Entrepreneurship opportunities in the developing world

In his famous TED talk “Plutocrats, Pitchforks are coming”, the billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer says “Capitalism works works because it awards problem solvers”. The system incentivizes creating solutions to a society’s problems.

There’s no reason to believe problem solving in the third-world countries doesn’t follow the same principle. The challenges these countries face are not different from those more advanced countries once faced in the past.  The services and commodities we often enjoy in developed countries were not always there. They were created by people who saw the need for solution to existing problems, and believed they could profit from their creations.  Developing the third-world countries won’t be any different.

To push the developing world forward, more focus need to be placed on the potential financial incentives solving the problems offers, rather than the problems themselves. Learn to look at the glass as being half full, rather than half empty.  According to a report released by the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in 2014, between 2006 and 2011, the average rate of return on foreign direct investment in challenged economies was as high as 14.5%. That is more than two times the global average of 6.2%.

Entrepreneurs who adapt to the developing world

It would be inaccurate to say that someone can just start a business in a third-world country and start making a profit.  Due to lack of infrastructure, an entrepreneur in a developing country has to be creative to be successful. The founder of Irokotv in Nigeria, Jason Njoku, said when he started the company, he quickly realized that he had to adapt to the way of doing business in Nigeria to be successful.  It is now estimated that Irokotv is worth north of $30 million.

Those ahead of the curve

About 5 years ago, a Haitian-American family, while on a visit in Haitian, came to the conclusion that eating fish in Haiti is somewhat a luxury.  The local catch is expensive, and fish the average population can afford is usually imported from the Dominican Republic or other nearby countries.  They decided to start an aquatic farm to raise hormoneless tilapia to sell on the local Haitian market. They started Taino Aqua Ferme.  Now the farm has an annual production of more than 300 tons of fish made available to the Haitian fish market.

In October 2014, Chris Kwekowe, a 23 year old computer science graduate from Lagos, Nigeria turned down a high paying software engineer position at Microsoft to start Slatecube.  The startup specializes in training and internship placement for Nigerian university graduates.  According to surveys, of the annual graduates in Nigeria about 45 percent remain unemployed. The main reasons employers often reject graduates is for lack of professional skills; critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and decision-making.

Slatecube offers virtual internships in courses ranging from corporate finance to anger management. Once a candidate completes a course in their chosen discipline, he/she is paired with a company for a virtual internship. Slatecube has worked with companies such as Cisco and accounting firm Grant Thornton.

Time to adjust our view of the developing world

When I left Haiti in 2000, to make an international call, one had to go to what we then called a Teleko (a government-owned communication center) near by, wait in line until it was your turn to use the booth to make the call.  But now people can call their loved ones, living overseas, from different corners in the country while plotting their lands.

Now something happens on one continent, it impacts the social, economic and political dynamics of the entire globe for months, even years to come.  People are running multi-million dollar businesses from their laptop while traveling from one place to the next. Technology is developing and changing our cultures at rates we can barely keep up with

What a lot of us are failing to realize is that the world has gotten a hell lot smaller and more connected than ever before.  Now is the time to revise our view of the underdeveloped economies, to stop seeing them as being stuck in time. But rather think of them as countries with economic opportunities that can be leveraged using our current technological and economic advantages.  

This is how we push these countries forward. This is how we push the world forward.

 

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Joanes Legiste

My name is Joe