Young Successful African Entrepreneurs Find Themselves Straddling Between ‘Old and New Africa’

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african entrepreneurIsaac Oboth, sitting proudly in his Mercedes Benz in Kampala, Uganda, epitomizes a new breed of young African entrepreneur.

The 26-year-old is the CEO of his own successful TV production company, having risked it all by quitting university to start Media265 in 2010.

But he has a problem. His Mercedes Benz is stuck. In a big pothole.

“It feels like I’m right in the middle of an old and a new Africa,” Isaac says. “I feel like I’m very much part of the new Africa. But it’s impossible to do business here without still dealing every day with the old Africa.”

Besides potholes, Isaac’s “old Africa” means having to deal with challenges like finding fast, reliable internet access, or getting people to pay you on time.

Isaac’s business career started early. Both his parents had died by the time he was seven, leaving him with his brother Ivan, just a few years his senior.

Then Ivan lost his job. Isaac remembers the day his brother came to school and asked him to start making money.

“It was a pivotal point for me, Ivan was my sole provider,” Isaac recalls. At rock bottom, as Ivan puts it, Isaac turned to rock buns—crumbly, fruity snacks also known as rock cakes.

“This was my very first business venture—making these rock buns and selling them to kids from my school,” Isaac says. “I was 16 at the time and I’d make 400-500 every night.”

From rock buns Isaac turned to selling DVD photo albums, then pork and beer at rugby games, before eventually finding his niche in video production.

“If you asked me if I’m a profit-maker or a film-maker, I’d say I’m a profit-making-film-maker,” he says. “The new Africa is made up of people like me—young businessmen that have started businesses from nothing and are paving a way with no template.”

Read the full story by Alan Kasujja at bbc.com

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