Building a Strong Advisory Board for African Startups

Building a strong advisory board for African startups is a critical approach for guiding a young business to long-term success. A well-chosen advisory board may be transformative, offering crucial advice, mentorship, and connections. This is especially important in the African business sector, which offers distinct opportunities and difficulties. This article explores the significance of advisory boards, how to create an effective one, and the characteristics that make an advisor valuable.

The Importance of Building a Strong Advisory Board for African startups

Creating a strong advisory board goes beyond formality; it is a strategic tool that can substantially influence a startup’s trajectory. A well-composed advisory board has numerous advantages for African entrepreneurs.

Expertise and Experience

Advisory board members contribute a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be transformative for early-stage companies. Their strategic advice can assist entrepreneurs negotiate the numerous hurdles that come with developing a firm, especially in Africa, where market circumstances can be volatile and regulatory frameworks complex. This competence is about more than just avoiding dangers; it is also about harnessing insights to grasp opportunities that the inexperienced eye may miss.

Consider the benefits of having someone who has successfully negotiated the African market’s difficulties. They can offer battle-tested real-world techniques in addition to textbook advise. This level of understanding is crucial in developing a roadmap that is tailored to the particular characteristics of the African market.

Networking and Connections

An advisory board can use their broad networks to connect you to fresh opportunities. For African businesses, which frequently face limited access to venture capital, other  financing and markets, the correct connections can be a lifeline. Advisors can introduce startups to possible funders, partners, and customers, considerably increasing their growth chances.

Consider a scenario in which your advisor connects you to a significant investor or strategic partner who shares your goal. Such introductions can speed up fundraising rounds, create critical relationships, and even lead to new markets. In Africa, where business ecosystems are frequently close-knit, the importance of a well-connected counsel cannot be emphasised.

Credibility and Validation

Having credible advisors on board can greatly improve a startup’s credibility. This is especially important in Africa, where trust and reputation are key. Potential investors and partners are more willing to work with a business that is supported by well-known and recognised advisors. Their support serves as validation for your business concept and vision.

This credibility goes beyond financial backing. It affects how potential consumers and partners see your startup. In markets where trust is a valuable currency, the presence of reputable consultants can mean the difference between a warm welcome and a closed door.

Steps to Build a Strong Advisory Board for African Startups

Building a strong advisory board for African businesses requires a number of strategic approaches. Each phase is critical to ensuring that the advisory board is not only functional, but also consistent with the startup’s vision and goals.

Define your needs and objectives.
The basis of an effective advisory board is a clear knowledge of what you want from it. Are you looking for industry-specific expertise, advice on growing your firm, or connections to investors? Clearly describing your demands and objectives can assist you in identifying the most qualified candidates.

For example, if your primary goal is to scale quickly, you may choose consultants who have experience scaling businesses. If navigating regulatory environments is difficult, look for counsel with experience in regulatory affairs. The more specific you are about your requirements, the easier it will be to identify consultants that are a perfect match.

Identify Potential Advisors.

With a clear grasp of your requirements, the following stage is to identify possible consultants. Look for people who have a demonstrated track record in your business, have the necessary skills and knowledge, and are genuinely interested in aiding startups. Consider African advisors who are familiar with local market dynamics and have previous experience operating in the region.

Choosing the appropriate advisors requires more than a cursory look at resumes. It necessitates a grasp of their prior accomplishments, approach to problem solving, and ability to create. Look for consultants that have not only survived their industry, but have thrived and set new standards.

Approach and Engage.

Approaching potential advisors takes a well-planned strategy. Prepare to explain why you think they’re a good fit for your advisory board and what you intend to accomplish with their help. Highlight the partnership’s mutual benefits while also being upfront about the time commitment and expectations.

When engaging potential advisors, transparency is essential. Share your vision, difficulties, and goals. Be open about what you want from them and what they can expect in return. This level of transparency can help provide the groundwork for a successful advisory engagement.

Formalise the relationship.

Once you’ve chosen your advisors, formalise the partnership with clear agreements. These agreements should specify the advisers’ roles and responsibilities, the length of their participation, and any remuneration or equity arrangements. Clear agreements help to eliminate misunderstandings and guarantee that everyone is in accord.

Formalising the connection involves more than just legalities; it also entails creating explicit expectations. It guarantees that both parties understand their responsibilities and are dedicated to the startup’s success. This clarity can help to avoid potential conflicts and keep the advisory board focused on its objectives.

Foster strong relationships.

Building a good advisory board for African companies requires more than just recruiting advisers. It is critical to cultivate solid connections by communicating often, soliciting input, and keeping advisors updated on the startup’s progress. Regular meetings, updates, and engagement activities can help advisors stay motivated and involved.

Strong partnerships are based on trust and mutual respect. Show your advisers that you value their feedback by acting on their suggestions and keeping them updated on the results. Regular interactions can also assist detect and address any concerns that arise early on, ensuring that the advisory board remains a valued resource.

Key Characteristics to Look For in Advisors

When creating an effective advisory board for African companies, it is critical to select advisers that exhibit some crucial characteristics. These characteristics will ensure that the advisers can make a meaningful contribution to the startup’s development.

Relevant expertise.

Advisors should be knowledgeable about the startup’s sector and aims. This expertise can be derived from years of experience, specialised knowledge, or a successful track record in similar projects. African entrepreneurs might benefit greatly from consultants that have experience negotiating the African market’s unique hurdles.

Relevant expertise extends beyond technical knowledge. It entails an understanding of market trends, consumer behaviour, and competitive landscapes. Advisors with this degree of knowledge can provide insights to help you remain ahead of the competition and make smart decisions.

Strategic thinking

Advisors should be strategic thinkers who can provide high-level guidance and assist startups in developing long-term plans. They should be able to understand the big picture and provide insight into long-term objectives, growth strategies, and potential threats.

Strategic thinking requires the ability to anticipate future difficulties and possibilities. Advisors that can think strategically can assist you in developing a roadmap that addresses current difficulties while also planning for future growth. They can offer insight into how to balance short-term aims with long-term vision.

Strong networks.

The ability to connect entrepreneurs to useful networks is an important skill for advisors. Look for people with extensive professional networks who can make introductions to possible investors, partners, and consumers.

Strong networks are based on relationships and trust. Advisors who have established such networks can unlock doors that might otherwise be closed. They can assist you in gaining access to resources, opportunities, and skills necessary for growth and success.

Commitment and Passion

Advisors should be genuinely interested in and dedicated to the startup’s development. This passion will motivate them to actively participate and make their best efforts. Look for people who are enthusiastic about your vision and eager to devote their time and energy to helping you realise it.

Passion is a highly effective motivator. Advisors who are enthusiastic about your startup are more likely to go above and above to ensure your success. Their excitement can also be contagious, encouraging your staff and fueling a culture of dedication and achievement.

Cultural and Market Understanding

African entrepreneurs benefit from having consultants who understand the region’s cultural and market intricacies. This insight can help you make informed decisions and navigate potential problems in the African business environment.

Cultural and market understanding entails an appreciation for local cultures, values, and commercial processes. Advisors with this insight may assist you in tailoring your tactics to the local context, ensuring that your efforts are well received by customers and stakeholders alike.

Leveraging Advisory Boards for Long-Term Success.

Building a successful advisory board for African businesses entails not just the initial setup, but also using the advisory board for long-term success. Here are some recommendations on how to efficiently use your advisory board.

Regular Meetings and Updates
Set up regular meetings with your advisory group to discuss progress, difficulties, and future objectives. These discussions allow advisers to provide comments, exchange ideas, and suggest strategic changes.

Regular meetings help sustain momentum and keep advisers informed. They give a forum for debating new ideas, overcoming obstacles, and fine-tuning techniques. These contacts can also serve to foster a sense of community and dedication among advisory board members.

Act on Advice.

An advisory board is only as useful as the advise it offers. It is critical to carefully examine and apply the recommendations provided by your experts. Show that you value their feedback by taking action and keeping them updated on the results.

Acting on advice shows that you trust and respect your advisors’ insights. It also encourages them to continue offering useful advice. Keep advisers updated on the outcomes of their advice, whether favourable or negative, to establish a continual feedback loop.

Encourage open communication.
Create a climate of open communication in which advisors feel free to share their ideas and perspectives. Encourage genuine discussions and be open to constructive criticism. This open communication will result in more efficient issue solving and decision-making.

Open communication promotes trust and transparency. It ensures that advisers feel heard and valued, encouraging them to contribute more actively. This culture of transparency can also help uncover possible difficulties.

Building a good advisory board for African companies is a strategic decision that can have a substantial impact on the venture’s development. It’s about more than just recruiting experienced people; it’s about bringing together the perfect combination of skills, networks, and passion to support your startup’s vision and goals. A well-constructed advisory board does more than just provide advise; they serve as navigators, assisting you in charting a course through Africa’s unique difficulties and tremendous prospects. African entrepreneurs can position themselves for long-term success and sustainable growth by carefully selecting advisors who understand the local market, cultivating good connections, and using their insights to make strategic decisions. In the dynamic and often unpredictable African business environment, a strong advisory board is not simply an advantage; it is a requirement.

FAQs on Creating a Strong Advisory Board for African Startups.

1. What is the purpose of an advisory board in an African startup?

An advisory board offers strategic advice, coaching, and access to key networks, assisting African businesses in navigating market challenges, identifying opportunities, and establishing reputation. Advisors contribute knowledge and experience that can help shape important business decisions and propel long-term success.

2. How should I choose the best consultants for my African startup?

Choosing the proper advisors entails finding people with relevant knowledge, extensive professional networks, and a genuine interest in your startup’s goal. Look for consultants with industry experience, an understanding of African market dynamics, and the ability to provide strategic assistance.

3. What are the main advantages of establishing an advisory board for an African startup?

The main advantages include access to professional advice, increased credibility, valuable relationships, and strategic insights. An advisory board can assist African entrepreneurs in attracting investors, forming alliances, navigating legal hurdles, and scaling their business effectively.

4. How can I formalise my relationship with my advisors?

Formalising the relationship entails creating specific agreements that define the roles, duties, time commitments, and compensation or equity arrangements for advisers. This provides mutual understanding and helps to avoid misunderstandings, keeping the advisory board focused on its objectives.

5. How frequently should I meet with my advisory board?

Regular meetings, such as monthly or quarterly, are encouraged to discuss progress, issues, and strategic goals. Frequent updates and open communication help advisers stay interested and informed, allowing them to deliver timely and relevant advice.

6. What characteristics should an African startup advisor possess?

Look for advisors who have relevant business experience, strategic thinking skills, extensive professional networks, and a dedication to your startup’s vision. Furthermore, advisors who understand the cultural and market intricacies in Africa can provide more targeted and effective advice.

7. How can I make sure that my advisory board remains successful over time?

To ensure long-term efficacy, maintain regular communication, follow adviser guidance, and cultivate an open communication culture. Regularly assess the board’s composition and performance, and be willing to make changes as needed to line with your startup’s changing goals and problems.

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Matthew Musgrove

Matthew Musgrove

Matthew is an entrepreneur and business Advisor with a passion for change management and social empowerment. With a background in business accounting and advisory, as well clinical research project management, he strives to find strategic and sustainable solutions to business problems.



Mark Van Hoff comes from background of technical & production planning, budgeting & scheduling of major live events. As the first production co-ordinator at M-NET for Outside Broadcasts, Mark has managed major local and international productions including Miss South Africa, Miss World, multiple music events and major sports events, including the PnP Cycling Tour.Mark co-founded Van-Man Productions in 1994, Page to Picture in 2000 and Move Media Networks in 2007. All three companies have achieved domestic success and have been well-regarded in the South African production industry.



Oluwaseun Adewuyi who is the Group Chief Finance Officer (CFO) at Caban, is a Certified Chartered Accountant, with Fellowship status at both the ACCA as well as the Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, a UK Based industry body with a specific focus on the management of charities, not-for-profit organisations and NGOs.. Oluwaseun comes with strong business acumen and 20+ years of progressive experience in finance and operations management within well-reputed and high growth organisations Including Next Plc and Royal Mail. He has been heavily involved in impact investment across Sub-Saharan Africa and has been instrumental in the creation of a series of community schools in West Africa. Throughout his career, he oversaw a broad range of operations, including Business Strategy and Business Reorganisation, summarising the organisation’s financial status, and coordinating the preparation of tactical plans, financial forecasts, and budgets. Adept at developing and implementing effective internal control framework to maintain sound financial accountability.

tim scholtz


Tim Scholtz, who's is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Caban Investments, is experienced in implementing corporate governance guidelines, formulating risk management structures, process and cost optimization. Tim has a strong corporate background, having worked as COO at the South African Tourism board, was COO at the Nelson Mandela foundation and as a internal audit manager at Arthur Anderson earlier in his career.

Ben Botes


Ben Botes is Entrepreneur, VC, co-Founder, Author and Academic with a strong social conscience. Ben Involved with early stage and growth firms for the past 20 years and has been Co-founder of 9 separate businesses across Africa. Ben has directly and indirectly been involved in impact investment and the support of charities and non profits for the last 30 years. Ben is a regular speaker at the African Investment Conference in London and has been featured in Wall Street for Europe, The Guardian Small Business, BBC, the Mail and Guardian in the UK and BizCommunity, Channel 3 TV, Investors Weekly, The Cape Times, Radio 702 with John Robbie and Good Hope FM in South Africa

Dave Romero


Dave Romero is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur with a passion for making an impact. A qualified Professional Accountant, Dave has been a director in multiple financial institutions and was once the youngest Chairman on the JSE, in addition to being listed as one of Business Times’ Top 100 companies and the 40th fastest-growing company in South Africa. Dave is a core founder of the Caban Group, which aims to provide a comprehensive service offering to small businesses in return for equity. With a passion for nurturing entrepreneurs, Dave can often be found outside of the boardroom – offering advice, creating innovative funding solutions and building communities through sustainable practices.



Dr Ruben Richards is a truly inspirational South African leader. Through his peace-building seminars for criminal gangs, Dr Ruben has facilitated the longest ceasefire in the history of gang warfare on the Cape Flats. In addition to being Chairman & Founder of the non-profit Ruben Richards Foundation, Dr Ruben is an ordained cleric, company director, non-executive Chairman of Visual International Limited and was once the Deputy Director-General of the now-disbanded Scorpions.