A while back, I posted this article describing the criteria I was looking for in regards to a new place to live, listing out the various countries and regions in the world, and which ones I felt were good places and bad places to live in. In that article, I made this single statement that generated a lot of questions and emails from you:
Africa. If I was younger, I would definitely move to Africa. There is huge opportunity for an aggressive, business-minded white person to make massive amounts of money there in relatively short periods of time. However, while I’m not old yet, I’m not young any more. I’m at a place in life where Africa would be too much adventure, at least for me.
I’ve received a lot of questions regarding more specifics about what exactly I was saying.
Africa, if you can handle it’s uncomfortable, difficult, third world environment, is a land of huge opportunity for the smart, agile, hard working Westerner. This is even truer if you are white. However, even if you’re not white (you’re Asian, Hispanic, Indian, etc), you’ll still be ahead of the curve there. Even if you’re black, if you were born and raised in the West, speaking those languages and using those skills, you’ll have a huge edge over just about everyone doing business and buying products and services in Africa. Here are the reasons why.
1. Unlike in the West and most other parts of the world, you can become a big fish in a small pond very quickly. If you go start a business over in Africa, because of your Western race, background, knowledge, language, and connections, you will be able to go from zero to the money much faster than you typically could in the West or in Asia. While Africa is a very big place and it’s hard to generalize, speaking very generally, Africans are hungry to do business with Westerners, and will often prefer to do business with Westerners in many scenarios.
Your ties to Western businesses, contacts, banks, and resources will also give you a leg up on any competition you encounter in Africa, since most Africans have no access to any of those things beyond basic internet access (and sometimes not even then).
2. Africa, or at least certain parts of it, has a much higher potential for growth than most of the developed world. People forget that just a few decades ago, places like Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong were barren shitholes. Look at them today. You’re not going to see this kind of growth in the already developed parts of the world like the US (which is lucky to get a pathetic 2% growth per year) or Europe (which is experiencing negative growth; i.e. it’s dying right before our very eyes). But in Africa, where it’s mostly third world chaos, there is huge potential for this kind of growth. In some parts of Africa, growth is very likely.
3. Many parts of Africa are hungry for basic infrastructure; infrastructure that you can help provide, and make piles of cash in the process. Roads. Bridges. Internet. Wifi. Water. Electricity. Sewer. Cell phones. Health care. Nike shoes. Etc. Africa is hungry for all the basic things you and I take for granted. If you can help provide any of these things, even in a small way, or even help provide products or services to the companies already providing these things, you’re going to make a lot of money pretty damn fast. China is already making a fortune providing the Africans with basic infrastructure. There’s no reason an individual, Alpha 2.0, hard working entrepreneur can’t do the same.
Where To Go?
Africa is huge. There are 54 friggin’ countries there. I have a few ideas on where I would go, but I’m not an Africa expert, so I’ll let Doug Casey give the more specific advice here, since he knows more about this than I do. Here’s what he’s said in the past:
Other than South Africa, I’d say Botswana is the most developed country in Southern Africa for sure. But where would I go now? Well, of course, the nice thing about Africa is that it’s divided basically into three parts, Anglophone Africa, Francophone Africa, and Lusophone Africa, and my French is still adequately conversational. I lived in France and Switzerland for a year during college. My Spanish is functional. The language thing is a consideration of course. But on the other hand, most of the educated people in most countries of the world speak English, which is the world’s lingua franca today.
Where would I go? There are around 50 countries in Africa. I like small, obscure ones. Maybe Ghana is too developed. Look at Benin or Togo or maybe the Ivory Coast. Mauritania, where I just was, is actually quite interesting. Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, you’ve got lots of choices. Somebody should get on a plane and just take a look. Then when they get into a country, a capital city, which is always where the action happens, get on the telephone to local lawyers and real estate agents and businessmen to set up appointments and see who you can get along with. One thing will lead to another.
I wouldn’t go to Africa as a lifestyle choice. I would go there for economic reasons and for the adventure that it would yield. I’d say as a lifestyle choice, it comes down to South America or the Orient. I lived in the Orient for years and I loved it.
If you’re considering moving to Africa to make some money there, here’s what I would recommend:
1. Spend some time doing some internet research on some infrastructure-related ideas you could get started with very cheaply, even if it was something as simple as consulting. Come up with three business ideas, but don’t “wed” yourself to them. Just keep them as ideas.
2. Do some internet research and go visit at least three African countries that seem interesting to you. Visit their largest city, which is usually their capital. You want to avoid the ones that are more fully developed (South Africa, Botswana, Algeria, etc) and the ones that are dangerous (Zimbabwe, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, etc)
3. As Doug said, visit with local businessmen, lawyers, real estate agents, and if you can, their equivalent of a local chamber of commerce, if such a thing exists (and it probably won’t, but maybe you could start one!). Get a feel for what the locals there need. Then start your business based on that.
4. Try to keep the business Alpha 2.0 compatible. That means avoiding employees, keeping the income location independent once the business is up and running, etc.
Good luck! If I was in my 20’s, that’s exactly where I’d go to get my first (or second, or third) business started… Africa.