How to start a successful business in Africa is a question that has to go far beyond tapping into growing industry trends and getting a licence.

One of the biggest lessons for us startup entrepreneurs is probably the realization that much of our success potential lies in our minds and attitudes. I am still trying to carve that side out of me. Having come from a family where education, not wealth, counted and having committed my entire career to international development work (traditional charity!), I truly have my work cut out for me. But I have really worked on my mindset for the last two years, and it makes a huge difference to how I see my potential in business and this world. It gives me the much-needed energy, but believe me, for some of us it’s a life exercise that requires immense inner strength; at least for now.

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Regularly finding and accessing sources of motivation is so, so important and wonderfully empowering. Personally, I have not only found guidance and motivation in them, but also consolation when things are tough or seem to stagnate and doubts kick in. Yep, I get those, too!

So in the spirit of self-motivation and accessing wisdom and guidance on our journey to success in Africa, here are 20 inspirational quotes of Africans, who belong to the richest and most successful.

“In life, you don’t get anywhere or do anything you hope to without some sort of sacrifice.” – Stephen Saad, Aspen Pharmacare, South Africa

“You should start small, with lean operations, and scale up as you go along. I started my solar company being the only employee, going on roof tops to install one solar panel at a time. I made sure every client got value for their investment and, most importantly, was satisfied. Our clients became our ambassadors, especially at a time when there was no budget for marketing.” – Patrick Ngowi, Helvetic Group, Tanzania

“In today’s world, paradoxically, it is the boldest action that is often the safest. Remaining where you are in a world that is changing so rapidly is in fact the most dangerous of all places to be in.”– Hakeem Belo Osagie, Nigeria
“It’s essential to draw up a “things to do” list on a daily basis and set priorities in executing them, making sure that any unfinished task get posted to the next day’s list”. – Folorunsho Alakija, The Rose of Sharon Group, Nigeria

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“Business is always a struggle. There are always obstacles and competitors. There is never an open road, except the wide road that leads to failure. Every great success has always been achieved by fight. Every winner has scars….The men who succeed are the efficient few. They are the few who have the ambition and will-power to develop themselves. So choose to be among the few today.” – Chris Kirubi, Centum Investment, Kenya
“Don’t scratch your head saying there is no financing. With what you have, what can you do to achieve your goal? Investors like people who have taken that initiative.” – Heshan de Silva, De Silva Group, Kenya
“A vision on its own is not enough. Hard work & dedication is required to make that vision a reality.” – Strive Masiyiwa, Econet Wireless, London, Zimbabwe
“Today is the beginning of the Rest of your Life! You are the Pilot of your life! Lock in your destination; take off to it, from where you are!” – Vimal Shah, BIDCO, Kenya
“It’s difficult to identify one specific reason or catalyst [for my success], but above all other things, I believe a strong sense of perseverance, always thinking big and aiming high, and of course positivity, has allowed me to realize my vision.” – Ashish J. Thakkar, UAE
“The journey is forever. Do not ever let yourself feel like you have arrived, because if you do someone else will come and run right past you. You always have to keep going because you haven’t reached the mountain top yet.” – Kevin Ashley, Java House, Kenya.
“Businesses that are spoilt with too much capital make the wrong decisions… Constraints are the most wonderful things in business, because constraints allow you to be innovative and come up with different solutions.” – Michael Jordaan, South, MonteGray Capital, South Africa
“Dreaming is good. But now your dream must be profitable. For example, you cannot find investors who will put funds in your project without them seeing the potential for profitability.” – Olivier Madiba, founder of Kiro’o Games in Cameroon
“In terms of expansion, I strongly believe in organic growth as there is nothing more motivating or satisfying… The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to dream big, but start small.” – Zainab Ashadu, Zashadu Bags, Nigeria.
“In my experience, in Africa there is space for innovation. And you don’t have to look far, especially when you are at a disadvantage. Look around you. You might be experiencing a problem that is a need in the community.” – Sizwe Nzima, Iyeza Express, South Africa.
“Getting things done is better than having things perfect. Done is better than perfect. Whatever you have in your hands, get going with it. Just do it.” – Charles Igwe, Nollywood Global Media Group, Nigeria
“Whether you’re a farmer, builder or engineer, the opportunities are equal: Just add a little‪ innovation” – Strive Masiyiwa, Econet Wireless, London, Zimbabwe
“Focus on making [your product or service] awesome. I see a lot of guys go into business with a ‘how can I make money’ approach. But if you go in there saying ‘how can I make something awesome’, the money will follow.” – Alex Fourie, iFix, South Africa

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“Work hard and be patient. The main problem I see with young African guys is they want to grow overnight. Yes, they have to be ambitious, they have to think big, but they have to be patient. Rome was not built overnight.” – Francis Kibhisa, Rex Energy, Tanzania
“Aspiring entrepreneurs have to actually do something that they feel strongly passionate about, and in most cases they should seek inspiration from their own experience… If you had a terrible experience, you should despise the experience to the extent that you are continuously seeking a solution for it.” – Best Ayiorwoth, founder of GIPOMO in Uganda
“If I had worried about everything that could go wrong, I would never have started. Sometimes, you just need to take a leap of faith.” Those last words were by Kennedy Njoroge of Cellulant, Kenya, during the Africa Business Conference I visited in Boston in February 2015.

I hope you will find guidance and strength in the words of those who have traveled the path successfully before you and have become extremely successful doing business in Africa. Now go out there, continue to leave your comfort zone, excel, be great!
Author: Dr. Harnet Bokrezion is the co-author of the book 101 Ways to Make Money in Africa. She coaches individuals and consults existing companies assisting them to make smart and strategic business decisions in Africa’s new emerging markets. Dr. Harnet also regularly writes for the renowned DHL-powered publication How We Made It In Africa. Get in touch to inquire how she can be of assistance to your own Africa business endeavors: harnet@africajumpstart.com. Or simply follow her on Twitter @africajumpstart.com

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