Starting a business in Africa with little money, it's possible !

Armel Atchou, student at IFF Africa in 2020, created his business, ATM Farm Village, last year. He grows fruit trees.

Business leaders, teachers and Fondacio members spoke at the opening forum of the Fondacio Congress in Africa, on 26-27 February 2022. They proved that with courage, commitment, hard work and the help of the community, anything is possible, even with little means.

"To become an entrepreneur, you must overcome fear and work, work, work," said Professor Koffigan Agbati, a teacher and researcher from the Universities of Togo, during his lecture at the opening forum of the Fondacio Congress in Africa, at the end of February (watch below).

Ferdinand Adindjita, director of the Institut de formation Fondacio (IFF) in Africa, also stressed: "Young people must change their attitude. It is the biggest challenge. Often, they claim they lack money to start their business. But they have to work first, for it is work that brings money! Daring, perseverance, patience, dynamism and loyalty are the values to be built up among young people.”

Doing business requires courage

The journey of Armel Atchou, student at IFF Africa in 2020, tells it well. The young man estimated that he needed 600,000 CFA francs (a little more than €900) to start its business, by renting a 3000 m2 plot of land and irrigate it. He soon had to lower his ambitions due to a lack of funds. "I sold coal to pay for seeds and artemisia tubs," he said at the forum. "Then someone gave me 30,000 CFA francs in advance for the work (€45). That’s how I started, step by step.

Armel Atchou created his business, ATM Farm Village, last year. He grows fruit trees (mango, lemon, guava and coconut). He employs twelve agricultural engineers. Its turnover is 2.3 million CFA francs (€3500). "We will start planting banana trees this year," he says. "We are also going to introduce young people to agriculture, thanks to a patron who gave us a 25-hectare plot of land. It's not ideal, but where we are now is better than where we started. I could have resigned, but I showed courage and self-sacrifice. It's the courage that counts.”

Community in action

Until 2030, about 29 million young people will enter the labour market each year in Africa. The continent holds the record for the highest proportion of adults starting or running a new business in the world. "World Bank surveys show that small businesses, with less than five years of existence, are the biggest contributors to new jobs creation," explains Christian T. Helim, a speaker at the forum. However, they face financing problems. "Some countries, like Togo, are setting up mechanisms to help young people get started.”

But in the view of Ferdinand Adindjita, they need to go further: "Parents, politicians and financial institutions must change their mindset. To train and integrate young people into society and the labour market requires the implication of us all.” According to him, the first source of funding lies in the community. "We encourage young people to get together and build a common vision. Getting together is a start, staying together is an improvement, working together ensures success. Of course, this has to be based on human values: loyalty, trust and living together.”

Working together

After 17 years of administrative management, Eusèbe Zinsouga, head of Fondacio in Benin, decided to quit his job and set up his own business, Amocles Plus, in waste management and urban sanitation. He was aware of the difficulties that businesses face at the beginning. He first contacted business leaders to set up a business synergy. It gave birth to Synergie Thez, two years ago. It allows his company and two others to share their activities and address books.

"We are stronger together," said Eusèbe Zinsouga. "You only need to find people who share the same human and moral values.” Thus, in the opinion of the 47 years old, "to launch its business with little money is a state of mind. You must dare and move forward. If you make a mistake along the way, it doesn't matter, you will try again. We must not be afraid to work in synergy.” Today, Eusèbe Zinsouga employs more than 135 permanent staff for sanitation work and 20 contractual staff. "We are proud to contribute to the cleaning of cities in Benin.”

Eusèbe Zinsouga (on the left), head of Fondacio in Benin and founder of Amocles Plus, shared his experience as an entrepreneur at the forum.

Next forum in Bogota

In conclusion of the forum, François Prouteau, president of Fondacio, said: "We are entrepreneurs together. We need each other to be inspired and encouraged in our entrepreneurial abilities.” After the forum, thirty African delegates and several members of the Fondacio Council reviewed the past four years, since the last Congress.

The first phase of the Fondacio Congress will be held on the four continents, from February to June 2022. After Lomé, it will take place in Bogota, Colombia, from 2 to 6 April. The theme that will be discussed during the Latin-American forum will be: "Engaging young people in integral ecology and social justice".

Watch the testimonies of entrepreneurs in Africa (above) and the lecture of Professor Koffigan Agbati (below).