Rants and Bants

The Business of Things

By Inalegwu Oyebanji


There’s so much going on in Africa today, especially in technology, fashion and business. We are no longer being left behind by the rest of the world like the previous generations were. Dare I say, we are front runners in the overall development of the world. Why the change?

One of the reasons for the changes that have happened over the past two decades or so in Africa, is the Internet. Oh, the lovely Internet. In my opinion, one of man’s greatest inventions, if not the greatest. We are in an age where information is basically free to everyone, and we as Africans, being the geniuses that we are have used the Internet in ways that awe our western counterparts. I say “awe” because their perception of Africans had always been that we are a crude and unrefined people. Even now, in 2016, some of these individuals still think we live in mud houses and ride elephants (super ridiculous, I know). Maybe because some of them thought we did not have the technical expertise to use some of the technology they (the western world) invented. But with companies like Hewlett-Packard, producing user-friendly, cheap devices for our daily use, and Apple creating minimalist masterpieces, they have come to realize that we are as in tune with them (if not better. Yes, I think Africans are smarter people in generally) with their technology.

The Internet opened a lot of doors in different sectors in Africa. When it became affordable enough for us to use at the most basic levels, we began to show the world what we had to offer. We became more global as a continent than we had ever been before. Africa suddenly had it’s own spotlight on the world stage. What was normal for us fascinated the outside world. Even before the Internet, we were already being looked at as something special and different. In the fashion industry, as early as 1967, Yves Saint Laurent released it’s Spring Summer collection, which was inspired by “Primitive and African Art”. Also, in 2015, Valentino released an African inspired collection (though it was widely criticized), which further showed the world what they had been missing.

Suddenly, Africa became hot commodity. Brands started to troop in from all over the world. Today there are many top brands located in Africa. From Nike and Adidas in fashion, to Google in tech, and various exciting multinationals across the continent. The mysterious land had now opened up to being the land of milk and honey. Untapped and unexplored, we were as exciting as driving a Lamborghini or a Ferrari at top speeds. Investments started to pour in from all angles. Richard Branson of the Virgin group brought the brand to Nigeria and started the now defunct airline, Virgin Nigeria. Just a couple of months ago, we found out that Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook had invested $24 million on an African startup, Andela. Phenomenal. That affirmed the fact that Africa is indeed a goldmine.

All these investments not only created job opportunities, but inspired a new wave of entrepreneurs, who come up with new ideas everyday.  This is the most exciting part of the future that is yet to come. Generation Z, have shown that you need nothing more than the Internet to propagate an idea. Many brands have started up from the Internet. In Nigeria, Baroque Age is a prime example of bringing together minds that employ this new wave of thinking. Baroque Age, being a conglomerate, has various companies in Music (Euphonic), Fashion (Pith), Tech (Mushroom), and Business (Basic Things – which I helped Co-Found).

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With all these start ups bringing the wave of the new age, there is also a need for proper structure to help in growth and exposure, and as such, there are new aspects of business working together with the new age to provide structure.

One of such aspects is Business Innovation. It is a concept that is defined by a consistent and cohesive flow of business ideas working hand in hand with organizational structures and improving on them, or creating new structures within the organization. Think of it as injecting fun into brands (at least, that’s how I see it).

In the world we live in today, consumers of products no longer just accept the products as they used to. Products are now being designed to have a more human side to them, to appeal better to the consumers. We now look forward to the aesthetics of designs and we crave simplistic and minimalist designs. Brands such as Apple, Off-White and Donda thrive in giving the best experiences to its customers. These brands have understood the importance of having proper structures which then translates into their amazing products. Business Innovation allows such brands to have a proper flow of ideas, and helps them translate these ideas to create aesthetically pleasing products. The importance of this structure can not be emphasized enough.

Africa today is in no way lacking in talent; everyone has one great idea or the other. The question is, will these ideas ever come to fruition, and if they do, do they have adequate tools to grow and nurture these ideas. We need structure more than we know. Creating a well-defined course of action will help your business in more ways than you may know. I’ll give you an example. There are many things to consider while building a house. If you have an idea of what your house should look like, then you need to formulate a plan on actualizing your vision. You hire an architect, who draws out different designs for you from whatever input you have given. Only when this is done, will you be able to carry on with the building of that house. It’s the same with business. There just simply has to be proper structure.

The most valuable company in the world today is Apple. They have been touted as being the most secretive and manipulative company in the world by some people in tech. Over the years, with Steve Jobs at the helm, they obsessed over every detail of their products, which were inspired by the most basic ideas. They formulated a business model from being simple. It sounds easy when you think about it, but in reality, simplicity is one of the hardest things to pull off. Steve Jobs believed that products should feel like sex, and people laughed at him till he pulled it off. They then tried to copy his methods and failed because, they didn’t realize the what it took to achieve simplicity. Structure. Right from the onset, he knew what he wanted the company to become, and built his plans around his ideas. He went over details with so much scrutiny that annoyed the people he worked with. The reason for the success of Apple today, alongside the ideas of some of the most brilliant minds, is structure.

Many new age ideas are turning into businesses which means so much for our continent. These ideas need proper guidance to gradually grow. Many investors are looking for the next big thing in Africa today, and your idea might just be one of them. These investors are looking for the best ideas to acquire, but not to create more earth-shattering ideas. Their main question is “is your idea profitable?”. All they want is to buy your idea(s) to sell to a market, or create a niche for it. Acquisitions may bring you money, but that is not what the new age is about. We want to change the future and make our marks on earth. We want to be the change we seek. We want to be remembered for millennia. This is why we need to carefully curate our ideas, nurture them, give them structure to grow, and become who we want to be (while making money of course, DUH!). Structure will help to fend off outside help and control over our ideas as much as possible, because there’s a vision of where we foresee the business or brand to be in the immediate or distant future.

There is absolutely no reason why our businesses from this part of the world can not grow to become global forces. We are not lacking in talent or resources. All we need now is to build structures for the new age, and keep on giving the world our extraordinary ideas.


Inalegwu Oyebanji
Co-founder basic things
loves fast cars, fast food and Arsenal FC

 

Benewaah is the lead curator and editor at Harmattan Rain. Her love for music is closely rivaled by her love for plantain.

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