Africa has been known by some not-so-flattering labels – the dark continent, the hopeless continent, and so forth. The unpleasant bits have often found their way into popular media – wars, corruption, squalor and a general malaise with regards to development. These depressing themes have in recent years been punctuated by rays of hope. For instance, in December 2011 The Economist magazine announced “Africa Rising” in relation to the increasing number of countries whose economic trajectory was on the rise on the back of natural resources like copper, oil and gold. This trajectory continues and this book takes us on that inspiring journey.
How We Made It In Africa is a compilation of 25 real-life stories of the movers and shakers who are making things work in the African marketplace. It is about the vision and pure grit needed to get businesses going without any standard rule books to pave the way.
In the words of Jaco Maritz who compiled the stories, entrepreneurship in Africa can be an “intense rollercoaster ride, where highs are high, and the lows debilitatingly low”. These are real life examples of coping with the challenges of the business world. In selecting the showcased stories, Maritz has brilliantly defined the landscape of business opportunities in Africa, at the same time offering a tantalising invitation “for anyone who wants to make the most of their limited time on earth”.
The importance of this book lies in the fact that it breaks the glass houses that hold entrepreneurial myths, especially for Africa. It is not short of hair-raising steep slopes that entrepreneurs manage to navigate till they see the straight road ahead…. For example, Ken Njoroge set himself up to defy the myth that ‘African can’t do anything for themselves’ and waded through the murky waters of start-ups to build Cellulant – a payments gateway for Africa. Nelly Tuikong puts it aptly: “There are times when I need to… cry, binge on some TV shows, eat a whole tub of ice-cream. But then I pull myself up again”.
In a sense, these stories prove that entrepreneurship is for anyone, anywhere (including Africa) but that it’s only those who dare who will come through to the other side. Truly it is about how we made it in Africa. I highly recommend this book to anyone at any stage of entrepreneurship and for any sceptics who may not have seen the ‘can do’ spirit that resides in Africa.
Review by Dr Irene Banda
 The Economist magazine (May 2000)