Many people ask why did I choose Africa ? I always reply , Africa Chose me !
I was 21 years old when I left GE owned GECIS in India to work for a trading company headquartered in Cotonou , Benin. To be honest I didn't know where this country was even until after being interviewed. I was to be based in Abidjan , Cote d'ivoire to assist the regional head manage the station while he travelled across the region from Nigeria , Benin, Togo , Mali , Burkinafaso to Gabon.
I remember landing at Lagos Airport and driving to Cotonou the same evening. Going by car through the peak traffic of Lagos after the longest journey ever undertaken. I was beginning to get frustrated when I was taught my first lesson about being in Africa.
The travel coordinator( who was a Nigerian public relations and travel specialist) accompanying me told me "Young boy , if you want to work in Africa , the first thing you must have and always have is patience" ! Enjoy the traffic he said and continued driving.
Less than 24 hours in Lagos, 6 days in Benin where I spent days organizing the office documents and learnt about the products the company dealt in along with a crash course in pleasantries in French . I was set to go to Abidjan. Landed in abidjan , got my second lesson in Africa, its important to be polite. People are generally calm, smile and there's lot less frenzy to get anywhere.
My boss left the station for his usual tour 1 month after my arrival , he decided to post himself in Benin and left the branch to me. I learnt French , learnt the business , expanded the business , took 3 more countries under my control and started expanding. I was going great guns when I fell sick with Malari and Apendecitis at the same time and spent 28 days in the hospital , Lesson - Health needs extra care in Africa - Tropical weather is great but mosquitos aren't as kind as the people ! Started work again , continued expansion and business improvement but In the 5th month political unrest , a civil war and gunfire brought me back to ground. Fourth lesson in Africa "nothing is permanent" ! This was my First 6 months !
I worked for the company for another 12 months and after that decided to go solo. My company offered to continue to supply goods to me on profit share basis and we had a wonderful business relationship until 2011 . We Stayed on very good personal terms too after that !