Kachwanya.com has an article that throws a huge spotlight on the habit of startups in Kenya putting out misleading figures all in a bid to look solid. One could take his article, replace all references to Kenya with Nigeria or Ghana, and the article would remain valid. An excerpt from said article:
For Start-ups in their quest to show the world that they are doing well, the norm is to exaggerate the numbers, be it the money thing, the website traffics, the number of app downloads, and even the number of employees.
Here is a tweet by Ghanaian, Edward Tagoe, in response to Kachwanya’s article:
I have the rare privilege of interacting with many young entrepreneurs at events in Ghana, the figures in their pitches don't add up!
— Edward Tagoe (@ttaaggooee) February 16, 2014
So, Ghana is caught in this too. And it doesn’t start and stop with pitches. Here in Nigeria, people go out of their way to buy SUVs from funds they borrow and scrounge for – just to look the part. Lies are fabricated around a lot of things. I don’t get it. I wasn’t raised that way, so it is hard for me to do or even understand.
Some months ago, I began to write on the struggles of entrepreneurship in Nigeria. I decided to start putting out stories of my own struggles, so people stepping into the field know what to expect upfront. Sometimes those stories contain no solutions, but the information is useful. Usually, people wait till they have stuck it big before telling their stories. In my opinion, that needs to change.
Funny though, when I write about my struggles in business, many people assume that I am kidding around. I had a chat with World Famous Lammy a few weeks ago, and she mentioned to me how someone said to her that Mister Mobility is rich, yet he pretends not to be. Thankfully, she corrected that impression. Yes; I have made money over the ten years I have been in business. But I have also lost money.
The present car that I drive was purchased brand new in 2008 at the cost of N1.4 million. It was paid for in full upfront. My plan was to change it when it clocked 4 years. Unfortunately, I have been unable to. Things have been far from rosy. That is my story. I will not fake it. It is too much stress to try to put up appearances. There are times I have had hundreds of thousands in my account, and there are times I have been unable to put N10,000 together. No biggie.
Sometimes the cash comes in by the truckload. At other times, the dry season persists and things almost fall apart. There are days that I keep going on only by sheer force of habit, and not because everything is fine. Perhaps it is different for others, but that is my story and reality.
This attempt to keep spray-painting the façade in order to always look shiny will keep messing with us. We are better off admitting the problems that we face and sitting down to address them than to keep putting up appearances. We can do better. As said earlier, I made a decision to start talking about those struggles as an example, and as a way of stimulating discussions that hopefully throw up some answers. I hope that at least a few others will stand up with me.