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African Entrepreneur: 5 Tips Guaranteed to Build Your Network

December 18, 2012

Any good entrepreneur knows that the key to your success is having a good social network. Having a good network is even more important if you are an entrepreneur in Africa. After all, in a place where trust is almost non-existent in business, people have a tendency to do business with people they know.

Now I see many young African entrepreneurs on the scene trying to get access to this person or that one. But I also notice that most fail miserably at building  a network that is worth having. Why you may ask? I think there are several reasons for that, including being at the wrong events.

So how do you find a network worth having in Africa as an entrepreneur? How do you infiltrate the business circle of the powerful and influential? Believe it or not, its not as hard as you think. Follow these five tips below and you are well on your way to meeting the African titans.

1) Know Where You Are Going and Do Your Research- A large part of building a network in Africa is understanding what your business needs to truly be successful, in an ever changing market.  Identify key areas you need help in or identify key partners that you think would take your business to another level. Once you have done that, research who is who in that area. Figure out their interests, clubs they belong to, identify common associates and from there go in for the meet. Don’t be afraid to show up at events or places that you know these individuals frequent or ask that common friend to introduce you. It is the benefit of living in Africa after all. In more developed countries you could never “randomly” meet so many CEO’s and Managing Directors.

2) Find Common Interests- The most important thing about networking in Africa is converting a meet into a friendship. Now this is the tricky part. After all, you have to realize the powerful and influential business men, especially in Africa, have people schmoozing them all day. What they typically don’t find is people that they think are interesting. Being able to uncover and identify things you and your potential business mentor or financier have in common will set the stage for a future meeting and perhaps even a friendship. After all, people do business with people they like, especially in Africa; never be mistaken about that. So don’t go into a 30 second elevator pitch, instead treat them like an individual ask about them and their activities, talk a little about yourself and don’t be afraid to stroke their ego and bring up a little known fact about them, “You played field hockey in college, right?” Because, yes, it is also true that people like to talk about themselves.

3) Look Like You Are Willing to Learn- One thing every young African entrepreneur should know, is never know more than your elders. It doesn’t mean you cant have your own opinions or more knowledge. It just means that you should be respectful enough to listen quietly to what they have to say and learn from them. Universally, no one likes a know it all. Instead of talking about your desires immediately find a way to learn from your African titans successes. After all, once again, people do like to talk about themselves.

4) Be Best Dressed- Some people will try to tell you that clothing isn’t that important. I am telling you they are lying to you and if you live in Africa you know this too. Good fashion in an African business circle takes you a long way. What you wear not only says a lot about your personality, but your attitude towards yourself as well. Always strive to be well dressed when going to African event. Understand what the dress code is and surpass it!  Also, for those of us not originating from Africa,  don’t ever be afraid to incorporate traditional fabrics with modern styles or just go traditional altogether; your efforts will be appreciated.

5)Get Their Business Card- The business card, every one has them in Africa, but you will find the powerful and influential only give theirs out to certain people. Yes, you can surely give them  yours, and yes, they may call. However, don’t hold your breath- this is Africa.  Trust and believe that by the end of the night your CEO has probably collected 30 business cards, listened to 50 elevator pitches and has no clue who you are. Getting their business card paves the way to a future relationship, especially since most business cards in Africa have cell phone numbers. Getting the business card is getting the gold in a networking event….unless it is the old one with outdated information.

Now these five tips will get you in the door, but the rest will be up to you. Subscribe and find out how to convert your  African network into net worth, because although relationships are nice, they technically don’t pay the bills. Plus, no one wants to be broke forever.

What are some other networking tips do you have?

P.S. Don’t forget to share with your network!

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