How to start a successful Online Business in Africa

The reality of starting an Online business in a developing country is quite different from what it is with starting out in a developed country.

From inconsistent government policies, infrastructural deficits to inadequate tech ecosystems; for people in a developing country like Nigeria, starting an online business is always a different ball game.

For instance, unlike your counterparts from the developed countries, as someone from a developing country you will have to put in extra effort before you can be perceived as credible, from a potential client…

Also, in most cases, you may have to work even harder, to get access to inftrastructures that will aid your business like electricity.

And even at that, important companies like PayPal, Adsense etc. may bar you from using their services because they do not trust transactions from your country.

These challenges have obviously made running an online business from a developing country a very tedious process…

But then, there are still a handful of entrepreneurs running their online businesses successfully from these developing countries.

In order for them to be successful with their online businesses, these entrepreneurs have evolved some strategies that have helped their businesses.

Based on their strategies, the following are approaches you can use to build a successful business in Africa and other developing countries…

Create your Goals and Plans

You can’t start a successful online business in developing country or anywhere without at least a single goal or any solid plan of how your small online business is going to grow and make profit.

Unfortunately, this is what I see all the time. People will tell you of their intention to start an online business like blogging for instance but when you ask them, how do you want your business to make money online? They tell you they want to place ads.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using ads to make money for your blog or other online business, but this isn’t exactly how it work.

Starting out an online business with the sole aim of making money via ads can get you disappointed and burned out at the end of the day.

Considering that you’re from a developing country; in most cases, some of the ad management companies like Google Adsense may have to put you through extra scrutiny before accepting your account.

In some cases, there are outright bans on accounst from some countries even on affiliate sites. So If you want to build a successful online business you don’t want to build your business around ads and third party products alone.

If your ultimate goal for starting an online business is to make money online then you’ll have it at the back of your mind that for this to happen; you’ll need to create a product alongside whatever other strategy you have.

And for people to patronize your product, they’ll need to know about the product.

So at the end of the day, you’ll realize that your business plans needs to incorporate your business goals, the product and strategies that will get people to buy from you.

Your goal should be set out from the onset, with a business plan that includes strategies that will help you achieve the goals.

Mind you, your business plan does not have to be elaborate at the start. You want to have a simple and flexible plan that captures your goals, your strategies and the approaches you want to take achieve the goals.

You can always edit and improve on your business plan as you continue to gain clarity and understand the basis.

Choose a Business Model

A business model is your ultimate value proposition and money making strategy. It describes vividly, how your business is going to make money.

Generally for online businesses, there are two popular business models and these two ultimately leads to the generation of either passive or active income.

A business built around passive income could involve businesses that rely on making money from Ad placements, Affiliate Marketing, Digital Products, Ebook publishing etc.

On the other hand, a business built around active income will revolve around providing direct services to clients like Web Design, Digital Marketing, Graphics, SEO services etc and getting paid in return for these.

As you’ll notice, these two business models will definitely need different strategies but you want to choose the one that suits you.

How to Choose the right Business Model

Choosing the right business model is very critical to the syuccess of your online business.

Creating an active income as a business model for instance might require you possess certain key skills you can offer online in exchange for money.

Where you don’t have these skills, you’ll need to learn them before getting started.

Creating a digital product on the other hand as a passive income strategy might demand you spend hours creating content, building an audience and then creating a product you can sell to your audience.

At the end of the day, you’ll notice that both business models have their own peculiar requirements and to be very effective in either of them you have to consider your peculiar situation, skill set and goals then work on choosing a business model that will suit you.

Launch Your Business

After creating your online business model, the next thing you want to do is to launch your business.

Before the launch, you will want to create some buzz around the business. Create promotions across the social media, reach out to influencers, friends, well wishers and see where you can collaborate.

If you’re building your online business around the active income model, you may need some social proof to boost your expertise and garner new clients.

Considering that as a newbie, it may be difficult to get enough clients at the start… In that case, you may want to offer some of your services free to some worthy clients, get some testimonials in return and use them as part of your portfolio.

Be Open to Learning

Launching your online business is just like the first step on the ladder to building business online. To effectively build a successful business online, you want learn, relern and unlearn as you continue to evolve your business.

You’ll be surprised that even after creating content for over 7 years and training many people, I still attend trainings myself.

Yes! Because when it comes to online businesses, trends change very fast.

Most times the things that worked just two years ago might not be working anymore. So learning everyday keeps you at the top of your game.

And you don’t have to spend a ton of hours learning because time is of essence. You can learn in bits. And be sure to try your hands on the new body of knowledge you’ve learned. Use this to evolve your business.

Focus on areas you get Optimum results

Forget about working on what gives you maximum pleasure. Strive to get maximum results.

That old 80/20 rule still works. In most cases,20 percent of what you do is what will give you 80 percent of the results you get. Find that 20 percent and focus on it.

The 20 percent could be promoting your content across social media, writing on a particular social media forum, or producing a particular kind of content.

Find out that thing that really helps you achieve your business goals without much effort and focus your time producing more results with that.

Model Industry Experts

Learn and apply what works for the successful people in your niche where necessary but before modeling them, test the strategy if it can work for you.

For instance as an online entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk gained excellent results and build a large audience by producing daily video content on YouTube.

Many people copied the strategy. Of course so many new online business owners have grown their business with this formula. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way there is. Or that it’s going to work for you too.

I have seen so many amateur digital entrepreneurs quitting and leaving their online business because they feel they can’t make it work.

Most of them didn’t even consider they are using the wrong strategy and model.

Look at the “advertising model” for instance. So many newbie content marketers and bloggers come up with this idea” OK, I will set up a blog, post content and make money through Google adverts”.

Then sometimes they set up these blogs, write content, apply to Google and then where Google refuses to accept their blog for Google Adsense. Then, the trouble begins.

You have to realize that there’s actually no one size fits it all when it comes to setting up a successful online business in Nigeria, India or any other Third World countries or wherever you are.

Strategies works based on a combination of circumstances. And things change so fast here in the online world. You must understand this.

And against all odds, you must understand there’s been a handful of successful online business too and yours can be one of such.

So when you’re trying to set up your online business filter out the rumors, find out what strategy is working. Then see what you can evolve as your strategy.

Your own strategy could be producing audio or written content. Combining a popular strategy in your niche like using one content to produce different format for instance etc…

It can also be cross targeting across complimentary niches. Just find what works for you and develop on that.

Connect and Collaborate

Connect and collaborate with people both within and outside your niche. 

Feel free to tell them about what you’re doing. Ask for recommendations where necessary.

You don’t know who would really want to help you until you approach the person.

And in fact, you can also collaborate and barter your services by helping someone with what they want and getting something you need in return.

For example, you can help a fellow online business owner get some good and honest review while the same person also gives you a review in return.

And where you don’t have clients to get testimonials and reviews, you can do free stuff and get some good reviews for a start.


So many new business owners are scared of selling. Either because they feel they are not good enough compared to the older goons in the industry.

Personally, I was scared when I started. But I had to get up and sell. Because selling or exchange of value is the real essence of owning an online business. And if you can’t sell then you’re wasting your time.

Forget about the fact that you’re new in the industry. The first thing you should remember is that you have something unique to offer. That’s why you’re running an online business.

So, focus on making your offering very unique. And different from what other people are offering.

There’s one mistake a lot of amateur online business owners make. They focus on selling before even getting started. This in return creates doubts in the minds of the audience.

Instead of building your online business this way, you want to build a robust relationship with your audience and target clients…

Give them the chance to Know, Like and Trust you by giving them a indepth value in exchange for their attention and engagement with your business.

I could have gone on and on, listing steps you should take in order to build a successful online business in Nigeria, India or other developing countries…

But, these are about the most fundamental steps you need to evolve a successful online business, no matter where you are.

So which of these strategies are you planning to use in building your online business? Let’s hear you in the comments section…

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