In a previous post, we talked about How We Started A Roast Coffee Export & Import Business In Cameroon. It is common to hear Cameroonians mystify the import-export procedure in the country. This is common in many sub-Sahara African Countries. They believe that exporting or importing goods for business within the country is just so difficult. I don’t blame them for this view because the few that are doing so have made mystified the procedure. I felt so too, but after doing it myself, I discovered it was not difficult at all.

However, if you don’t go out there to find out, you will never know the truth. To help you on this, we will be guiding you on import-export formalities for Cameroon and other countries in Africa. But for now, let’s first of all start with how to start an import/export business in Africa.

Africa is a land of plenty, rich with natural resources that are underdeveloped. There is room for many of the continents youths to start carrying out business with the entire world. Many don’t venture because they don’t know how to go about it. It’s not that difficult. This is how I started. I will share with you some general tips you can start with while looking for the right procedure in your various countries.

1. Open up to the world – use the Internet to import-export

There is no better way of opening up to the world than making your presence felt on the Internet. The Internet penetration rate is growing daily in Africa. More and more people are getting connected with others all over the world. You just need to separate yourself from every other person by heading towards starting your import/export business if that’s your goal.

In my case, I started my first business online on LinkedIn. I joined LinkedIn and built a profile for myself as a Business Development Agent. That’s how I came to link up with my first partner from Korea. I will be giving you more details in a follow-up post on how to get business partners on LinkedIn.

2. Decide on a product or service

Before you start a business, you must have something to sell, be it a product or service. Checkout our post on 5 Effective Ways to Get a Profitable Business Idea in Africa. If you have a particular product or service in mind, you have to carry out a research to know if you will have a market for it. From your research, decide on one thing and stick to it. Make sure you know your product or service well and you like it. Put yourself in the place of the customer – would you buy it if you had seen it in another part of the world? If yes, then ride on.

3. Get a business name, start up a blog or website

This is easy and cheap. You can use a blog or a website to build a network and develop your presence online. Your blog or website can be used to market and brand your product or service. Checkout these 4 Points to Note When Branding Your Business. I have been exporting my digital content writing services to many clients all over the world without ever seeing or even chatting with them. You should know that you can export as well as import digital products.

4. Register your business

You have to legalize your business by registering it as the law requires. In Cameroon, you can checkout these post on how to register a sole-proprietorship or limited liability company. Some partners may not take you seriously if your business is not registered. So it is a plus for you, even though you can still do without it.

5. Look for the right market

Have you picked a product, registered your business and your presence is felt online? It is now time for you to look for the market. Research for the best potential markets for your product or service around the world. To help you ease your search, you can check on GlobalEDGES “Market Potential Index” and The World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business”.

You can also visit the Chamber of Commerce of your country or any government institution where you can get data or statistics. These will help you to know where your product is being exported or where it is coming from in the case of imports.

6. Look for someone to supply

In case you are importing, you will need to source for a supplier. Don’t forget you can still source for a supplier if you are exporting. I know of businesses that carry out activities without producing any product or having any stock. That’s in the case you are not the creator of the product. You may still be the creator and want to improve on your product for the world market. You can then meet a manufacturer that will improve on your product quality.

Here, the Internet still becomes very helpful. There are resources online that can help you look for suppliers of almost every type of good you can find around. Checkout Alibaba, which is one of the most popular bank for exporters, manufacturers, importers, exporters and wholesalers.

7. Transport and Logistics

You now have to focus on transporting your products if they are not digital products. Digital products are increasingly becoming one of Africa’s import-export service. You will need to hire the services of a freight forwarder. They will take care of all shipping arrangements based on the information you provide to them.

After reading this, I don’t think something should be holding you back from starting your own import-export business in Africa. If you have any question or contribution, the comment section below is all yours. You can email or call us if you need further information. Don’t forget to share with others.

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