9 of the Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa

Africa is home to some of the most exciting startup hubs in the entire world. The continent has taken the global technology sector by storm with an impressive number of creative ideas and brilliant minds. Recently, Forbes published an article detailing the accomplishments of some of the most promising young business leaders in Africa. The article speaks to the rapidly growing potential of the entire content. Following are a few of the entrepreneurs that the article highlighted for their innovative ideas, as well as some other worthy additions to the list:

  1. Kosi Yankey of Ghana

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu8oHpfym88

Working with the Business Development Sector of Engineers Without Borders, Kosi Yankey has spearheaded the creation of agribusiness training programs for people around the continent through unique Mobile Business Clinics. She serves as the chief executive officer of Nuba Foods and Commodities, a business that she founded to bridge major gaps between farmers and industry in West Africa. The company sources raw materials from small farmers and supplies them to area industries. In addition, Ms. Yankey is involved in the development of microfinance through banking institutions based in the United Kingdom and the United States.

  1. Uche Pedro of Nigeria

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogP2T-8IScg

The chief executive officer of Bellanaija, Uche Pedro rose to prominence with a blog that she created in 2006. The blog, which draws more than 10 million page views each month, has solidified her position as the most influential blogger in Nigeria. She has used her influence to develop Ballanaija into a leading fashion, lifestyle, and entertainment blog.

  1. Tom Osborn of Kenya

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRlilVf8T_s

Many entrepreneurs in Africa have turned to online technology to launch their businesses, but Tom Osborn instead chose to focus on sustainability. He founded the company GreenChar, which engineers charcoal briquettes for burning from agricultural waste for cleaner stoves. Mr. Osborn established his company with less than $1,000 in startup capital. GreenChar has since received more than $100,000 in philanthropic and investor support for a product that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. In the near future, the company plans to expand its distribution channels to reach nearly 7 million customers. Osborn, who was a finalist for GMin Innovate Kenya in 2013, is currently an Echoing Green fellow.

  1. Doug Hoernle of South Africa

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmaNPiGfLCg

Doug Hoernle founded Rethink Education, which has revolutionized the lives of many high school students in South Africa. The company focuses on creating and distribution high-quality math and science content. To date, Rethink Education has reached more than 500,000 South Africans. Mr. Hoernle and his team plan to bring the curriculum to Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria in the near future.

  1. Julius Shirima of Tanzania

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HfBYyuBDFE

At the age of just 25, Julius Shirima leads the micro-venture capital fund Darecha in Tanzania while also working toward his high school diploma. Darecha works with young, innovative thinkers to help them translate business ideas into profitable ventures. Mr. Shirima aims to connect Tanzanian entrepreneurs with both financing and business training. The Darecha network, which includes more than 5,000 people, has witnessed the launch of several successful businesses. Shirima won the Commonwealth Youth Award in Excellence in Development Work in early 2015.

  1. Catherine Mahugu of Kenya

 Understanding the importance of economic empowerment for artisans, Catherine Mahugu co-founded Soko, an online platform for handcrafted fashion accessories for artists around the world. The platform, which facilitates direct purchases, earned $700,000 in investment capital from an investment firm based in Dubai. At Soko, Mahugu leads initiatives to increase the scalability of the product and implement novel technological solutions. She is an International Telecom Union Young Innovators fellow.

  1. Best Ayiorwoth of Uganda

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORxeZ8pC5DQ

At 19, Best Ayiorwoth founded Girls Power Micro-Lending Organization, a microfinance company that focuses on helping mothers and their daughters. The organization, which offers small monthly loans to women in northern Uganda, is quickly expanding. As a stipulation of their support, women must send their daughters to school. Over the course of only three years in operation, the organization has helped hundreds of women to start and grow their own businesses. The year after founding the organization, Ayiorwoth won $25,000 as the recipient of the Anzisha Prize in support of her efforts.

  1. Jean Bosco Nzeyimana of Rwanda

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNf9l-Ipxas

The founder of Habona Ltd., Jean Bosco Nzeyimana engineers ecologically sustainable fertilizers and biomass briquettes. He received the National YouthConnekt Young Innovator award last year that included a prize of more than $4,000. In addition, he has won the African Innovation Prize and the INDIAFRICA Business Venture contest. With a recent loan from a British investor, Nzeyimana is close to opening a biogas production center.

  1. Abiola Olaniran of Nigeria

Abiola Olaniran founded Gamsole, a Nigeria-based gaming company that has received backing from the 88mph seed fund. In only three years of operation, the company has developed games with more than 9 million downloads from local and international customers. Gamsole primarily develops games for Windows-based smart phones. Some of the company’s most popular games include Timberman, Toy Rush, and Toon Jump.

3 Popular Accounting Software Solutions for Startups

One of the most crucial steps in establishing good accounting practices at a startup is researching bookkeeping systems and adopting the best one for the company’s needs. While not all companies turn to software solutions for their bookkeeping, using technology can be a cost-effective and efficient way of completing necessary accounting processes. A wide range of different products are available to entrepreneurs, whether they work in Africa or other areas of the world. Deciding on a specific product can be difficult, but the following list points to some of the most popular choices and highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Before reviewing this list, however, it’s important for entrepreneurs to consider a few points that will help them identify their particular needs and choose the software solution that works best for them. Startup leaders need to realistically assess their experience with accounting and that of their team, because this will determine what functions are necessary. The complexity of the company’s revenue flow and transactions can also make one software solution more attractive than another. With these considerations in mind, entrepreneurs are in a better position to evaluate the following options.

  1. Quickbooks: One of the oldest and perhaps the most common option is Quickbooks, an affordable solution that offers an impressive array of features. Several different versions of Quickbooks are available, including desktop variations and a stripped-down, cloud-based option. For startups, the online option may be the best, as it allows the company to start with the basic product and then add functions as they need them. While the basic cloud version does not come with bill-paying or payroll functions, adding these options only slightly increases the monthly subscription rate. In this regard, the solution is very scalable.

Perhaps that most significant downside to Quickbooks is the steep learning curve. People with no exposure to accounting may struggle to use the program and should think about taking a class or hiring an employee with bookkeeping experience. Once people learn to use Quickbooks, they usually agree that it is fairly straightforward, but the software demands a considerable upfront investment in time and energy. On the other hand, the software integrates with a wide range of other applications that a company may already use, which can simplify accounting processes enormously.

  1. Wave Accounting: Quickly growing in popularity, Wave is a free, cloud-based program that offers straightforward accounting tools that are easy to understand and use. The software provides bookkeeping, double-entry accounting, and journal entries while connecting directly to bank accounts for automatic transaction data-sharing. However, Wave works best for very small organizations that consist of fewer than 10 employees. Thus, it’s excellent for independent contractors or sole proprietors, but startups may need to invest in a different system as their operations grow. Moving from Wave to another solution can also create a number of headaches, so it may make sense to start with a different solution from the very beginning to avoid any need for a transition.

The free version of Wave features advertisements that may annoy some people or disrupt workflow. However, it’s possible to pay to obtain additional features and to remove the ads altogether. Wave also offers direct customer service for additional fees.

  1. Xero: Another cloud-based solution, Xero has customized its services to match the particular accounting needs of small- to mid-sized businesses. Notably, the company offers an application for smartphones that provides optimal mobility and the ability to capture data in real time. Companies that struggle to keep up with their books may benefit from the product’s intuitive design and easy-to-use features. Despite the fact that it is a relatively new solution, Xero integrates with various third-party payroll, invoicing, and point-of-sale systems, much like Quickbooks, yet has a smaller price tag. In addition, its mobile invoicing capabilities could prove especially important for African entrepreneurs.

Xero also has a significantly smaller learning curve when compared to Quickbooks, largely due to its lean, pared-down interface, but entrepreneurs may lose out on some of the capabilities built into Quickbooks. While these functions may not seem important during the early stages of a business, they could have a major impact on operations later on and might prompt a switch. Of course, Xero may address these shortcomings in future iterations to make the product more versatile. Less than 10 years old, Xero has already emerged as an industry leader and has challenged Quickbooks’ number-one position in some markets.

Other Solutions Available

These three options are far from the only choices available to entrepreneurs. A few other options include FreshBooks, a cloud-based solution available on a smartphone app that caters to non-accountants; and Zoho Books, a full-featured solution designed specifically for small businesses. There’s also Intacct, which offers the ability to generate several types of reports to provide different views into a company’s finances. Startups with larger sales teams should look into Yendo, which combines accounting features with customer relationship management (CRM) functions.

3 Trends Bolstering Entrepreneurship in Africa

Africa has emerged as one of the most exciting entrepreneurial markets in the world. Nations across the continent have shown great promise with revolutionary products tailored to their own markets. In July, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit was held in Africa, a testament to the continent’s emerging importance on the international stage. Entrepreneurial hubs have arisen in East Africa, West Africa, and South Africa. African entrepreneurship has its own unique flavor that focuses less on driving forward with major technological revolutions and more on tackling and alleviating the social issues faced by large groups of African people. Entrepreneurship continues to grow in Africa, and it is largely being bolstered by the following three trends:

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  1. The growing popularity of mobile money. Traditional banking in Africa has largely been eclipsed by mobile money, which began in Kenya under the name M-PESA. According to estimates, about 70 percent of adults in Kenya use M-PESA. In fact, about a quarter of Kenya’s entire gross national product flows through mobile technology. Mobile payments have made transactions more secure and conducting business significantly safer. Entrepreneurs no longer need to carry large quantities of cash. Instead, they can make and receive payments with the click of a button, which keeps their income more secure.

In the past year, M-PESA has begun to grow exponentially across borders as more telephone companies team up to offer the service. In 2014, $48 billion was sent in Africa through mobile money apps. Companies such as Vodafone Group and MTN Group have joined forces for the first time in history to facilitate cross-border money exchanges and to expand access to M-PESA throughout Africa. As the technology becomes more widely accessible, an increasing number of individuals will purchase cell phones, which double as a connection to the Internet.

The growth of mobile money options offers entrepreneurs in rural areas or those who do not have access to reliable traditional banks with a new payment alternative. The ability to make payments across borders will open even more doors for Africa’s small businesses.

  1. logo_mvoiceIncreased use of crowdsourcing. The growing connectivity afforded by cell phones has caused many radical changes in African nations. Apps like MajiVoice.com and Ushahidi have created new forms of infrastructure and brought communities closer together. MajiVoice.com allows individuals to report water service delivery problems from anywhere using SMS. Once issues are reported, water service companies receive notifications so that they can quickly respond to the issue. If problems go unaddressed, they are escalated to the Minister for Water in Kenya. Ushahidi is a platform used by many non-governmental agencies to keep communities informed and connected.

Hundreds of millions of people in Africa have access to cell phones, which makes crowdsourcing a powerful tool. Tanzania used an app based on the Ushahidi platform to crowdsource malpractice information during elections. This sort of app demands a much higher level of transparency from governments and empowers people to ensure that their elected officials are looking out for their best interests. Government transparency is extremely important for the future of entrepreneurship. When individuals create a company, they need to know that they will have certain governmental protections and that those protections are enforceable.

Crowdsourcing may also have a direct role in entrepreneurship through crowdfunding and micro-investments. When linked to mobile money capabilities, crowdsourcing has the ability to draw funding from the community. In addition, entrepreneurs and investors can use crowdsourcing platforms to identify community needs to address through their projects.

  1. internet-148635_1280Governmental focus on improving infrastructure. In recent years, many African governments have placed considerable emphasis on development technology infrastructure, especially Internet access. For example, Kenya invested in sub-marine fiber optic cables to significantly reduce the cost of Internet access. Through this initiative and other improvements, Kenya increased Internet access five-fold in just five years. As of 2013, half of all Kenyans had reliable Internet access.

Nigeria has also made major investments in infrastructure in recent years in an attempt to boost its ability to innovate in the technology field. A report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted that Nigeria would have the 13th largest economy in the world by 2050, largely due to its recent and continued investment in technology infrastructure. The Nigerian people have some of the most promising and revolutionary ideas of anyone else in the world, yet not all of them have access to the technologies they need to make their ideas a reality. The report predicts that Nigeria will pull ahead of South Africa and Kenya in terms of development once a more complete infrastructure is in place.

In many African countries, infrastructure still has a long way to go, from building better electrical systems to constructing more cellular towers. The growing emphasis on expanding infrastructure points to an increasing number of opportunities for entrepreneurs in the coming years. The African Development Bank even proposed a pan-African cloud-computing network that would create an IT infrastructure to fuel a new wave of startups around the continent and expand opportunities into cities and countries where few options currently exist.

7 Common Bookkeeping Mistakes Among Startups

One of the most important factors for continued viability for a startup in Africa, as well as other areas of the world, is excellent accounting practices. Great accounting practices depend on excellent bookkeeping. Startups should decide in their earliest stages how to approach bookkeeping and ensure that they continue to keep their books up to date. Bookkeeping allows companies to balance incoming and outgoing funds quickly and to analyze where they may be spending money unnecessarily. Even with a proactive approach to bookkeeping, mistakes are common. Following are some of the most common mistakes made by African startups and entrepreneurs in other countries around the world:

  1. folder-98462_1280Not creating or following a filing system. Companies need to quickly find purchase invoices and other financial documents. In a company’s early stages, it may seem easy to keep track of these documents without a set system, but this approach will quickly become overwhelming. For purchase invoices, entrepreneurs should keep paid and unpaid documents separate in order to avoid missing payments, and they should remain diligent about immediately moving the invoice to the paid folder after payment. Orders should be filed alphabetically according to the supplier’s name and then arranged by date so that people can quickly find any document.
  1. vault-154023_1280Not having a separate bank account. Individuals in the early stages of a startup frequently use their own account and only create a business account later on down the line. However, this approach can complicate taxes and makes it impossible to access a comprehensive financial record. As soon as an entrepreneur creates a name, a separate business account should be created in order to keep better track of money coming in and out of a business. In this way, accounting professionals can check the account against the company’s books to ensure that no discrepancies go unnoticed. Such discrepancies can have a range of consequences down the line.
  1. receipt-575750_1280Not keeping all purchase receipts. For larger purchases, it makes sense for business owners to keep this record. However, small purchases can also add up over time, and a failure to save these receipts can make accounting very difficult. Even when business owners account for these expenses on their books, they must still save the receipts to back up their books should an external or internal audit become necessary. Mistakes happen in bookkeeping, but saving your receipts means that discrepancies can be verified and corrected. Again, these receipts should be filed away according to a specific system, whether by date, company name, or both.
  1. Not instituting a system of checks and balances. A system of checks and balances helps to protect companies against theft and fraud. Larger corporations almost always have these sorts of systems in place, but small businesses owners sometimes remain unsure of how to implement them effectively. Multiple sets of eyes should look at a company’s finances and bookkeeping practices so that errors can be recognized quickly. Businesses that accept cash remain especially vulnerable to theft and fraud, making it especially important for these companies to create a system that verifies the amount of money received, recorded, and then deposited into a bank account. Daily reports can help flag discrepancies before they become irreconcilable.
  1. Not keeping all books up to date. When companies begin putting off their bookkeeping and believing that they will catch up later, they run into major issues. Companies need to remain diligent about entering information on the books immediately. This measure allows entrepreneurs to keep better track of potential issues and gives them more time to respond to problems. For example, imagine a situation in which several invoices come in on a Monday, but the company has not yet received some expected payments. When the books are up to date, a business owner knows to hold off on paying some of the bills until income is received. If the books are not regularly updated, a business owner risks overdrawing the account.
  1. euro-870757_1280Not taking the time to analyze financials. Bookkeeping is important because it creates a complete record of a company’s financial situation. Making this information useful requires analysis. Startups may feel like they do not have the time or resources necessary to complete such analyses, but this approach results in blind leadership. Through regular analysis, entrepreneurs have the information and feedback they need to help the company grow. This information shows which products or services generate the most money and reveals potential areas for cutting costs. Historical analyses also play an important role in creating budgets and financial forecasts, which can be used to attract new investors.
  1. Not investing in a consultant about bookkeeping. Few entrepreneurs have the accounting background necessary to create a flawless bookkeeping system from scratch. Typically, investing in a consultation will end up saving you money in the long run. When companies wait until they encounter problems to ask for help, they will ultimately pay more, as that professional sorts through practices to uncover the root of the issue. In the early stages of a company, a consultation will ensure that the business owner has adopted best practices and is set up for success. The consultation also builds a professional relationship should additional consulting be needed in the future.