Stop complaining and get into Africa, says Gerald Mahinda

Business people should not wait for Africa to come to them, they have to go out, do their research and find opportunities on the continent, says Gerald Mahinda, MD of South African alcoholic drinks company Brandhouse.

Gerald Mahinda

Gerald Mahinda

“We can’t expect Africa to come to us. We must stop waiting, stop complaining and get out there, into Africa and start seeking out those opportunities. We need to get out of our comfort zones, and stop letting the place dictate what we can and can’t do. Certainly it will not be easy. It will take the vision, courage, determination, energy, resourcefulness, and pioneering spirit of a true entrepreneur. But the opportunities are there for the taking and should not be squandered,” he said during an event organised by think tank Accelerate Cape Town.

Born in Kenya, Mahinda was MD of East African Breweries before taking up his current position in Cape Town. Brandhouse has a large portfolio of premium alcohol brands, including Johnnie Walker, J&B, Smirnoff, Bell’s, Windhoek and Heineken.

Speaking of his own business experience in Africa, Mahinda said as the former head of East African Breweries for the global Diageo Group, he could have taken a posting anywhere in the world, but he had tremendous confidence in Africa and South Africa. He chose to bring his family to South Africa and to settle in Cape Town.

“For me, the choice is all about my confidence in the continent, the country and this city. This same confidence was shown by Brandhouse’s shareholders – globally listed Diageo and Heineken, and Namibian Breweries. We have built a billion-dollar business in SA,” Mahinda said.

Mahinda encouraged the young business professionals of Cape Town to seek out economic opportunities on the African continent.

“The developing world is where opportunities lie, and Africa is one of those places. China knows this. Other developing countries know this, which is why we have been invited to join the BRIC countries,” he noted.

“Sub-Saharan Africa – Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, the DRC, Uganda, Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda – is home to more than a 1 billion people with growth rates higher than the rest of the world. They are characterised by positive real GDP growth forecasts, increased private sector employment and consumer spending and high levels of foreign direct investment.”