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Africa’s entrepreneurs share secrets to success at Global Business Forum

Some of Africa's most successful entrepreneurs shared their insights, lessons and practical advice on doing business on the continent during a VIP Masterclass held on Thursday as part of the Global Business Forum on Africa 2017. The high-level forum in Dubai, organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was held under the patronage of the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. 

During the masterclass session, panellists highlighted the need for aspiring entrepreneurs to be resilient and work toward forging valuable corporate partnerships. They shared important lessons they have learned by launching businesses on the continent, while attendees had the opportunity to pose their questions to the entrepreneurs themselves. 

Joel Jackson, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mobius Motors in Kenya; Ada Osakwe, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Agrolay Ventures in Nigeria; and Ashish Thakkar, Founder, Mara Group and Mara Foundation, participated in the session and explained the importance of taking a long-term approach to investing in Africa. 

Thakkar pointed out that Africa is expected to have a larger population than India and China by 2025, which he says creates a major opportunity. However, he said there is a real need for businesses to better understand Africa's diverse consumer base. 

"We can’t get carried away with copy-and-paste models; each country is unique. This is no doubt our time but we have to understand local realities and operate in a local manner," said Thakkar. He also noted that China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative can offer major advantages to African companies, adding that global investors want to increase their exposure on the continent. 

For his part, Jackson said having the right systems in place is a key factor to for succeeding in Africa, and noted that the abundance of talent has not yet translated into high-quality products. Instilling too much trust in early partnerships was a mistake which he says he learned valuable lessons from. 

According to Osakwe, Africa needs "patient capital" and not a cookie-jar approach when it comes to investing. She explained that the key lesson she learned as an entrepreneur is the need to choose the right partners. "You must believe in the market and be resilient; entrepreneurship is difficult even in the best of markets, so it is important that you keep going," she said. 

The fourth Global Business Forum on Africa was held on November 1-2, 2017, at Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah. 

The high-profile event is part of the Chamber's Global Business Forum series, which focuses on Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Latin America. 

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