There is a popular saying that opportunities abound everywhere. However, it takes diligent hands to find them. Investors and businesspeople are always in search for opportunities they can invest in. Investors are generally sceptical about opportunities that are open to everyone because what is known to all is probably no longer an opportunity, especially in terms of investing. Most investors would rather go in search of hidden opportunities that can be explored.

Even when the environment is harsh, they see beyond the environment to the investment they want to make. The environment of Africa is an example of a harsh environment, but there are still foreign investors coming to invest in the continent. One may wonder why. The truth remains that even in a harsh environment, opportunities can still be created. Due to the exposure of these investors coming into Africa, they identify opportunities, explore the environment and use the right models to get the business going.

For instance, Chinese investors are constantly spreading their tentacles all over the world introducing their cheap technology to consumers. They take advantage of the fact that countries with high level of poverty have the willingness to purchase but lack the purchasing power. Techno phones with their android technology came into the harsh continent of Africa and gave the likes of Samsung and Nokia a thick competition. And they are gradually spreading over the continent. Star Times digital television from China came into the continent to give the South African DSTV a fair competition. And today they have more than one million television subscribers to their paid digital television.

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What is a harsh environment? A harsh environment in our context is an environment that kills opportunities as a result of various conditions which are unfavourable to business and investment. All over the African continent, there are harsh environments and this has not kept investors from investing in such locations. From the poorest part of Brazil in South America to a war-torn Somalia, there are thriving opportunities that investors have taken advantage of. Here are three principles that these investors use to create opportunities in harsh environments:

1. They define the environment

Every environment has its own uniqueness. These investors spend their time defining the environment, to know what is obtainable, tenable and adaptable for such environment. A good understanding of an environment translates to a good understanding of the people, their values, beliefs, perceptions, assumptions and behaviour. This is important to a prospective investor because it defines the strategy which he uses to create an opportunity in such environment.

2. They get the right education

They get the necessary information about the people in such environment. They find out about their purchasing power, their use of social media and what they consume the most. While trying to create opportunities, they find out about the level of education of their prospective consumers. They do a thorough research to educate themselves and get relevant information that will equip them when they venture into creating opportunities. They know the “what” “why” and “for whom” they want to serve with their opportunities.

3. They take advantage of experience

Investors that create opportunities in harsh environments draw from experience. Having thrived in similar environments, they replicate their success elsewhere. But for prospective investors who have never followed this path, they experience fear. And their fears could be as a result of myths they have about successful businesspeople. Some of the myths they have include notions that successful businesspeople are from a privileged background, highly intelligent, politically connected and got their education from some of the best institutions in the world. These myths are what hinder them from creating and seizing opportunities for themselves.

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To create opportunities in a harsh environment you must have the following basic convictions about opportunities:

  1. Challenges and opportunities are two sides of the same coin.
  2. There are several challenges in the environment that people will like to eliminate. This suggests that they may be willing to pay for the solutions.
  3. Money will naturally flow in the direction of value served at the right time. This is the general formula for business success.

With good intentions and a good game plan coupled with competence and discipline, you are positioned for a favourable outcome. You also need to recognise that opportunities may be the result of incremental innovation, and this requires hard work.


Photo credit: David Deas/DK Stock/Corbis