Entrepreneurship out of necessity vs. entrepreneurship out of opportunity (Part 1/3)

August 18, 2015

The entrepreneurial instinct (Part 1 of 3)

While navigating the late afternoon rush in downtown Accra, Ghana, it is impossible not to notice the swarms of hawkers standing between lanes of traffic, selling products to commuters sitting in their vehicles, waiting to move again. The variety of goods available is astounding. There are all the essentials like chilled water sachets, prepared food, newspapers, phone accessories, furniture and even toilet paper. But there are also random products like exercise equipment promising the perfect beach body, tools for construction or automobiles, and an eccentric variety of home décor, including local and imported art. Just the other day a vendor reached in my window and started to give me a massage with an electronic massager, certain that once I experienced the relaxing power of this product, I would impulsively pay to own such an exceptional device myself.

In a way, these vendors are Accra’s SkyMall, allowing a seamless shopping experience amidst travel. They possess a strong entrepreneurial instinct apparent in their attempts to gain new business by improving customers’ lives, while granting themselves the gift of survival by earning a small profit.

When utter survival is on the line, however, these entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of considering the soundness of their business model. But this entrepreneur instinct is valuable, and like other natural-born talents or proclivities, entrepreneurship can be a ticket to a better life. However, other factors must be present.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series: Entrepreneurism leads to economic growth, but often not in Africa. Why?