From Tech to Impact in Africa – A Journey of Entrepreneurship with Dare Okoudjou
In this podcast episode, “Finding Your Fit in the Startup Realm”, we chat with Dare Okoudjou, Founder and CEO of MFS Africa. He tells us all about how career choices often take us on unexpected journeys shaped by our experiences, interests, and the pursuit of making a meaningful impact. In a recent podcast, a seasoned entrepreneur shared their journey from an early introduction to work to founding a company aimed at transforming financial networks across Africa. This article delves into the key insights and experiences discussed in the podcast.
Early Career and Transition to Africa
The speaker’s career journey began with their graduation in 1999. They embarked on a path that led them to join PR Coopers, where they were driven by a desire to be more involved in the business side of things. The world of consulting seemed like a place for individuals unsure of their career direction, and it provided an opportunity to learn about various aspects of business while building a professional foundation.
However, despite the valuable experience gained, the speaker couldn’t ignore two persistent urges: the longing to return to Africa and the burning desire to have a meaningful impact on lives across the continent. This sense of purpose would eventually guide their career choices.
Joining MTN Group: A Decade of Growth
In 2006, the speaker’s journey led them to South Africa, where they joined MTN Group. Their tenure with the company coincided with a significant moment in South African history—the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This period was characterized by immense growth and excitement, and the speaker enjoyed every moment of it.
During their time with MTN, the speaker’s role evolved significantly. In the last two and a half years, they were primarily focused on driving the development of what we now know as MTN mobile money. This role placed them at the forefront of the emerging field of mobile financial services, and it triggered a fundamental question: “What more could be achieved if these financial networks could be interconnected?”
The Birth of MFS Africa: A Network of Networks
The question of interconnecting financial networks set the speaker on the path to founding MFS Africa. Their vision was to replicate a concept they had observed in the telecommunications industry, where networks were interconnected, enabling seamless global communication. The idea was to apply a similar approach to the world of finance, creating a network of networks that would make cross-border financial transactions in Africa as easy as making an international phone call.
This entrepreneurial journey highlights the power of observation, recognizing gaps in the market, and the audacity to transform industries. MFS Africa’s mission is to connect financial networks across Africa, enabling people to transact with ease and promoting financial inclusion across the continent.
Startup vs. Corporate: Balancing Risk and Passion
The podcast also explores the distinctions between the startup and corporate worlds. The speaker emphasizes that these lines are becoming increasingly blurred, and the decision to pursue a startup should align with one’s passion, risk appetite, and the specific stage of the startup.
Factors for Entrepreneurial Success
Building a successful startup requires a unique set of qualities. The speaker identifies several critical factors, including intelligence, humility in leadership, team-building skills, and grit. Grit is particularly highlighted as it enables entrepreneurs to persevere through the inevitable challenges that arise on the entrepreneurial journey.
Hiring and Talent in Africa
Hiring the right talent is a pivotal aspect of any business, but it’s especially crucial for startups in Africa. The speaker emphasizes that hiring for pre-revenue startups should focus on assessing an individual’s potential. As a business grows, hiring strategies may evolve, and adaptability becomes a key trait for employees.
Expanding in Africa: New Approaches
Interestingly, the podcast touches on a shift in the approach to expanding businesses across Africa. Some companies are now considering expansion without establishing a physical presence on the ground or conducting extensive research beforehand. This reflects the changing dynamics of doing business in Africa and highlights the need for flexibility and adaptability.
The podcast journey shared by the seasoned entrepreneur provides valuable insights into the world of entrepreneurship in Africa. It illustrates the importance of passion, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the local context when embarking on entrepreneurial endeavours. Whether working in a startup or a corporate environment, the key takeaway is that success in Africa requires a blend of global competitiveness and a profound connection to the continent’s unique challenges.