There is a perception that it is difficult to do business with Tanzanians. How true is this?
From our experience travelling in other countries, I would say Tanzania is one of the hardest markets in East Africa to crack. We have a lack of systems, processes, institutions and organisations to support the growth of the market. I would say we are five years off, if we want to be at Kenya’s level. However, there is a shift, in the technology sector specifically. We are starting to see great leadership. We have the ability to get so far, but the drive has to be in everybody; from the entrepreneurs, investors and government. Building that goodwill, will take time.
Describe some of the challenges you face at AIM Group.
One of the major challenges we face is lack of capacity in Tanzania and this makes recruitment a big challenge. However, with the right training and environment, new hires have the potential to become some of the best developers. If you invest in your employees, within three months, their capacity improves significantly.
AIM Group is a new media advertising agency. How effective is digital advertising in Tanzania?
Mobile and internet penetration is going up almost everywhere in East Africa. Brands need to be present in this space. Those who go in first will be reaping benefits ten years down the line. The challenge is convincing companies that they need to be visible and having conversations in this space.
Why the reluctance amongst brands given the success of mobile technology in East Africa?
This is because traditional marketers don’t usually understand digital marketing. They understand above the line marketing perfectly well. There is always a fear around the word technology. We spend a lot of our time educating our clients and involving them and their traditional agencies. We have to show them how it benefits them. If you try to fight with their traditional agencies, which have the big spend, they will cut you out. Once one major brand goes digital, others follow. We have seen this in Tanzania, from one major brand 18 months ago to 13 major brands now.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Be ready for failures and never give up. If you don’t have a string of failures behind you, it means you have learnt nothing. Failure is a big part of being an entrepreneur. If you want to be successful, you have to collaborate. There is always 100 other people who have the same idea as you. For Tanzanians that is a big challenge; we are always worried about collaborating. We need to get over that handicap very fast.
What are your future plans?
Our goal is to grow on the continent. We think there is a great opportunity in the digital space in Africa. We are in our growth phase. In the next 12 to 18 months, we want to have an East African presence and then move from there. In AIM Group, we sit in a very good space right now. We are in a market where we were the first digital agency (in Tanzania) and so we had the first mover advantage. This makes it easy for us to attract investors, partners, clients, and global digital players. That said, it also attracts competition that have learnt from our failures and successes. Our challenge right now is taking our own advice and realising that if we want to grow, we can’t do it alone. We are currently travelling a lot across Africa looking for the right partners.
Any pointers for investors eyeing Tanzania?
There is a perception that Tanzania is a high-risk market but if you do research, you will realise that it is not as high risk as most people think. Investors need to change the way they come in. Investors want to come in and exit in 24 to 60 months and make massive returns on their investment. Coming in with that mindset is not going to work. Make sure you are coming in for the long haul. Make sure you are adding real value and don’t come in with the mindset that you are going to ‘save’ people. There are great things happening in Tanzania; put in the money and let people grow with it.