Business & Money

Living, working and doing business in Africa

By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Nov 4, 2013 - 9:15:34 AM

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Clear-headed advice was given on “Traveling, Living and Doing Business in Africa” as part of activities celebrating the 18th anniversary of the Million Man March and Holy Day of Atonement.

Judging from the filled-tocapacity conference room at the Renaissance Hotel, Africa is on the mind of a lot of people.

“The involvement in Africa is almost a must for us,” said A. Akbar Muhammad, the international representative of the Nation of Islam, who convened the Oct. 19 session. “Africa is a continent for the taking and we’re not taking it; somebody else is taking it.”

Currently Africa is experiencing a renaissance and is a major destination for White businessmen attracted by its vast precious metals, mineral resources and emerging industries like technology, petroleum and agribusiness, but the same opportunities are available to Black business people.

Mr. Muhammad dismissed a common misconception that the way to riches is acquiring African gold and diamonds. He advised becoming suppliers of equipment and services mining companies need. Most people start in importing and exporting, but it’s important to find your niche first, he said.

Being involved with the continent doesn’t require moving there, “you can do business back and forth,” Mr. Muhammad added. But he recommended doing research, traveling and assessing opportunities firsthand before investing. “You cannot do business in Africa [by] remote control … you got to be on the ground, you got to look at it, and you’ve got to put responsible people over it,” Mr. Muhammad explained.

Mr. Muhammad has traveled to 144 countries worldwide and has lived, done business and facilitated at least 3,600 people visiting the Motherland. Africa has nearly 1 billion people with serious challenges, but noted Mr. Muhammad, there are also tremendous opportunities for business and commerce.

He encouraged his audience to learn languages of commerce like French, Portuguese, Arabic, Swahili and gain some command of local languages like Hausa and Wolof spoken in West Africa and among African Muslims who are strong in business.

For people repatriating and investing, he suggested tapping into the knowledge and experience of people who already live and do business in Africa.

He spoke openly about problems plaguing Africa like the crisis in Somalia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but said it should not discourage attempts to do business in Africa.

“If somebody is shot in Los Angeles, would you say I’m not going to New York … this is a big continent,” Mr. Muhammad said.

For the most part the problems in Africa were created by Europe and America because the continent is the earth’s richest piece of real estate. The natural wealth of the Congo alone could rebuild all of Europe, he said.

Despite issues and obstacles the time is ripe to build enterprise and opportunity on the continent of 54 nations. “We want success stories, we don’t want you to go to Africa and be a failure,” said Mr. Muhammad.