closed the workshop, I heard one participant whisper to himself, “This came at exactly the right time for me. This is what I needed.  I can’t believe it,… I have learnt so much….”

Getting Back to BusinessIOM consults African Diaspora groups on planning a sustainable return and integration into Africa.


When an organization that has supported nationals from over 27 different African countries to return home asks for advice, one would have to ask what else they needed to know. 

ImageYet, recognizing that no-one knows the needs of Africans more than Africans themselves, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) opened their doors to representatives of the African Diaspora in an open African Consultation Day held in May 2006.  Co-sponsored by Skills for Southern Sudan, Interims for Development and AfricaRecruit, the one day Consultation Day took place in the centre of London and was attended by almost 100 representatives of community and diaspora groups in the UK and Europe. 

Voluntary Assisted Return Programme (VARRP)

In holding the event, the IOM made it clear that they wanted a frank and constructive engagement with Africans and there was open debate throughout the plenary session and workshops.

ImageOpening the conference, Jan de Wilde, the IOM UK’s Chief of Mission, underscored the success of the IOM’s Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP) which has assisted over 13,000 people from the UK to return to their countries of origin around the world. 

The IOM VARRP programme offers assistance for asylum seekers who want to return permanently to their country of origin. The VARRP is open to asylum seekers of any nationality who have touched the asylum system and have either been refused an asylum claim or have withdrawn their application and wish to return home. 

The reintegration element of the programme began in 2002 and this initiative has enabled the IOM to offer a personalized and more integrated service to those who they assist.  Rather than just handing over a cash grant, the IOM staff members meet the returnee face to face after their arrival home and agree with them on their plan for re-integration; which usually means working on a business plan to start a business, finding employment or enlisting in further education.  This hands-on assistance helps to keep the returnee focused on their objectives while the continuous contact and advice helps them to sustain their activities.

So, what more did the IOM want to know?  According to Jan de Wilde, “Our goal for this conference is to broaden the scope of reintegration assistance in Africa beyond the relatively narrow focus we’ve had so far and to ensure that we is on offer is known to people in the UK.” 

Addressing the concern that voluntary returns were sometimes less than voluntary, de Wilde pointed out that “we’re not about twisting people’s arms.  People will return largely as a result of their situation here and their situation in their countries of origin – both of which are beyond IOM’s control.”  He added that “we are here to help and we want to make the programme more attractive to enable people to establish viable alternatives in their country of origin.”

ImageIOM UK’s Reintegration Fund Manager, Sacha Chan Kam, told the gathering that engaging with the African Diaspora is key to the IOM’s efforts to improve their service.  “You know best what activities, skills and skills gaps are needed in your country.  We would like to see this day not simply as a one day event, but as a building block and the start of a relationship with you to help those returning to do so with successful reintegration activities.”

Currently the Reintegration Fund provides financial assistance of £3,000 per applicant.  While returnees can apply these funds towards assistance with education or vocational training, 80% of returnees ask for assistance with equipment, tools or seed capital for a business that leads to income generating activity. 

With 116 offices worldwide, the IOM is well placed to assist those who come to them for help.  Where they do not have a mission, they work closely with local NGOs who can provide the support on their behalf. 

The kind of support given to returnees is left to the individual to decide.  As Chan Kam said, “It is up to the returnee to dictate what their needs are and our role is to facilitate this.  Ultimately it is the individual themselves who can tell us about what they need.”

Presentations by the event’s co-sponsors highlighted the work being done by these organizations in developing the skills and human resource capacity of Africans within the continent.  Interims for Development highlighted the success of the training provided in Harare earlier in 2006 (“Back to Business in Zimbabwe” ReConnect Africa May 2006 Issue) for returnees from the UK setting up enterprises in the country.

The event also saw the launch of the IOM Reintegration Database which provides information on the reintegration programme and opportunities in training, education and business.  Regional workshops explored these themes further, with delegates offering a range of ideas to enhance the effectiveness of the existing programme.

For further information about the IOM VARPP programme and the IOM Reintegration Database, visit: www.iomlondon.org

How changing attitudes can overcome the challenges of doing business in Africa


Changing the way we think about doing business in Africa is vital for those who want to succeed there.  This was the key message delivered by successful African entrepreneurs at the London Business School Africa Day conference which highlighted the challenges and rewards for entrepreneurs in Africa

The premise of this one-day event was that entrepreneurship and innovation must play a pivotal role in empowering Africans to take charge of their destiny.  The 2006 Africa Day set out to identify tangible approaches and programmes to develop African’s entrepreneurial potential. 

ImageWith the theme ‘A Vision for Empowering an Enterprising People’, the fifth event held by one of world’s leading business schools saw an array of speakers that included African entrepreneurs from diverse sectors such as broadcasting, finance and publishing as well as representatives of investment and financial institutions active in Africa. 

The keynote speaker, Baroness Valerie Amos, focused on the pivotal role the African Diaspora can play in promoting enterprise in Africa.

“I believe that the partnership between Africa and the wider Diaspora is the partnership that will really deliver the difference,” she said.  Speaking of the vital need for private enterprise to change the economies of Africa, the Leader of the British House of Lords noted that the focus of debate has moved from aid for Africa to boosting enterprise. 

She pointed out that the official $8 billion of remittances into Africa from Africans living outside the continent and informal estimates of $16 billion remitted through informal channels, gives the African Diaspora powerful leverage in assisting with entrepreneurial development. 

During her speech, Baroness Amos announced the setting up of an independent fund for Africa to be launched in Cape Town in May 2006. The fund will be managed by an independent Board and, with support from the African Union and Nepad, the $100 million fund is intended to encourage dialogue between business and government and to support African governments to create a positive environment for business.


Given its focus on enterprise, the conference included a series of presentations from African entrepreneurs who spoke candidly of the challenges they face in developing and building businesses in the continent.  Stressing that these challenges should not be seen as a deterrent by Africans in the Diaspora, Paul Fokam, the Cameroonian President of the Afriland First Bank, which he co-founded in 1987, pointed out that “it takes four years to get a banking license in China and yet, after six months, someone coming back home from the Diaspora says ‘I can’t continue in this environment’.”

A key theme of Bruce Ayonote’s session was the need for Africans considering investment in Africa to change their mindset and to adapt their view of reward to the local circumstances.  Describing the level of salary Africans educated abroad often expected as “unrealistic and unsustainable for a business”, Ayonote, the co-founder and Group CEO of Suburban Group, a Nigerian integrated telecommunications service provider, urged those listening to be less opportunist and transactional and more appreciative of the long term goals of business.

Stressing the need for applying social responsibility to enterprise in Africa, Ghanaian broadcaster George Twumasi, a driving force behind the establishment of the African Public Broadcasting Foundation, told the audience, “you need to look at opportunity through the context of social change.”

“If you’re not investing in Africa today, you’re missing the boat.”

Chaired by award winning editor Anver Versi, the conference also included an Investors Circle session where senior executives from a number of leading banks and investors spoke frankly of the enormous investment potential of Africa today.

“Regardless of all the risks, the returns in Africa are higher”, said Tutu Agyare of Swiss investment bank, UBS.  “If hedge funds in the City of London can see the opportunities, we should all be investing.”    Arthur Arnold of the Dutch development agency, FMO, was equally blunt.  “If you’re not investing in Africa today, you’re missing the boat,” he said.

Image“Africa is changing” was the key message from Andrew Bainbridge, Barclays’ Managing Director with responsibility for the bank’s business portfolio in nine countries across Africa.  Bainbridge highlighted the importance of the small and medium sized enterprise (SME) sector, stating that it was only the development of this sector that would drive the 7% growth needed to attain the Millennium Development Goals.  Speaking of Barclays’ creation of Business Clubs in Africa to bring together business clients in order to provide advice and build business capacity, he acknowledged that “we need to provide the support mechanisms for enterprise to flourish.”

The conference ended with a presentation by Larry Drake II, CEO of Coca-Cola Nigeria and Equatorial Africa.  Touching on his experience of growing up as a poor African American, he outlined his company’s strategy in Africa and addressed some of the misconceptions of Coca-Cola’s role in Africa.

The conference, which was organised by the London Business School’s Africa Club, also saw the launch of the African Scholarship Fund which the School has established to provide scholarships to outstanding Africans wishing to study for an MBA.

For further information about contributing to the Africa Scholarship Fund, contact the London Business School or visit:

From Njoro to Washington


Kenana Knitters of Kenya receive recognition in opening address to the African Growth and Opportunity Forum

When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave her opening address in June to a house packed with African and American dignitaries at the African Growth and Opportunity Forum in Washington, she highlighted one AGOA success story from Africa, the remarkable story of the Kenana Knitters.


In 1998 Sarah Johnstone set up the Kenana Knitters group on Kenana Farm, in the mainly farming area of Njoro in Kenya, with the primary objective of helping the rural women of Njoro find some much needed form of income by using their spinning and knitting skills.  Life for women in this rural area is hard, with no running water or readily available fuel for cooking; no transport to the market place and little access to basic medical attention. 

To pay for school fees and purchase books and uniforms for their children, the need to develop their skills to increase their income is critical.  The group generates two forms of income; buying the wool from 160 local families, then creating more work by turning the wool into a marketable product. 

The group has grown from 2 to 220 knitters who buy locally produced homespun wool, colour it with natural plant-dye to avoid adversely impacting the environment, and knit it into toys, bed-covers, jerseys, socks, scarves, hats and other fashion and sports accessories. 

Export Success

Speaking to ReConnect Africa, Sarah Johnstone described the group’s continuing success.  “We are exporting 90% of our products to the US, UK, Scotland, Denmark, Canada, Japan, and France.  We are supplying outlets like Sundance Catalogue, Green Mountain Coffee, Anthropologie, ABC Carpet and Home, and Ananse Village to name a few.”

The Knitters have also become a source of social support in the region.  Funds generated by the group have been used to create a working area and to purchase storage and office facilities. The group’s ethos is to expand their knowledge base and skills and social development activities at the Farm include daily newspapers, a radio, library and sponsored attendance on training courses for HIV/AIDS counselling. The office computer is also used to teach touch typing and computer literacy.

“We are offering a range of free welfare options to the women on a monthly basis, including family planning, homeopathy, VCT, worming and we have introduced a bi-annual eye clinic,” says Sarah. “We have managed to gather together enough donations to enable us to buy quite a few pairs of glasses for women needing them.

”Since we started the group, our ladies have worked tirelessly to succeed.”   Sarah Johnstone 

African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

The success of the Kenana Knitters would not have come about without the hard work and dedication of the company’s Directors, Paddy Nightingale and Sarah Johnston, who have successfully tapped into the benefits offered by the AGOA Act.

In opening the Forum in Washington, Secretary Rice stressed the potential offered through the Act. “A keystone of our approach is this African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which represents America's strong bipartisan support for Africa's development and prosperity,” she said.  “AGOA is founded on irrefutable facts about how to fight poverty effectively. It is a fact that real development is only possible when economies are expanding and creating jobs. It is a fact that economic growth is driven by hardworking entrepreneurial citizens who are free to compete and trade in open markets.”

Image The requirements for membership in AGOA have now been met by 37 sub-Saharan African countries, enabling the United States to remain Africa's chief trade partner. While oil remains a key export commodity for Africa, there has been significant growth in other sectors including agriculture and machinery and electronics.

“These gains were driven in part,” she added, “by our African Global Competitiveness Initiative, a $200 million program which President Bush announced last year to help African companies reach their full potential through free trade.”

Kenana Knitters

Secretary Rice highlighted the success of Kenana Knitters who “because of AGOA and our African Global Competitiveness Initiative has won deals to export its wool and apparel to several high-end American clothing companies. In just two years the business has more than doubled its workforce,” Secretary Rice paused and smiled when she added, “all of whom are women.”

Proof, if ever it were needed, that these remarkable women, through innovation, hard work and persistence, have put Njoro on the map and made their mark on global enterprise.

Kenana Knitters: www.kenanaknitters.com

Sponsored Trade Missions offer UK companies support in breaking into the Nigerian Market


ImageThe UK Trade & Investment is open to applications for its sponsored Trade Mission to Nigeria in October 2006.  UK Trade & Investment is the British Government organisation that supports British companies engaged in international trade and those wishing to locate and invest in the UK.

Based in London, the UK Trade & Investment aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through their network of International Trade Advisers who offer experience across a wide range of different markets and countries. In addition to the advice available from UK advisers, companies also benefit from the network of commercial teams located in embassies around the world.

But for first-hand experience of doing business in Nigeria, the UK Trade Mission, delivered through the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, offers an ideal way for small and medium sized companies that are looking to develop their export business in Nigeria or promote their goods or services in that market to visit and generate crucial business contacts.  

Doing Business in Nigeria

ImageTrade Missions are organised business delegations and the forthcoming Trade Mission will provide participating companies with British High Commission support and advice through a team of dedicated commercial officers in Lagos and advice and assistance from a UK Trade & Investment International Trade Adviser.  The Mission is preceded by a pre-visit briefing in the UK which provides market information and advice on how to do business in Nigeria. 

Exploring business opportunities as part of a Trade Mission offers a host of support to companies.  Travel arrangements include secure airport transfers and safety advice and relevant business contacts are provided by the British High Commission.  In addition, networking opportunities and client entertainment is provided through a British High Commission hosted reception in Lagos.  Companies participating in Trade Missions have their companies profiled in a market visit brochure which is distributed to appropriate businesses in Lagos.  The Mission also facilitates local press coverage for appropriate companies and the services of an experienced market visit manager before and during the market visit.

For eligible companies looking at the Southern Africa region, a sponsored Trade Mission to South Africa is also expected to take place in March 2007.

Business Opportunities for Africans in the Diaspora

ImageThe UKTI Market Visit Scheme, or Trade Mission, targets smaller firms as these companies may not have the resources to undertake in-depth research of a new market and to find good contacts. 

Craig Pym, Acting Head of World Trade at the London Chamber of Commerce, has led several trade missions to Africa.  Participants on these missions have included businesses run by Africans in the Diaspora who are looking for opportunities to export and to establish business linkages in their country of origin. 

“Trade missions to Nigeria have been an annual fixture for some time and many Nigerians running businesses in the UK take advantage of these”, he says. “Nigerian, and other African expatriates, have an obvious advantage in developing business in Africa and with the British Embassy support, they have a platform to promote their business interests.”

Funding Support

To accompany the October Trade Mission to Nigeria, a business must be established within the UK and selling or marketing a British product or service. To qualify for British Government financial assistance, the company must have less than 250 employees and be new to export to this market, meaning that it has not yet proactively exported to Nigeria and has no existing representation in the country.

Companies within the M25 area can apply to receive the financial package from UK Trade & Investment London, while those based outside the M25, will need the London team to approach their local International Trade Adviser for funding from the company’s own region on its behalf.  Eligibility for funding assistance will be assessed by a company’s UK Trade & Investment International Trade Adviser and will also take into account the company’s readiness to export to Nigeria. 

In return for the funding, companies are required to attend the British High Commissions’ briefing and reception in Lagos, and to fill in a post-visit questionnaire.  Although businesses are required to pay a fee and the return flights and accommodation of their representatives on the Mission, eligible companies may be entitled to £550 in grants towards these costs.  Other than set briefings, Trade mission participants are free to arrange their own meetings in Nigeria between arrival on 29th October and the Mission’s conclusion on 3 November.

Any companies wanting to find out more about the next Nigeria trade mission (30 October - 3 November 2006) should contact Craig Pym, cpym@londonchamber.co.uk for an information pack. The deadline for completed applications is Friday 8 September but companies applying for a UKTI grant are urged to apply as soon as possible as there are a limited number of grants available.

“Regenerating Africa, one job at a time”


ImageIt’s not often that you get the chance to visit your home country and experience it objectively, warts and all, but that’s exactly what happened when journalist Sylvia Arthur visited Ghana recently as a volunteer Business Advisor to share her skills and to reconnect with home.

“As part of a team of sixteen Resource Persons on the AFFORD Enterprise Mission we were confronted head-on with the pitfalls, frustrations and challenges of doing business in Africa.  The Mission, which was sponsored by VSO and in partnership with Barclays Bank, offered a unique opportunity to engage in Ghana’s economic development.

Expectations meet Reality

On our first full day of training in Accra our pre-departure visions of rooms full of eager businessmen and women desperate for advice were instantly shattered. Instead we were greeted by twenty-eight hostile individuals who made it clear that there was no point in teaching them business skills if they weren’t able to access finance at the end of it. It transpired that Barclays Business Club members are automatically eligible for a c50m (£3000) loan after one year of membership but the glass ceiling for accessing funds above this amount is virtually impenetrable. After an hour and a half of heated debate it became clear that it wasn’t us who were the focus of these entrepreneurs anger but they were frustrated by a banking system that gives them carrots with one hand and keeps them begging for more with the other. 

“These were well-established enterprises with employees in double figures and annual incomes in excess of many of our salaries.”

The banking structure in Ghana for the average SME isn’t an enabling institution. For those with a good business but without the required three years audited accounts, there’s scant hope of getting finance to make the leap from SME to corporate. But the enterprise spirit is high and people are passionate about business. This is because there simply aren’t enough jobs to go round. The African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) says eight million jobs a year are needed to lift Africa out of poverty. Therefore, for a young Ghanaian looking for work the options are limited to self-employment or utter deprivation and that’s no choice at all.  

Micro-Finance in Ghana

ImagePerhaps the most surprising aspect of our trip was that the SMEs we advised were neither small in size nor small in turnover. These were well-established enterprises with employees in double figures and annual incomes in excess of many of our salaries. And therein lays the problem.

While micro-finance and business support initiatives have helped a small proportion of Ghana’s not so poor, the very poor, women and youth are still not being reached. The government, for its part, is engaging in joined up thinking. The Micro-Finance and Small Loans Centre was set up to map and co-ordinate the country’s small loans sector and a $50m fund for MSMEs will kick in soon. But there’s still much to do.

Lessons Learned

ImageOur legacy in Ghana was the formation of two new associations to advocate for the interests of SMEs – one in Accra and the other in Kumasi. Ghana is an individualistic society but the SME owners realise the benefits of working in union to further their collective cause, which is ultimately increasing access to finance.

While we vowed to stay in touch with our respective businesses there was a feeling of powerlessness because, deep down, we knew that the SMEs were right. While we can teach them all there is to know about bookkeeping, cash flow forecasts and marketing; without the funds to expand, their fledgling enterprises will stagnate, if not collapse, taking with them their livelihoods and those of their many employees. Job creation is crucial to Ghana’s development, especially if it’s to achieve its Millennium Development Goals.

Creating one Job at a Time

For most children of Africa living in the Diaspora, the idea of returning home is a romantic dream, something that forever lingers at the back of our minds but rarely materialises. When it does become a reality, it is, like many romantic liaisons, often not as good as was imagined. On a personal level, the Mission allowed us to see that living and working in Africa is vastly different from holidaying there once or twice a year. However, rather than put me off it only hardened my resolve to continue championing the cause of social and economic regeneration in Africa. It also reaffirmed my belief that the only way to pull our continent out of poverty is through a thriving private sector, sustainable enterprise development and us as individuals, creating one job at a time. “

Sylvia Arthur is a journalist and publisher of What’s On Ghana™ magazine – www.whatsonghana.com. For more information about the AFFORD SEEDA (Supporting Entrepreneurs and Enterprise Development in Africa) programme log onto www.afford-uk.org

The views expressed here are her own and should not be construed as representative of the views of the AFFORD SEEDA programme organisers

Brimming with vision, passion, determination and intellect, Stephen Larkin is the quintessential picture of an entrepreneur. An afternoon in Stephen’s company is an intense experience that takes you through a whirlwind of figures, statistics,high-octane intellectuals and sure sense of someone who is destined for great success.

Image Stephen is the Managing Director of Acqumine, an industrial IT corporate solutions provider. He is also a South African who chose to return home from a life in London 2 years ago to help a friend with an IT business.

Describing himself as ‘a jaded 30-something’, Stephen graduated in Economics and went on to work as a Financial Analyst. An accountant by training, he went to the UK and gained international experience with Unilever and British Airways. He later joined General Electric where he took the opportunity to develop some of his many business intelligence ideas, providing his employer with huge cost savings as a result.


Stephen’s business partner, Acqumine’s COO Fuzi, is by contrast, a creative personality with a pragmatic edge, turning concepts into action and – in her words – ‘getting things done’. A graduate of Cape Town University, Fuzi left South Africa for London at Stephen’s instigation, only returning after 7 years in 2006 to work with him in implementing the Acqumine vision.

The early days of self-employment were stressful and difficult for Stephen and he is keen to emphasise when talking to me “the incredible amount of blood/sweat/tears needed to make a business venture work”. In June, the company moved to new premises and adopted a new business structure, alongside a team of partners and advisors with an impressive range of business and intellectual credentials. The company has developed a specialised technology, which is more about engineering than I.T. and, as Fuzi says, “This has meant that we have had to learn about new technology and new customers in a country that has changed fundamentally from what we both knew.”

Running a business is not easy and Stephen admits that the CEO role can be uncomfortable. “Doing this is not for those who want to be comfortable,” he points out. “For those who want to do something special, though, it’s the way.”

South Africa’s BBBEE (Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment) centres on a scorecard framework that requires organisations with 50 or more employees to report upon. One of the implications of BBBEE relates to a company’s procurement practices with additional points being scored for procurement from empowered companies and from small businesses. The South African Government’s empowerment strategy gives small enterprises like Acqumine excellent access to $60 billion of South African contracts.

Acqumine is the mining division of Ilali – the Xhosa word for ‘village’ – Holdings and is focused on providing technology for the mining sector that enables the huge financial investment in mining equipment to be better utilised; enabling operators to be more productive, safer and more efficient and increasing vehicle health and productivity.

Africa is the growth area for mining in the world, says Stephen. “11 of the top 15 mining companies in the world are South African, have South African operations or see it as a fast growing area. Africa is a growth area for mining in the world.”

Developing World-Class Technology

Given that they have managed to sign up the three biggest mining companies in the world in the 24 months since starting up and “cracked the biggest problem in blasting”, the reason for Stephen’s optimism is not hard to find. “This is why South Africa is so exciting,” he says. “What an opportunity for a business start-up! We have an empowering opportunity and the skills to become the laboratory for the developing world and to test leading edge technology.”

To create world-class technology, says Stephen, you need demanding customers, cash (because you are going to make mistakes) and people. “There are three types of people that you need; the brilliant graduate who doesn’t know the rules, the ’30-something’s’ who have international exposure, are bright but also understand the young ones, and a pool of mature, experienced talent. In South Africa, there is a fabulous base of talent available.”

To create a world-class company, you also need a product. “57% of coal is underground,” says Stephen. “97% of gold and 93% of platinum is underground. What we’ve developed is the world’s first economically viable broadband wireless connectivity equipment that works for up to 15 km underground. The impact that this will make on efficiency is amazing.” For the layman, what this product does is to provide a technology that is accessible and usable by the 57% of South African mineworkers who have limited literacy skills through an icon driven touch screen interface that Stephen says “transcends language and literacy.” Through Acqumine’s technology, operators will have access to software that will track productivity and align productivity and performance with reward and teamwork.

The benefits to Acqumine’s customers are significant. Mining is a notoriously dangerous industry and accidents and fatalities not only affect staff but also impact on turnover and lost production. “Safety is a cost issue. In South Africa each fatality costs US$4.5 million in lost production,” says Stephen. “In 2004 there were 244 lives lost in South African mine accidents, a cost of $1.1 billion or 6% of turnover or 3% of profit.”

Stephen describes his management team as ‘star-studded’ and a quick glance through the names and profiles proves he is not exaggerating. The team includes industry experts, development experts, top engineers with pedigrees from some of the world’s leading business schools, innovators and engineers. The team, which is based around South Africa, also includes a Mozambiquan and a Tanzanian innovation engineer. Stephen’s strength as an accountant helps him market the technology developed by this team to an industry that can fairly be described as conservative and slow to implement change.

The Role of Enterprise in South Africa

Stephen is convinced that South African skills brought back into South Africa will make a transformational difference to the country and his key frustration revolves around the need to persuade people to move away from comparing absolute salary levels with those in the West. “It has to be about looking at the natural advantages that South Africa offers and creating a system where someone is acting in their economic interest to come back home.” In the global battle of skills and the draw of countries like the USA for entrepreneurs and technicians – according to the Economist, 57% of people who go the USA stay there - South Africa has a challenge in trying to compete.

Promoting entrepreneurship is where Stephen sees the opportunity for his country. “Two-thirds of jobs created in an economy are created by new businesses,” he says. “The way we need to crack this is to create an entrepreneurial culture. We are extremely well educated in South Africa. As we go overseas and do well there, how can we create a mechanism here for people to come back?”

South Africa and Africa are in what Stephen describes as ‘an unusual macro-economic situation.’ “In 2015 the continent will be supplying about 25% of US oil which translates to $50 billion of inflow to Africa,” he says. “We need soft money to take innovative risks and we need entrepreneurs. We need great people and South Africa has one million people overseas.”

Stephen likens South Africa to a laboratory for the developing world; a place where products can be developed specifically for the developing world. Attracting back some of its technicians from overseas is critical. The informal nature of recruitment makes it even more difficult for the South African abroad. According to Stephen, 78% of jobs in South Africa are not advertised, making it difficult to identify opportunities, even through family networks. The increasing number of jobs that come under the affirmative action category reduces the pool of non-affirmative action jobs even further.

“We need an infrastructure to encourage return and entrepreneurship,” suggests Stephen. “Even those not wanting to return can help drive business here. India’s outsourcing industry has been largely led by its diaspora as a huge external marketing force.”

An Incredibly Aspirational and Optimistic Country

Creating a successful business is not an easy task and there are particular constraints that new businesses face in the African context that would not exist for entrepreneurs in the West. While he always had the vision, Stephen says he could never have predicted two years ago that he would be where is today.

Cash flow problems and threatened financial crises dogged his early years back home and his backers – former schoolmates and friends – funded his initial efforts because they believed in him. “These aren’t people who understand what you are doing, but trust you to do it,” he says.

When I ask Stephen if he had ever looked back, he replies without hesitation, “yes - big time!” That said, Stephen is looking firmly forward and over the hurdles. The work that Acqumine is doing is, he says, “the crown jewel for Africa and I can’t afford to let it fail.”

The business has now been restructured and, with Fuzi and other Black South African expertise, the company is now empowered. The Acqumine story could not work without her – an illustration of the new South African story. “The person who is largely making it happen is a charismatic Black woman,” says Stephen.

With entrepreneurs like Stephen Larkin, South Africa’s potential is unlimited. For, as Stephen says, “South Africa is an incredibly aspirational and optimistic country with people who have a plan to make it better. The future looks bright.”

Image“Many believe that beauty is just about wearing nice clothes, hair, shoes and make up. Indeed those things help the appearance, but just like money they also can hold us back if it applied incorrectly,” says Yana Johnson, founder and owner of the award winning cosmetics brand, Yana Cosmetics™.

“In a time when the retail market has demonstrated its ability to yoyo, the health and beauty sector has begun its boom. Not just for women. Men’s grooming is on the increase and with iconic sports personalities, singers and actors; our shopping habits can be influenced by what we see.”

With this in mind, Yana Johnson was inspired to create a brand of cosmetics that offer premium quality at an affordable price. Yana Cosmetics is only independent cosmetics brand in the UK and has won five awards for business, including The Black Enterprise Awards, the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners and the Mahogany Brides Award. Yana’s successes in categories such as Entrepreneur of the Year and Most Creative business and Health & Beauty Company of the Year underline the quality and innovation of her products.

Creating a Brand

Arguably, the biggest influence in advertising today is the urban culture; the mix of young people from many races merging into one unique consumer-led market. Understanding the market has been key to Yana’s success in launching her enterprise.

“The urban community sport the latest must-haves,” Yana notes. “Anything worn by an icon or that is iconic in its design endorsement will have the ability to draw a mass market to its purchasing demands, even if many of them have been regurgitated from yesteryear.”

Beauty is not without its similarities, she argues. “Ads frequently show split second transformations of eyelashes from short to long, and thick, stick-like models (still) and perfect anatomies with every programming opportunity, regardless of the audience.”

Building a Beautiful Enterprise

However, being beautiful is not simply about what you can see, says Yana. With a heritage that blends a varied mix of cultures including Arawak Indian and Jamaican, Yana is both business-minded and spiritual.

“The trouble with being beautiful is that many of us do not realise our potential,” admits Yana. “I have a strong Christian faith that not only influences my outlook on life but is also the backbone of my corporate policies, ethics and mission statement. Without my principles, I have no place to call my practice an excellent one. I don’t always feel beautiful, but I always feel loved and happy. I am a musical person and through music, I am fed daily with the gospel and with melodies that are as fresh as a sunny day.”

Yana acknowledges that keeping focused on your goals is critical for any entrepreneur who is building a business.

“I have been mentored to recognise that being a visionary means that often you have to be happy to be the only one with that vision and to keep on going regardless of what the circumstance looks like, or who says what!” she says. “I have a humble approach to my work and obedience to the spirit that guides me.”

ImageHelping people to fulfil their potential for beauty is a rewarding experience for Yana. “My day to day activities mean meeting all types of people and having a positive effect on them. People come to me to look good or feel good. I have to always be ready to give, my time, energy and warmth.”

While many would find the task daunting, Yana relishes the challenge of enhancing the natural beauty of those who approach her.

“Being a steward of people’s self-worth is a huge responsibility. My greatest achievement is when our staff works together under our vision to reach out to people in the way that I have taught them. You see biblical principals bear fruit through the feelings of happy clients and staff, good sales and prosperity. Even our non-Christian staff members are positively affected by my managerial style and they too grow.”

Giving Back

Yana is a strong believer in sharing what she has learned from others.

Image“Mentoring is another hat I wear to help give direction to our staff and others. Being a natural leader, I find it easy to identify a person’s strength and encourage them to develop”, she says

Yana’s cosmetics offer a special touch by blending a foundation that matches the skin colour exactly, while offering a free consultation to a new client. “If you have had no previous experience of wearing make up, we can provide a 1-to-1 session to take a client through the steps of how to get the look they desire. Alternatively, our make up DVD also shows how to apply make up properly and offers many more beauty tips.”

Men are not forgotten and Yana has developed the Menswear Grooming brand to help men with their shaving and grooming needs of men.

More than Skin Deep

Yana’s business is bearing the fruit of her hard work and her company is now based in Allders, one of Croydon’s leading department stores, with two new locations planned in 2007.

However, her years in the beauty business have taught Yana that most people are looking for more than a physical transformation.

“Many believe that beauty is just about wearing nice clothes, hair, shoes and make up,” she says. “Indeed those things help the appearance, but just like money they also can hold us back if it applied incorrectly. I work with celebrities, corporate and non-corporate types every day and have found that fundamentally we all have the same need; to be loved, accepted and to feel confident.”

For more information about Yana Cosmetics, visit www.yanacosmetics.com

ImageFor over 25 years, Forever Living Products has been a phenomenal success in the natural healthcare sector. A multi-billion dollar company operating in over 100 countries, FOREVER is the world’s largest grower, manufacturer and distributor of aloe vera. With over 7 million distributors worldwide, the organisation also continues to generate opportunities for business entrepreneurs across Africa.


Jayne Leach had worked in large farm estate management for 20 years, until the day she realised that in spite of working hard to make someone else a lot of money, she was still financially stretched.

“It was time to look at running my own business,” she says.  “Then a good friend called, talking about a remarkable company called Forever Living Products, a then $639 million (now over $2 billion) worldwide operation trading in the massive health and nutrition market.”

Intrigued and excited about the potential, Jane got happily involved in August 1993 and started to learn the simple business building cycle. “The amazing products quickly helped my son’s long standing skin and respiratory problem, and I was hooked!” she says.  “Within 3 years, I was earning in excess of £110,000 a year, driving a brand new Mercedes, and paying my 2 son’s school fees – life was very good.”

Another 10 years on, Jayne’s business extends into 36 countries worldwide.  Now the owner of a stunning country estate complete with 2 beautiful homes, a further home in the South of France and investment properties, Jayne has also succeed in privately educating her children.

The business that has given Jayne her lifestyle is one that is set to give many Africans the chance to also achieve the same.

Changing Lives

Richard Ingleby is one of the driving forces behind the company’s expansion across Africa.  Travelling across Africa after graduating, Richard abandoned plans to qualify as a lawyer and instead looked for an opportunity to combine his interest in business with his love of the African continent.

“Looking at some of the lifestyle of my friends who, by this time had progressed in their chosen professional careers, I knew that was not for me,” says Richard. “They all seemed to be rushing to work, hardly taking any holidays and not being paid what they were really worth.”

A phone call from a friend about Forever Living products presented Richard with the chance to put his ideas into practice.  “What appealed to me about the opportunity was that I could fit it in and around my job and there was no real monetary investment when compared to traditional businesses or franchise operations. I felt it was worth the time and energy, just in case what they said was true!”

ImageWith little real business experience and even less knowledge about the company’s product range, Richard, who had just moved to London and had few contacts, was relieved to find that the organisation offered all the support he needed.

“I found massive support from the group I was a part of and from the couple who introduced me. They took the time and showed patience, in teaching me the basics of what we do. They helped to raise my confidence levels.”

Richard managed to build a business around his job to a sufficient level of success that enabled him to leave his employment after just 10 months. It was not always plain sailing, as he admits.  “Sure there were ‘ups’ and ‘downs.’ Sure, it required work and effort, but anything worth doing requires effort doesn’t it?”

Now five years on, Richard has built a business that spans around the world, giving him an income from over 12 countries, many of them in Africa where he has supported the growth and development of Forever Living entrepreneurs like himself.  

While his success has afforded him the chance to own a luxury apartment in London, Richard stresses that what he loves about his job is the freedom it gives him to structure his life as he chooses.

“What is most important is the flexibility it gives for travel. I am now in the process of moving to Africa, a continent I fell in love with, and will be splitting my time between living in London and in South Africa,” he says.  “I also love the fact that I work with many from the African community in the UK, helping them gain the financial independence they require in addition to helping them support their extended family back home along the way.”

Building Success across Africa

Forever Living Products has built the largest distribution centre outside of America in Africa, and this where the company sees its biggest growth happening. “We have already made a huge difference to many people’s lifestyles across Africa, both in terms of health and wealth,” says Richard. “Millionaires will be made in Africa through what we do and many others will achieve the financial independence they require that would not have been possible without such an opportunity.”

{mosimage}Doctors Maria and Clement Idigo live very busy lives. They have a large medical clinic in Nigeria, as well as running a thriving school. You would think that with their commitment to these two projects, they would already have enough to do.

6 years ago, with 4 children in UK private schools, they realised that paying the fees was getting harder and harder, and they looked around for something else to add on to their already hectic schedules. Good fortune came their way when they came across Forever Living Products. At first sight, Maria admits that she didn’t understand the potential of Forever, but after further investigation and several meetings, she got happily involved.

Within just a few short months, they were making a substantial income – enough to pay for one child’s school fees. Seeing the potential, she started to give a little more time to the business.

Over the past 6 years, she has built a business that has not only helped many other people achieve their dreams and goals, but also paid for the education of all four children, the purchase of a ‘second home’ in the UK, nice cars, and travel around the world with Forever.

Now Maria says, “You need to look at the business of Forever, because if I can do it, so can others. It is truly life-changing, and opportunities like this don’t come along very often”.

African Diaspora Success

Richard Ingleby’s team in the UK has also seen some African superstars return their skills and enterprise back to Africa from Europe.  Philomena Guandai, a young lawyer who had been practising in England, joined the Forever Living team while still keeping her legal commitments. 

“Within 14 months, Philomena had achieved some of the major incentives on offer, such as the Car Programme and Holiday Incentives,” explains Richard. “Within 16 months she gave her job up and less than three years later, she has now moved back to Kenya where she is successfully building a huge business across East Africa - whilst still generating a good pound income in the UK too!”

Philomena’s story is not unique and Richard Ingleby is always on the lookout for people in and outside Africa with the enthusiasm and flair to join his team.

“We have countless success stories and we have a unique system that has created some of the top earners in Africa.”

For more information about opportunities with Forever Living Products, +44 (0) 208338 1986 / 0044(0)7736160267 or email richard@forever-inspired.com

Planning for Sustainable Small Businesses in Africa


Image‘Planning and Managing your Business’ workshops run by Interims for Development are enabling recent returnees to Africa to develop their new businesses in a more structured and sustainable way.

Sponsored by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a leading international organisation working with migrants and governments to provide humane responses to migration challenges, the workshops have provided in-country support for refugees returning home to South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Through the IOM’s Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP), the organisation has assisted over 7,500 individuals and families with assisted return and reintegration assistance in the countries of return.

As part of the reintegration process, the workshops are providing returnees with access to training for setting up a small business; enabling participants to acquire the tools they need to rebuild their lives back in their countries of origin and to sustain their return on a long-term basis. Interims for Development has already successfully assisted the IOM with employment and entrepreneurial orientation and training for returnees to Zimbabwe, with highly positive feedback from both participants and IOM staff.

Small Business Development

‘Planning and Managing your Business’ is delivered to groups of returnees and the training workshops have, to date, been run in Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The two-day training programme covers a range of information and advice on self-employment – from setting up a business to developing a business idea and a basic business plan. Participants are also offered strategies for identifying sources of finance and resourcing and for promoting their businesses.


Across the countries, the workshops have given tools and information to help returnees with identifying transferable skills and reviewing their business ideas in a focused way. Delegates come from a wide ranging spectrum of businesses, from welding to hairdressing, from manufacturers of school uniforms to Internet cafes and photocopy services. The workshops have been structured to be informal and highly participative, allowing those present to share ideas and experiences with people in a comparable situation.


Asking the Key Questions

Dorothy Adebanjo, Interims for Development’s Zimbabwe-based Training Consultant, has led the delivery of the workshops across the three countries.

“It doesn’t matter where you are; the principles and basics of doing business are the same,” she says. “In our experience, planning and managing are the same across the countries we have been working in. The key difference we have noted is that in some places where there is more competition, business owners have to really work hard on financial management and competitor analysis. In Zimbabwe and South Africa, we found a good balance of the other aspects but performing regular SWOT analyses is more and more important as competition increases.”

One critical aspect of the workshop is the self-analysis undertaken by participants who are faced with answering key questions about their capacity and temperament in relation to self-employment. Adebanjo found that across the board, planning was critical at the early stages of business development and people should not underestimate the level of planning needed and an understanding of their own skills.

Across the countries, the workshops have given the entrepreneurs tools and information to help with identifying transferable skills and reviewing their business ideas in a focused way.

“This has been to me the most revealing thing – working with people to look at their own skills and to assess what they are good at and not so good at. By focusing on identifying their transferable skills and addressing the factors for self-employment, participants are able to clarify the strengths that they are bringing to running their own business as well as shortcomings that they need to address,” says Adebanjo. “In this way, when they employ people, they get those with the skills they themselves lack for balance.”

In the initial stages, participants complete a Business Plan form which is brought into the training and forms a central point of referral as the training workshop progresses, she adds. “Throughout the training, participants are able to amend the form as they gain increased information. They are able during each session to gain a deeper understanding and therefore strengthen their plans so that the document becomes a ‘live’ document for them to constantly refer to and amend as necessary.”

Some of the participants have not had the benefit of any formal training in how to plan and manage their businesses, says Adebanjo. “Working together in this way, using individual working, buzz groups and plenary sessions, they are able to share experiences with their colleagues throughout the two days and to gain answers to the majority of their fears/threats.”

Refining the Business Plan

These entrepreneurial skills and employment skills programme will enable the IOM to provide returnees with a broad range of training to assist with the creation of sustainable businesses through a clear understanding of business planning and management.

“The delegates are able to refine their business plans, and with a deeper understanding of the details of how to cost their products, calculate their gross and net profits. They are able to understand the importance of marketing their products and how to gather information on their competitors. This gave them an in-depth insight into the manner in which they can run their business in order to make a profit,” says Adebanjo.

The workshop participants are also trained in financial management skills, a critical area in which many individuals have no formal training or qualification. Through active discussions, participants share their experiences and opinions and examine in depth direct and indirect costs and the importance of running their business ethically at a time of increased competition for a relatively small market, as well as other external circumstances such as high inflation.

A Whole New Way of Living

“The business person has to come to terms with and embrace a whole new way of living,” says Adebanjo. “The participants are able to reflect and assess their understanding of the implications of having to work differently from those in employment.”

With all the inherent risks involved in running a business, these training workshops are equipping small business owners with the basic skills required at a time when competition is at higher levels in many African countries than ever before.

“The delegates are able, by the close of the training workshop, to define their business ideas clearly and concisely,” says Adebanjo. “They are able to take stock and reflect on their various skills and to look at themselves critically, thereby identifying their strengths as well as their weaknesses.”

The training workshops are reinforcing the importance for business men and women to regularize their businesses, to learn how to compete effectively and to put the funds that they have to good use, she adds. “All aspects of the course are, I would say, of equal importance. What we found was that the earlier participants came on the course, the more beneficial the course was in increasing their awareness of the importance of planning in self-employment.”

Interims for Development is a UK based company providing a range of Human Resources, Training, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Capacity Building services in Africa and in the UK. www.Interimsfd.com
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