General Advice

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General Advice


  • Think long-term
  • A developing market is not a "developed market"
  • should i bring capital
  • Rwanda is likely to be your EAst Africa start-up's best starting point
  • Make sure to pay your taxes
  • Be on the ground
  • You need a local network to succeed
  • Where else to source information?

  • Think long-term

    A venture in Africa is a long-term endeavour. Many people regard Africa as a land of opportunity – which to a great extent it is. But that doesn’t mean you should expect large profits from day one. Like most ventures, it will take time.

    A developing market is not a "developed market

    The opportunities exist because the solutions have not yet been implemented: This is the characteristic thing about a developing market. So from a foreigner’s perspective, it’s easy to come here and spot the gaps in the solution space. But, from the lack of funding and the absence of market data to the scarcity of talent, be aware that it is this same “not-yet-developed-market” that you will have to work against when trying to build your own business.

    should i bring capital

    If you are coming here as a young aspiring entrepreneur from Europe, consider coming with enough funds to cover your costs for at least one year (500 – 600 EUR a month should give a fairly comfortable lifestyle) while you try to make revenue or source funding for your venture. Alternatively, seeking an “ex-pat job” (e.g. at an NGO or embassy) can be a good way to earn a living while scouting for business opportunities. Alternatively, if you also have some initial capital to invest: 10 to 20 thousand EUR can get you a long way…

    Rwanda is likely to be your EAst Africa start-up's best starting point

    The Rwandan economy is one of the fastest-growing in Africa; every sector is booming. This palpable growth makes up for an exciting business environment filled with opportunities for the entrepreneurial mind.
    From the ease of doing business, the little competition, and the readiness of the infrastructure, to the little bureaucracy and geopolitical security, Rwanda is arguably the best “pilot country” for your East African start-up. But the Rwandan market alone is small, so remember to plan (or at least aim) for expansion from the start. Think beyond the borders of Rwanda and into the other, more lucrative, East African markets.

    Make sure to pay your taxes

    When it comes to taxes, many African countries have the reputation of being “relaxed” with their enforcement. This naturally goes hand-in-hand with things like corruption and bribing.

    Rwanda, home to one of the most tax-efficient revenue authorities in East Africa, evidently breaks the mould. You can — and should — expect a rigorous, yet fair, taxation system with heavy penalties for infringements and regular checks.

    At the same time, no one in Rwanda will tell you they are not getting value out of their taxes. The infrastructure, the safety, the cleanliness and the brand new roads stand to prove it.

    Taxation in Rwanda is not rocket science but the system is sometimes hard to navigate. This is why a lot of foreigners (and even locals) will hit a fine during the first years of operation. A good accountant will give you peace of mind.

    Be on the ground

    In developing economies market research is not done on Google. To validate your business idea you must search for market data on the ground and talk to people.

    Also don’t expect to be able to set up your business here in a few months, hire a local team to run it for you and then head back home while occasionally “monitoring things from a distance”. This is a common mistake which is likely to cost you your venture (alongside many plane trips).

    Only start a business in Rwanda is you see yourself living here long-term.

    You need a local network to succeed

    Getting started is hard. Getting started in a foreign country and a widely different market is even harder. Between referrals, recommendations, introductions, advice, tips or even first clients, belonging to a network like EBCR may very well end up being the single most important accelerator to your business. It will give you the support, knowledge, and first-hand experience to help you avoid mistakes and navigate the system with greater ease.

    During the initial 3-month period, a network like EBCR can be a great accelerator. For someone new coming and having access to that right away: it’s
    (Gabrel Ekman – CEO BAG Innovation)

    Finally, it is highly recommended to look for a local partner. They will help you navigate the system alongside the “do-and-don’ts” of the local business community. If you struggle to find one, speak with EBCR.
    Whatever you do, remember to look beyond the ex-pat community. Entrepreneurs who fail to go out and “plug into” the local Rwandese community are far more likely to fail.

    Where else to source information?

    Here is a list of good resources some of which have been used in this very Business Starter Pack: