Why African Companies Play Local

Perhaps, it’s safe to say that NO African company WILL make the first ten most valuable Fortune 100 companies’ list. It may happen but not in our life time.  For now, the first ten are still the same players and they are:

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Apple, for instance, creates radical products.  Most people buy Apple products for one, two or all of these reasons: innovation and simplicity. These features stem from radical thinking. Their ad shows why they come up with groundbreaking products.

Fortune 100 usually produce products and services with their core at heart.

For example, Facebook’s mission is to make “the world more open and connected.” They are doing a good job at that. As at march 2017, Facebook boasted of 1.94 million monthly users.

In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action he argues that “People don’t buy WHAT you do but WHY you do it”. The premise of the book is that once you understand the why (beliefs) of what you are about to do then you’d gain not only the loyalty of your customers but also inspire them to stay with your company through thick and thin.

Ever wonder why people would buy an Apple iPhone 7 or  Smart Watch for any price? Your answer is as good as mine.

These companies disrupt status quo and change how the world works. How would the world be without the top ten companies on the Fortune 100 list? Now think about that for some seconds.

There’s not one African company in the fortune 100 list.

Why? Is that Africa lack innovators or thinkers ?

Africa has innovators and thinkers. The problem is that they they think too small and play for short term.  Vusi Thembekwayo reiterates the same point. To borrow Thembekwayo’s words, companies should start playing on a global scale and business as a marathon. For instance, a corner shop owner in Ibadan should think of how to expand and reach a consumer in China or New York.

African entrepreneurs must start thinking long term. Going into business solely for money is the wrong way to approach things. It behooves new entrepreneurs to study Sinek’s Golden Circle:


  1. Why – This is the core belief of the business. It’s why the business exists.

  2. How – This is how the business fulfills that core belief.

  3. What – This is what the company does to fulfil that core belief.

Is it safe to say that most African companies don’t understand why their business exists? The simple answer would be yes. Most companies start with WHAT and move to HOW without necessarily understanding their WHY.

Looking at the most valuable brands in Africa, you’d realise that most of these companies, at their core,  are profit driven.  There’s no plan to innovate or invent.

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Africa needs new [radical] companies and thinkers.  The present crop of African companies play local because most of the founders of the companies don’t aim to disrupt the status quo. For any African company to be in the Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurs and businessmen must start thinking of new ideas or innovations that would change not only Africa but the world.

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