Thanks for the mention. First, let me correct some assumptions here. Swifta started as a product company and died because we didn’t know how to scale. We became a service company because it was easier to scale services than products. Now we are back to being a product company or owning product companies which we can scale on the services backbone.
Back to the topic, Africa is hard. It is harder for you as a Nigerian. There is bad perception, there is animosity and there is just good old fear. I have encountered all on this journey. The Nigerian is very different from a lot of people in other countries and I had to learn from my good friend Paul Onwuanibe the founder of Landmark about scale. You get partners in each country. Keep it local. Sometimes you get good partners and sometimes you get bad ones.
The second problem is Africa. Africa is different. Africa is not your typical “Global” emerging market. We have so many markets with many different languages and quirks. My secret weapon initially was an assistant who was from Congo and Angola, who could speak 4 languages. We became a multilingual company from start. English is overrated in Africa and we keep having this perception that English speaking Africa is “Africa”.
Culture is also a major barrier. I live in Francophone Africa most of the time. Going there is like going back to a different era.
I have a thesis that most African expansions are failures because Africa is not one market. The successful expansions have not seen Africa as a market but rather they see a Global market for their products but are launching from Africa. Iroko is a good example.
I have a post in my drafts titled “Don’t build for Africa”. I will release it this weekend.