This 29-year-old startup founder shares her advice for entrepreneurs

  • Written by Isaac Kwasi Adusei
  • Category: News

Amber Venz Box shares her advice for young entrepreneurs.                                                                                         Image: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

 

Amber Venz Box has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

The recent inductee to Forbes 30 under 30 list for retail and ecommerce told Business Insider that she started her own business in middle school selling jean skirts.

"This was back when jean skirts were a big thing," Box said."I figured out how to stress denim using old jeans, bleach, and razors."

She was in sixth grade.

The business didn't last long. Box had yet to learn one of the most fundamental lessons of business: the market price of a firm's goods must exceed the cost of production.

"Also, my teachers didn't take too kindly to me mending my wares in the back row of their class," Box added.

By the time Box was a student in college she was a seasoned entrepreneur. She was making $100,000 a year from a jewelry business she started as a senior in high school.

"I was making them in my dorm room and then selling them to local department stores in Dallas," Box said.

Box's love of fashion and retail only grew as the years went by. In 2011, when she was 23-years-old and working as a personal shopper, she launched a blog to attract potential clients. That project led to the creation of RewardStyle, a platform that allows so-called influencers "to make cash from their social media content."

In 2014, in response to the exploding popularity of Instagram, Box launched LIKEtoKNOW.it. The service makes it possible for users to buy merchandise that their favorite Instagram influencers post. When a shopper likes a picture on Instagram, they receive an email with information about where they can buy the item they liked. Since 2014, shoppers have purchased more than $250 million in merchandise via the service.

On March 6, LIKEtoKNOW.it launched an app that would allow consumers to buy products they screenshot.

According to a press release, "By downloading the app, consumers get a push notification with ready-to-shop product information when they screenshot enabled influencer images across the mobile web, including the content they discover inside of closed mobile social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat."

Box told Business Insider that being a young entrepreneur came with numerous challenges. One of the most difficult hurdles was striking the perfect balance between her personal life and her professional life. The fact that her husband was her business partner made this an especially daunting task.

"In the early days my husband Baxter and I shared a phone and a desk," she said."Over time it became difficult to have a healthy relationship."

Box said she and her husband overcame this by setting boundaries around their work day and personal life.

"They include simple things such as designating times when we allow each other to talk about work, when we start our work day and end it, and cutting down the number of night events we commit to," Box said.

We asked Box to share her best advice for young aspiring entrepreneurs thinking about starting their own company. She said they should consider the following:

Learn as much as you can about your industry. Learn what motivates people in your industry and take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way. When I was in college I took advantage of internships in different cities and different sides of the fashion industry in order to expose myself to everything.

Be your own costumer. We created RewardStyle to create something that I really needed. Look for problems in your own life, a real problem that you and other people have, and try to fix it. And if you continue to be your own costumer, then you will be able to properly critique and improve your product.

Build the right team. The founding team is so vital to a firm's future success. If you're a tech firm, and most startups these days are dealing with some sort of technology, then you have to find experienced engineers. They're going to be more expensive, but it's worth it. Hiring the cheaper engineers will result in a bunch of speedbumps and cause a ton of headaches. The second thing is finding people with operational experience as early as possible. You can have the vision, but you need the management. And don't underestimate the importance of marketing. You can have a great idea, but if you don't have a solid team or resources to market it, then that idea won't go anywhere. -World Economic Forum

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Africa Free Trade Agreement: Is Ghana positioned well to benefit?

  • Written by Isaac Kwasi Adusei
  • Category: News

Image result for africa free trade agreement ghana

 

On March 21, 2018, 44 African leaders gathered at Kigali, Rwanda, to sign the framework that establishes the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA) – aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services as well as a Customs union with free movement of capital and business travelers.


In line with this commitment, parliaments of at least 22 countries were supposed to ratify this agreement 30 days after the meeting in Kigali.

To respond favourably to this, Ghana recalled its parliament which was on recess to come and ratify the agreement. On Thursday, March 26, the agreement was subsequently ratified by parliament.

One central goal of the agreement is to boost African economies by harmonising trade liberalisation across sub-regions and at the continental level. As a part of the AfCFTA, countries have committed to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods.

According to the U.N. Economic Commission on Africa, intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3 percent under the AfCFTA and will double upon the further removal of non-tariff barriers.

And according to the Africa Union, Africa has a market of 1.2bn people and a combined economic output of US$2.5 trillion; and the population is expected to double by 2050, the UN says.

But intra-African trade accounts for only about US$170bn, or 18 percent, of the continent’s total annual formal commerce, according to the African Export-Import Bank. This compares with about 68 percent for the EU.

With a market of this size, it is expected that the AfCFTA will only improve fortunes of the continent and create a prosperous economy for all beneficiary countries.

This point was underscored by Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, who was reported by the FT newspaper to have said after the deal: “We now have the construct for meaningful intercontinental trade. An increase in trade is the surest way to develop fruitful relations between our countries, enhance development and attain prosperity”.

But the big question is: who stands to benefit from this agreement?

It is common knowledge that countries with large manufacturing bases – such as South Africa, Kenya and Egypt, are likely to be the receive the biggest gains in this agreement.

But quite surprisingly, one of the largest economies in Africa, Nigeria, did not join in signing the agreement – with the country’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, saying he needs more time to consult with unions and businesses to assess the risks an open market would pose to his country’s manufacturing and small-business sector.

The situation in Ghana

Considering that countries with large manufacturing bases are those that will really benefit from this agreement, it raises a question about Ghana’s chances in this pact.

Are the manufacturing sector and small-businesses resilient enough to repel any risk or ‘attack’ the open market will pose? Is the country’s economy productive enough to export goods and services to other countries?

Well, a look at the performance of the manufacturing sector will help answer.

The country’s manufacturing sector is currently growing at a slow pace. The provisional 2017 GDP figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) show that the manufacturing sector grew by only 3.7 percent in 2017.

The figures are even more disappointing when compared on quarterly basis. The manufacturing subsector grew at a measly 1.3 percent in Q4 of 2017; down from 6.2 and 2.5 percent in Q2 and Q3 respectively.

Since 2006 when its contribution to GDP hit 10.2 percent, it has never grown past that figure. The sector’s contribution to the economy has consistently tumbled to record 4.5 percent in 2017. In fact, its contribution to the economy has dropped six years in a row since 2012 to date.

From the above figures it is clear that the country’s manufacturing sector is so much in distress, and the raise doubts about its ability to support the economy in this free-trade deal.

Challenges of manufacturing sector

A major factor crippling this all-important sector is the torrid business environment faced by manufacturing companies.

Ranked high among such challenges is the difficulty in accessing capital. In a country where lending rates are 30 percent and above, it is extremely expensive for companies to use the country’s financial sector to access capital for expansion.

Another challenge the manufacturing sector is bedevilled with is high cost of production owing to high tariffs and raw material cost. In most cases, companies must import raw materials before they can produce. And with the local currency not stable against the US$ and pound Sterling, their case seems worst.

As if these challenges were not enough, local manufacturing companies face very unfair competition from big foreign companies, which – because of economies of scale, cheap labour, stable macroeconomic environment, among other factors – are able to produce and dump their products in the country, selling at a cheaper price.

Expert opinion

Speaking to the Head of Economics at the University of Ghana, Professor Peter Quartey, on what government must do to ensure that the AfCFTA does not become a win-lose situation at the expense of Ghana, he said government must ensure that goods allowed into the country are those that Ghana does not have competitive advantage over.

“I think that in going into such agreements, we should be informed about what commodities we have the comparative advantage over that we can produce at a cheaper cost; that we can trade with our partner-countries – otherwise if we all produce the same commodities and we want to trade, that will be impossible.

“Trading doesn’t mean anything at all can come in, there are standards. So, you set the ground rules. If the products do not meet the standards set, then they cannot come in at all. But if there are rules and no enforcement, then that is how dumping can happen,” he said.

He further stated that government should support local industries build their capacities, and also provide an enabling environment that will make them thrive.

“Government should not engage directly in production. Government should rather provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. For example, availability of land. If government takes the lead to make land acquisition easy and stress-free for companies, it will encourage investment.

“Again, roads, electricity and water. Those are some of the things government can provide for the private sector. They need markets. Government can organise a trade fair or engage foreign markets. It can also source capital for local industries, but not directly engage in production,” he said.

Prof. Quartey again urged governments of all African countries to build the needed infrastructure that will facilitate easy movement of goods, services and humans, so that the trading process can be carried out smoothly.

So, in conclusion, if Ghana is to really benefit from the AfCFTA, then it should revive its manufacturing sector and produce more to satisfy local demand and export as well. - Business & Financial Times

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Startup venture funding jumped more than 50% in Africa last year to a record high

  • Written by Isaac Kwasi Adusei
  • Category: News

With African tech hubs, startups and founders starting to mature and gain deeper understanding of local markets after a few years of heady hype that was more about potential than substance, investors increasingly look towards the continent.

Partech Ventures’ latest annual funding report shows that venture capital funding in 2017 reached $560 million, recording 53% year on year growth. The scale of growth in funding is seen in the number of investment rounds participated in by startups: in 2017, 124 startups participated in 128 funding rounds compared to 77 rounds in 2016. Partech’s reports include startups that have a primary market in Africa whether or not they are headquartered or incorporated on the continent.

Across sectors, financial inclusion accounted for 45% of total investmentmore than any other sectorwith $253 million raised. Partech’s report categorizes off-grid tech, fintech and insurance tech startups under financial inclusion. Over the past 18 months, African fintech startups have particularly grown in appeal and reputation with a number of big-ticket deals, most notably a $10 million Series A raise by payments company Flutterwaveone of the largest Series A rounds by an African startup. That appeal is linked to the upside for these startups who, rather than entirely disrupting the financial sector which currently exists, are plugging many of its gaps. An earlier funding report by Disrupt Africa also shows that fintech startups attracted nearly a third of startup funding in 2017.

Online and mobile consumer services also drew significant interest pulling 42% of total investment ($236 million). The single largest deal in the report came in this sector with the $69 million Series D investment in TakeALot, the South African e-commerce startup, led by Naspers, Africa’s most valuable company.

In line with previous years, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria continue to dominate as investment destinations accounting for 76% of total funding this year, slightly lower than the 81% of last year’s total. Similarly, the three leading tech startup ecosystems lead the way with number of startups funded per country.

Startups in Francophone Africa have also seen more investment, accounting for $55.5 million10% of the total funding, and nearly 14% of the total transactions in 2017. That progress seems set to continue as, last month, Partech Ventures has launched a pan-African fund based in Dakar, Senegal and plans to pay closer attention to startups in French-speaking countries.

-  Source Quartz Africa

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Over $158m private capital in support of agribusiness – USAID

  • Written by Isaac Kwasi Adusei
  • Category: News

 

Over $158 million has been unlocked in private capital for 2,846 agribusinesses under the USAID Financing Ghanaian Agriculture Project (USAID FinGAP). Forty (40) per cent of these enterprises are women-led. The five-year project aims to improve financing and investment in agribusinesses operating in the maize, soy, and rice value chains in the Northern Regions. A press statement signed by Rick Dvorvin, Chief of Party, USAID FinGAP, said it had brought benefits to 162,000 smallholder farmers. The statement came at the end of a workshop jointly organized by the Project and the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) on “Leveraging the capital market to drive business growth for enhanced economic development” in Takoradi. This brought together more than 100 participants from the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Association of Ghana Industries, the Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters, the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ), and the Kosmos Energy Innovation Centre. The goal was to discuss sources of alternative financing and opportunities for Ghanaian businesses. There were presentations on the benefits of listing securities on the GSE, Ghana Alternative Market (GAX) and Ghana Fixed Income Market (GFIM). These focused mainly on the pre-conditions for listing and raising funds from the capital market. The high point of the event was the registration of businesses interested in listing securities on the capital market.” The statement said the USAID FinGAD was the United States (US) Government’s global hunger and food security initiative – to increase access to finance by agribusinesses and smallholder farmers. It added that through this there would be improved agricultural productivity, food security, and inclusive economic growth. The statement said USAID FinGAP was pursuing the development of alternative sources of financing for agribusinesses through the listing of debt or equity securities on the GFIM and GAX. Source: GNA

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Kankan Musa: The Richest Man in World History

  • Written by Super User
  • Category: News

Today, I would like to talk about the richest man planet earth has ever seen… yes, you heard me right, the richest man whose fortune was estimated to be over 400 billion dollars, or 310 billion euros. Did you guess who that was ? If you thought Bill Gates, I am sorry to disappoint you. It is the great Emperor of Mali, Kankan Musa, also written Kankan Moussa, or Mansa Musa, or Mansa Moussa, or Kankou Moussa.

Kankan Musa was the tenth MansaKing of Kings, or Emperor of the great Empire of Mali from 1312 to 1337. At the time of Musa’s accession to the throne, the Empire of Mali consisted of territories which had belonged to the Empire of Ghana and Melle, and surrounding areas.

Emperor Kankan Musa

His name, Kankan Musa or Kanga Musa meant « Musa, son of Kankou Hamidou », in reference to his mother (In those days, the Mandinka people were a matriarcal society). Kankan Musa is often referred to, in literature, as Mali-koy Kankan MusaGonga Musa, and Lion of Mali. He had lots of titles, including Emir of MelleLord of the Mines of WangaraConqueror of GhanataFouta Djallon (also written Futa Jallon), and at least a dozen other areas.

Empire of Mali (Wikipedia)

He took the Empire of Mali to its peak, from the Fouta Djallon to Agadez (in northern Niger), including the ancient Ghana, and Songhai Empires. He established diplomatic relationships with PortugalMoroccoTunisia, and Egypt. His reign corresponds to the golden era of the Malian Empire.

 

Assemblée constitutive de l’empire du Mandé (Source: Wikipedia.fr)

Kankan Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca made him popular in North Africa, and in the Middle East. Musa made his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, with a procession of 60,000 men12,000 servants who each carried four pounds of gold bars, heralds dressed in silks who bore gold staffs, organized horses and handled bags. Also in the train, were 80 camels, which carried between 50 and 300 pounds of gold dust each (Gold was the currency in Mali). He gave away gold to the poor along his routeMusa not only gave gold to the cities he passed on his way to Mecca, including Cairo and Medinabut he also traded gold for souvenirs. Moreover, he would also build a new mosque every Friday in any city he so happened to pass by. Musa’s journey was documented by several eyewitnesses along his route, who were in awe of his wealth and extensive procession, and records exist in a variety of sources, including journals, oral accounts and histories. Musa’s visit with the Mamluk sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad of Egypt in July 1324 is well-recorded.

Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu

Musa’s generosity, however, inadvertently devastated the economy of the region. In the cities of Cairo, Medina and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal for the next decadePrices on goods and wares greatly inflatedTo rectify the gold market, Musa borrowed all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo, at high interest. This is the only time recorded in history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in theMediterranean. Imagine a single man controlling the economy of not only one country, but of an entire region!

  Sankore University in Timbuktu

Mansa Musa was a great builder. He had several mosques and madrasas built in Timbuktu and Gao. The most important of its constructions is the University of Sankore. In Niani, his capital, he built an Audience Hall, a building communicating directly with the royal palace through an interior door.  It was “an admirable Monument” surmounted by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The windows of the upper floor were plated with wood and framed with silver, while those of a lower floor were plated with wood, framed in gold. This palace no longer exists. Like the Great Mosque, the Hall was built in cut stone. The Italian art and architecture scholar Sergio Domian said: “At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated.” Can you imagine that? In this day and age, how many countries in this world can boast 400 densely populated cities? Yet, the Mali of Kankan Musa claimed it all.

 

Manuscripts a Tombouctou (Mali) montrant de l’astronomie et mathematique

At the end of his life, in 1332 or 1337, the Empire of Mali limits were from the Atlantic Ocean to the Eastern shores of the Niger River, and to the forests of Taghaza in the middle of the SaharaKankan Musa was not only a rich man who gave to all, built mosques, and great places of worship, he was also a just conqueror, and a great builder. He took the Empire Mali to its peak, and made it the talk of places as far as the Middle East and Europe. Many Europeans and Middle Easterns would send delegations of architects, merchants, writers, astronomers, mathematicians and teachers, to study in his great university at Timbuktu. So next time someone asks you who was the richest man on planet earth, remember to tell them that before Bill Gates, there was Kankan Musa! - -Afrolegends.com

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