However, it can be a challenge to find good local partners who meet your unique set of expectations. Be careful of the choices you make as poor partnerships may cost you heavily.
4. Multi-level strategic positioning
To position yourself and your business in the market place is crucial for the success of any business, but the strategic approach I suggest for Africa is unique to the continent.
a) Become an influencer, not just a supplier: There is not only a huge lack of services and products, but also a significant lack of information, education, accessibility, political awareness, trade links etc. in Africa. This provides you with opportunities to facilitate and influence related market segments at policy level, for example through public initiatives or thought leadership.
b) Become part of a national or regional vision: Many African countries have easily accessible national development agendas or vision documents, and several governments pursue them with great ambition. Similar strategy documents exist for regional entities, such as the East African Community. Study them and learn how you can communicate the goals of your business in a way that feeds into national and regional objectives. Clearly referring to these among key decision-makers and being viewed as an enabler will potentially be of great advantage and open many doors.
c) Think regional or pan-African: Intra-African trade is increasing and there are ambitious initiatives underway among several nations and within the African Union to take down certain trade barriers. Huge infrastructure programmes that span several countries are in progress and regulatory frameworks are being revisited. A lot is happening, and to be aware of these developments and include them in your business strategy will be rewarding at multiple levels. Not only will you expand your market potential considerably, but to think and act at a regional or pan-African level will also enable you to diversify risk and extend exit strategies. This is partly because your value goes up among investors looking for promising Africa business ventures; we are witnessing how more and more Africa startups and small and medium enterprises with relatively simple concepts are receiving multimillion-dollar injections from foreign firms.
5. First mover advantage with long-term outlook
The international business community is slowing waking up to Africa’s new growth story, and more and more foreign companies are moving in, although an increasing number of Africans are also setting up successful enterprises. However, the window is still open wide enough to be the first, or among the first, in certain market segments. You will usually get higher financial rewards out of this, but it will also allow you to position yourself as a business authority while continuing to focus on long-term developments.
Careful and strategic planning is the key to exponential success in Africa, but these processes can only be built effectively if you know the growth markets in the region well enough. I think it is worth the time and effort to keep yourself informed. In the end, the reward will go far beyond considerable financial revenue. Yes, a successful African business will enable you to build a grand lifestyle for yourself, but it is much more than that: you are now actively contributing to shaping Africa’s future.
Dr Harnet Bokrezion is a senior international development consultant and the founder and CEO of Africa Business Jumpstart, a coaching business that supports you to make informed decisions while pursuing your business ambitions in Africa faster and more confidently.