Doing business in Africa a question of human relations

A study of the perception of business relations with Africa, conducted among French entrepreneurs by the organisers of the Africa France Business Meetings, reveals that doing business in Africa is a question of human relations above all else: the spoken word comes before the contract. Having a local partner therefore seems essential to establish efficient relations.

Most of the entrepreneurs surveyed added that it is easier to work with North Africa (except Algeria) and with West Africa, thanks to their common history and language. They also say, however, that the language barrier is tending to disappear in the English-speaking countries.

The entrepreneurs are familiar with the growth rates (5% on average in Africa) of the countries they are working with. They consider that the level of training of Africans is excellent among management, but that qualified technicians are harder to find.

Among the prerequisites for doing business with Africa, in addition to having a trusted partner locally, they recommend that companies should be sufficiently well structured and should be familiar with exporting before they start. The only real obstacle is the insecurity of people and property.

On the subject of payment risks or instability, the entrepreneurs with the most extensive experience of business in Africa play these issues down considerably. For them, it is much easier to get paid in Africa because the goods are dispatched once payment has been made. Finally, they also emphasise the role of the media which often give certain events greater importance than they actually merit.

West Africa comes out top among the zones where French business people want to work. Then come North Africa, Southern Africa, Eastern and finally Central Africa.