CAMpreneur Eyembe Elango gives us the “411” about doing Business in Africa
With a lot of untapped resources, an ever increasing middle class and growing young population, Africa seems to be the next big thing!!
The “411” about doing business in Africa….
.. about your company…My company “Mindsping Partners Inc.” provides frontier markets intelligence reports, custom pre-feasibility analysis and strategic project management to companies looking to expand into the emerging markets of sub-Saharan Africa. I have and do work closely with several companies – many of them privately held, generally pursue targeted opportunities in growth sectors in Africa. So, I have to help them survey the business landscape, identify stakeholders (both positive and negative), conduct pre-feasibility analyses and develop models for the financial implications of these commitments.
What are challenges in today’s African Business world?,The challenges of doing business in Africa today can best [and generally] be characterized as the “plague of flux” i.e. shifting atmospherics or enabling conditions which should bolster a company’s ability to make and implement its operation in a predictable environment.. Of course, trends over the last decade and a half has been that many African countries have emerged from the notorious trend which made them anathema for sustainable investment.
What are the growing sectors in Africa to target?The forces behind growth in Africa today are its mineral resources, the coveted prize of the most powerful interests on our planet- and many of those interests are outside of the continent. For better or worse, opportunities will continue to open up in the allied industries of those sectors, but many of these opportunities are capital intensive.
For the SME entrepreneur, opportunities abound in consumer good and services. Value added opportunities in food, Fast-moving consumer goods(FMCG), customized communications services etc
What should an investor be looking for?Depending on the sector, there are many indices to look for before developing a business case. Urbanization is one of them. Africa will be re-writing the script on development in the next 50 years. Unlike many other place in the world which have undergone the kinds of transformation we are witnessing, Africa does now have an over-arching philosophy around which African societies are organized and shaped – on the scale of most modern nation states….Indians are primary Hindu, the Japanese were principally Shinto/Buddhist, South and Central Americans are Catholic. Africa will be the first continent to be shaped and developed around exigencies of the free market!
In the end, the investor should look for people, and closely discern what their needs and wants are. In this respect, Africans are no different from people all over the world. They will demand and expect the same good and services “as seen on TV”! If the price point is right, the consumers will step up to the plate. Whether imported or manufactured locally, it is the entrepreneur’s challenge is to have the discerning wisdom to know the difference.
What challenges do Entrepreneurs and Investors face in Africa?
Entrepreneurs and investors still have to deal with the scourge of encumbering bureaucracies, enforcement of contracts, supply chain constraints etc. Every entrepreneur or investor has to deal with these realities, but I always insist that they make the investment up-front and become very aware of the environment they will be operating. Africa can be unkind to the “parachute” investor who comes in and proceed to undertake and investment without conducting the requisite “libations” – as we call it in my home country, Cameroon. Essentially, ensuring that stakeholders the local community understand and provide nominal sanction of an investment project. It goes a long way towards anchoring the investment in a community which will in turn go out of its way to make an investor/entrepreneur feel welcome and embraced. In Africa, such little gestures matter a lot.
About VC4Africa and your role in it
My association with VC4Africa.com goes back 3years. It was started by Ben White, whom I’ve collaborated with since, but whom, incidentally, I have never met. The forum has grown to over 4,200 investors and entrepreneurs from around the world who are focused on pursuing business and investment opportunities on the African continent. Group members have held about 20 meetings on three continents so far, and our growth rates suggest there is growing interest in Africa’s entrepreneurs and opportunities for venture capital on the continent. I have been a co-manager on the forum over the last two years and we just held two meet-ups in Cameroon (Buea and Douala) on May 4th and 6th.
We have a sister site VC4Africa.biz which invites entrepreneurs to post their projects and gain maximum visibility from investors and Venture capitalists. All indications are that Africa doesn’t have the dearth of entrepreneurs as many had concluded. It’s an exciting time indeed.
Contact – Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Eyembe…Thanks a lot for this..Great insight about the African business world!!