Describe the challenges you face at Warrior Security.
We face external and internal challenges. Externally, Warrior is as prone as anybody to political risk – which is very problematic, particularly in post-conflict areas – as well as areas such as non-tariff barriers, indirect and hidden taxes, an overly cumbersome and often obstructive bureaucracy and poor infrastructure.
Internally, we battle poor education and perhaps worst of all, selfish interests, which mainly manifest themselves in dubious ethics and poor integrity. In the case of the latter, this is so endemic that it is our biggest priority and I can say that a lot of our recent impact has come about because we have strong programmes to eradicate it.
What is needed to catapult Africa to the next level?
Africa is already an amazing place and we should not decry the progress on the commercial field that we have seen, especially in the last ten years, particularly in countries such as Kenya and Zambia. South Sudan will probably be the fastest growing economy in the world this year; Kenya and Tanzania are soon to benefit from oil and gas; and the DRC will soon have the largest gold fields in the world.
All the countries in which we operate have a vision and to my mind African countries must take ownership of the potential and must not blame their current woes on the past; instead they should harness the potential and deliver better infrastructure, especially power, road and rail networks. The combined population of the countries in which we operate is 170 million people, a fantastic market for growth but I believe it is imperative that we use the potential to drive up productivity through better health and education and drive down costs by improving on the costs of living and of doing business. Governments would do well to concentrate on cogent policies, the establishment of proper law and order and infrastructure, leaving businesses to deliver better food, products and better returns.
Tell us what advice you have for other entrepreneurs in Africa.
Africa in some ways has a surfeit of entrepreneurs and a shortage of good reliable workers. That said, my advice to genuine entrepreneurs is not to follow the herd, be disruptive and to gauge their business on the number of investors knocking on the door to back you. If there is no place in the market for your product do not bother and stay away from unethical products and practices as, in time, they will fail.
What lessons did you learn from the military that have contributed to your success in business?
The military can have a bad rap in terms of its perception as a draconian behemoth intent on wanton destruction; yet I was fortunate to learn and practice leadership at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. As a result I would like to think I am comfortable interacting effectively on many levels and across a diverse platform of ideas, things and actions.