Navigating African business is easy – with the right partner

Africa’s growth is skyrocketing, driving a previously unseen business interest and investment on the continent. Africa is seen to be one of the hottest global opportunities for corporate expansion. However, not all African countries are enjoying the same speed and pace, and the continent remains complex and diverse, with each country and region coming hand-in-hand with its own opportunities, as well as challenges and hurdles.

Companies wishing to invest in the continent need a strong, specialist partner who can help them navigate through the intricate socio-economic, regulatory, legal and tax environments, unique to each country, says Louise Robinson, MD of Database 360. “Only a consultant partner with a range of skills and expertise across a wide variety of industries and locations can ensure this process is smooth and seamless. The number of cultural, political, and organisational differences across the continent can be a daunting prospect for investors. The sheer size and scope of the region could make them reluctant to even try to enter an African country, never mind multiple ones. However, it is not all that difficult to handle the unique African business environment with the help of a specialist consultancy.”

She says to remember that European solutions don’t translate well into the African market. “What is needed is an African approach, which bears in mind culture, geography, political climate, and specific markets. Businesses need to be creative and flexible when taking on these region-specific challenges. They need to break away from European or American thinking, and look at the different angles and challenges surrounding a country from the beginning, and coming up with unique and integrated solutions, to save time and money in the long run.”

Despite the tremendous growth in Africa, businesses wishing to tackle the continent must have a smart entry strategy, and a consultant can help with this, she adds. Africa is both geographically enormous, and highly diverse, and a strategy that plays into its strengths is key to success.

Most importantly, Robinson says, the vital element about the African market is entrants need to take a long-term view, and be clear about their objectives as well as their operating model. “The first question should be where to invest, and this requires a closer look at different locations, and careful consideration of each region’s pros and cons. For example, North Africa boasts a reasonably mature market, and is reasonably close to Europe, but is plagued by political instability. Southern Africa is far from Europe, but more economically mature and politically stable.”

She says finding the right strategy for the right region in Africa can be tricky. “This goes far beyond cash resources. To succeed, any business needs to be talking to the right people in the right way. Bear in mind that the African Economic Outlook Report highlighted that administrative procedures for opening and running a company, as well as the costs of running a business, were the major factors that put people off African investment.”

To navigate the complex African environment, a consultancy that specialises in the African business environment is key. “A good partner will help to pinpoint the unique requirements of the specific region, and define and identify the target audience. Through years and years of experience and hands-on know how, a consultancy is able to smooth the path to entry into emerging African markets.”

According to Robinson, Database 360 has over ten years experience in bridging the gap between investor companies from the developed world and emerging markets on the African continent. “We understand the African market, and have developed a strong foothold on the continent over the past years. We boast a thorough understanding of the factors and pitfalls relevant to doing business in this highly complex continent. Database 360 provides a consulting service that specialises in offering marketing strategies and reliable data – helping organisations to reach the correct people in an environment where information is notoriously difficult to come by.”