Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads With a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan (Paperback)
At age forty-seven, Whit Alexander, the American cofounder of the Cranium board game, decided to start a new business selling affordable goods and services to low-income villagers in Ghana, West Africa. His brother, Max, a journalist, came along to tell the story. Neither of them could have anticipated just how much of an adventure they'd find there.In Ghana, Whit's initial goal is to market a high-quality, rechargeable AA battery for off-grid villagers. If successful, he planned to grow a larger for-profit business based on those batteries: creating a trusted brand that would provide life-enhancing products, services, and jobs, without relying on charity.Ghana, however, presents extraordinary challenges, and the brothers wage daily battles against deadly insects, insane driving conditions, unspeakable food, voodoo priests, corrupt officials, counterfeiters, and ethnic rivalries on their way to success. From signing up customers who earn a few dollars a month at most to training employees with no Western-style work experience, the brothers quickly learn that starting a business in Africa requires single-minded focus, a sense of humor, and a lot of patience.Along the way, Whit and Max relive their own childhood, bickering across the African bush and learning a great deal about Africans as well as themselves. Irreverent, hilarious, and ultimately inspiring, Bright Lights, No City challenges accepted notions of charity; shows the power of broadening your horizons; and suggests that there is hope and opportunity in Africa.
Max Alexander is an author, journalist, onetime farmer and failed politician. Failure is in fact a central theme in his books, which have been called "how-not-tos," although many of his subjects refuse to cooperate and actually make something of themselves, against all odds. He lives with his wife in Maine.