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Entrepreneurship: An opportunity for African Immigrants?

From unrecognized academic credentials to racial discrimination, African immigrants face a myriad of challenges as they reside in the U.S. If you are one of them,  you can definitely relate to such predicaments. Nevertheless, many of the immigrants have not allowed their challenges to become hindrances to their ambitions. They have defied all odds to become notable people in society.

 

Did you know that more than 27 % of all entrepreneurs operating businesses in the United States are immigrants? Besides, all the U.S immigrants account for 13.5 % of the country’s population (Fairlie, 2016). This is a clear indication that there’s an abundance of opportunities for black people too, despite the challenges they have to deal with. In addition, a recent study shows that immigrants, including Africans in the U.S account for 55% of all business startups with a total value exceeding $1 billion (Lahm, 2019).

 

Another inspirational statistic for the Africans who want to start businesses in the U.S shows that immigrants in the U.S are twice likely to have business startups as compared to the natives (Fairlie, 2016). Besides, their chances of becoming millionaires are four times higher.

 

So, the future is bright for African immigrants who have the right achiever mindset and determination to make a difference. More importantly, they need to borrow a leaf from their colleagues who penetrated the business arena in a foreign country. According to various research studies, several success factors cut across the majority of the successful U.S immigrants, especially those originating from Africa. They include:

 

Having and leveraging on the support system

No man is an island. Nobody can fully exploit his/her potential by working alone. The success stories of the majority of African executives in the U.S attribute their achievements to their families, communities and friends  sharing a common interest (Chrysostome, 2012). Therefore, even as they work to develop themselves, people who migrate to the U.S from Africa should not isolate themselves. It is through interacting with other people, both in the U.S and back at home, that they’ll identify common problems and pinpoint people they can work with to offer solutions in the form of businesses.

 

So, even in the midst of discrimination, African immigrants should form support systems among themselves and other like-minded people for not only social support, but also for the sake of viable business ideas and collaborations.

 

Avoiding unnecessary shortcuts

Many African immigrants have been victims of deportation by the U.S government because they used illegal shortcuts to maneuver their  country of residency (Ewing, 2012). Unfortunately, operating a business is not a hit-and-run affair. You need licensing, among other legal factors, for you to be allowed to run a legal business. You can’t meet those requirements unless you have an American visa that allows you to start and operate a business in the country. Failure to do so could lead to deportation.

 

Focusing on the Cities that are more friendly to immigrants 

Some places in the U.S are friendlier to immigrants who want to venture into business than others. Generally, urban areas are more immigrant-friendly than rural areas, while some states are better for small businesses run by immigrants than others (Chrysostome, 2012).

 

The majority of aspiring African entrepreneurs cite a lack of or inadequate capital as one of their major challenges of starting a business. So, to circumvent the challenge, savvy immigrants start their businesses in the states with laws that favor small businesses. It’s important to know that laws concerning small businesses might differ from one state to another. Of all the states, Delaware has the friendliest laws for small businesses. For instance, its corporate tax rate is quite low. That’s why it has very many business startups. When the laws are favorable, the costs of starting and operating a small business are reasonable and affordable for an upcoming entrepreneur.

 

Seeing opportunities in problems

Echoing the proverb stating that necessity is the mother of inventionpeople get incredible business ideas from seeing and understanding problems surrounding them at an in-depth level.

 

Tashitaa Tufaa is a good example of an immigrant who saw a burning need and started a business to offer a solution. In particular, the Ethiopian immigrant in the U.S and the founder of Metropolitan Transportation Network (MetroTN), spotted a service gap in the school transport sector in Minneapolis. He noted that students with special needs were struggling while traveling between their homes and schools. This motivated him to start the student bus transportation company which provides special attention to students with special needs. The company, which currently serves numerous schools in Minneapolis, has roughly 300 workers who include Tufaa’s relatives who also migrated to the U.S as political refugees.

 

African immigrants who study in the U.S, such as Tufaa, are highly advantaged in terms of innovativeness, as the country’s education increases their creativity. The creativity boost makes them see things from a different perspective, helps them easily discover various problems and find creative solutions to solve them.

 

Limitless mindset

Humans are prone to limiting beliefs that make their subconscious minds preoccupied with fear, doubt and negativity. As a result, they set themselves boundaries which limit their potential and achievements (Giarrusso, 2016). Africa has many serious problems ranging from low-quality education level to poverty. As such, it is easy for an African to feel inferior when they compare themselves to people from developed countries like the U.S. Since human actions are as a result of his thoughts, the mindset will only enslave a person to the status quo.

 

Therefore, African Immigrants in the U.S should break off from the belief that they are an inferior race. Self-pity and inferiority complex are enemies of progress (Bogan, 2008). They need to get rid of their limiting beliefs to see beyond the horizon of possibilities and explore their entrepreneurial potential beyond limits. As the greatest-of-all-time Kenyan marathoner, Eliud Kipchoge, says, “No human is limited”.

 

African immigrants in the U.S are highly placed to prove to the world that all dreams are valid, irrespective of where one comes from. With the right mindset, abidance to relevant laws, high level of innovativeness and prudent business decisions, we expect to see more immigrants making Africa proud.

 

Fredick Yogo

Afrikagora Magazine

 

Work cited

Fairlie, Robert W., et al. “Kauffman Index of Startup Activity: National Trends 2016.” Available at SSRN 2828359 (2016).

Lahm Jr, R. J., & Rader, C. S. (2019). IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEURS: CHALLENGES AND ACHIEVEMENTS USING BOOTSTRAPPING METHODS. Copyright 2019 by Institute for Global Business Research, Nashville, TN, USA, 88.

Bogan, V., & Darity Jr, W. (2008). Culture and entrepreneurship? African American and immigrant self-employment in the United States. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(5), 1999-2019.

Chrysostome, Elie. “The success factors of necessity immigrant entrepreneurs: In search of a model.” Thunderbird International Business Review 52.2 (2010): 137-152.

Ewing, Walter A. “Opportunity and exclusion: A brief history of US immigration policy.” Immigration Policy Center (2012): 1-7.

Giarrusso, Renee. “Limitless Leadership: A Guide to Leading from the Inside Out.” Limitless Leadership (2016): 16-22.

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