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Building for Africa

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Building for Africa (draft)

A guide of what to consider when launching new technology products on the continent.

Work in Progress

Please note that this document is still a work in progress. Some sections are incomplete and it’s still a little rough around the edges. If you’re reading it, it’s most likely that I’ve shared an early link with you or the person who set it to you. I’m doing this to get feedback, suggestions and to motivate me to finish it. (Apparently there’s “nothing quite like public pressure to complete it...”) Anyway, please share your feedback () and I’m specifically looking for any anecdotes that you have for one of the sections as I’d love to include a range of comments and stories from others - attributed to you of course. Hope you find it interesting!


We’ve all heard that That it’s the next frontier and that it will be the for venture returns over the next 20 years. I’m not here to tell you that again. But there is an often overlooked nuance.
What we also know is that you into the African context. Expensive examples include the , the , and the almost comical . The World Bank’s private arm, the International Finance Corporation, discovered in 2007 that only 50% of its projects succeeded. The result is billions of dollars being lost in the process. In this guide, I highlight some of the factors that you need to take into account if you want to build or launch a new product in Africa.
From understanding how to translate Cultural nuances to various Market characteristics and Unique systems. There are several factors that you need to take into account if you want to build and launch a product on the continent. While each of these could be a post on their own, I unpack a number of them at a high level below. With this list, I’m trying to not go too deep or too wide, but rather provide an overview of some of the most impactful ones. This guide covers the following 24 aspects broken into the 3 main sections. (Some are still coming soon, marked by a [!].)
Its worth noting that these aspects have come from my experience and dealings, the people I’ve worked with and the products I’ve been involved with. This is a list of insights that I’ve backed up with actual data wherever possible. It’s not a fully comprehensive or academic list.

Who this Guide is for

Our media and public content about Product and startups is almost always US or EU-centric, which can lead to the misunderstanding that all markets are like that. As in many other developing regions, Africa is different. However without a lived experience, it’s hard to know how it’s different. This guide is primarily aimed at people with limited understanding of the continent and wanting to get a high-level overview to help them pick up the peculiarities faster. Hopefully it will resonate with operators on the continent too - maybe give them the language to describe into their lived experiences.
What it changes: For each aspect covered, I’ve tried to unpack how that might change a if you’re wanting to build, grow, or launch a product, business or a team in Africa.


With 52 countries, hundreds of languages and almost as many cultures, Africa can certainly not be perceived as a homogeneous region. However, like with other regions such as Southeast Asia or South America, some aspects are more common on the continent than in other regions in the world. The goal of this outline is to highlight some of those differences at a high enough level that they are . Any set of broad generalizations will always be mostly wrong, but hopefully in the right direction. Treat the factors mentioned below as a guide, not a rule.


The content of this document remains the property and copyright of the author.

About the Author

Roger Norton has spent the last 15 years building new products in Africa, mostly for startups. A a 3x entrepreneur, running a startup studio, worked for a venture builder, he’s helped build over 75 products. He’s also been an angel investor, mentor, coach and published 2 books on innovation and building startups.
Connect on , Follow on , Read my , watch a

Looking for a co-author! ​There are a lot of places where we can take this, but I don’t have the capacity to do that. If you’re interested in getting involved or building on this, get in touch.

Table of Contents

[!] indicates a work in progress...

I: Cultural aspects

II: Market Characteristics:

III: Unique systems:

Resources & References

(c) Roger Norton 2024

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