Silicon Insider: Africa, Land of Entrepreneurs

No, what I mean is investment capital. From the loan of a few dollars to small business people to full-blown venture capital investments in major enterprises -- all of it smart money demanding a real return on the investment. That's what Grameen Bank is doing with small businesses in Bangladesh and India, and it's what should be taking place in Africa. That's only part of what's needed in southern Africa. I had dinner one night with a young British expat who is now running a resort and some other large businesses in Zambia. A born entrepreneur, he'd likely be a tycoon by now if he lived in Palo Alto. As it is, he's been wildly successful by Zambian standards. But it's been a hard road. As he long ago learned, nobody wants to invest in Africa -- the risks just seem too great. So, periodically, he visits his network of contacts in England, borrowing money by promising huge rates of return (which, please note, he's managed to meet) in a very short period of time -- usually just three years. He pulls it off because he's good, but no real economy could possibly be built under those terms.

And thus the tragic dilemma for southern Africa. The talent is there, and so is the entrepreneurial genius. It needs only the one thing we aren't prepared to give: not charity but real investment that demands a realistic return. Africa needs patient money, and patience is something we are short of these days.

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Due to interest from readers regarding my three recent columns about Africa, the following is a list of links to the organizations and businesses mentioned. My family's 2006 safari lasted six weeks and covered much of Namibia, Zambia and Botswana. It ranged from elegant lodges to sleeping in tents in the wild.

There were no sponsors for this trip. For those readers wishing to learn more about the venues we visited and the commercial companies we worked with on our trip through Africa, please see the following links:

Sunbird Tours: www.sunbirdtours.com (Travel arrangements, Heidi is the best)

Children's Town: www.globalgiving.com/pr/1100/proj1038a.html and www.globalgiving.com/cb/newheroes/pr/1100/proj1038a.html (Moses Zulu is a great man and he is doing vital and important work. Please help him any way you can.)

Makadi Safaris: www.makadisafaris.com (Our ranch stay in Namibia. The Metzgers are old friends)

Grootberg Lodge: www.grootberg-lodge.com (Spectacular location, rhino game drive)

Sunrise Tours and Safaris: www.orusovo.com/sunrise/kaleid.htm (Kaokoland camping, as well as deep sea fishing)

Luangwa River Lodge: www.luangwariverlodge.com (Elegant setting, fabulous food. Victor, a former Wildlife Ranger commander, is a terrific guide. Ask him to call the crocodiles.)

Kwando Safaris: www.kwando.co.za (Three superb lodges in the Okavango, each different. Mel Leech at Little Kwara is a fabulous hostess. Ask for Charles Sebaga to guide you, especially if you have kids.)

Deception Valley: www.deceptionvalley.island-safari.com (The Bushman walk has been one of our favorite experiences).

Pride of the Zambezi: www.prideofthezambezi.com (Modern houseboat on the Zambezi used for tiger fishing)

The River Club: www.wildernness-safaris.com (Elegant Victorian lodge on the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls. For information on Simonga Village, write to Simongavillage@wilderness.co.za, attn. Natasha Tilley.

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