Go To Africa: But do it on African TermsSubmitted by Bartley Joseph
It is no longer a state secret that Africa promises huge potential for the future. Since 2000, at least half of the world’s fastest-growing economies have been in Africa. And by 2030, Africa will be home to 1.7 billion people, whose combined consumer and business spending will total $6.7 trillion. But doing business in Africa is unlike anywhere else on the globe and internationals looking to set up shop here are well advised to work with African partners in ensuring that they successfully navigate the African ways of doing business.
We spoke to Ruan Venter, director at OUTprof (Outsourced Professional Solutions) whose association of professional accountants and distributed workforce management specialists have been helping some of the most successful new entrants to set up base on the continent and to ensure compliant operations. According to Venter, here are some of the aspects that require local knowledge in order to avoid falling fowl of the African pitfalls:
Firstly. It is a good idea to know where in Africa to ply your trade. Although, Africa as a whole, offers tremendous potential for the future, not all destinations on the continent offer equal opportunities and many still suffer from political insurrection, deep corruption, and poor infrastructure. Do your market research carefully, and because data is often scarce and/or unreliable, best you get a trusted local who is familiar with the target market to help you frame a reliable picture of the market conditions.
A good place to start before you spend too much money, is to become intimately familiar with the in-country laws and regulations. Don’t get ahead of yourself because you may soon find yourself paying huge penalties for non-compliance even before you have even made your first sale. Both company, labour and taxation laws differ markedly from country to country, and in some instances they are quite complex.
Getting to know local regulations often goes hand-in-hand with getting to meet the right persons in authority and showing them the respect of consulting with them on your new venture. Africans love to welcome people to their homes and consultations that leave people feeling inclusive may be the difference between being on the right side of the law or being left stranded.
Africa is home to 54 different countries that house over 3,000 different tribes and arguably as many different cultures. Failure to understand the many nuances in culture, may lead to expensive misunderstandings and costly mistakes. In fact, many companies have failed to get out of the starting blocks because of their inability to bridge the cultural divide at the onset.
Once you have adequate confirmation that the chosen market is good for your product of service and you know what it takes to gain the support of the local authorities and regulators for the new venture, it is time to test your understanding of in-country regulations by making formal application to set up shop. Setting up the necessary legal entities and obtaining formal licence to operate can prove to be a tricky affair if you do not know where to go and who the right people are to approach.
All of this can be a very costly exercise, but it need not be if you speak to the right people from the start and if you look to partner with local domain experts who have hands-on experience in helping new entrants set up operations in Africa. In seeking advice, speaking to the largest consulting firms is not always the way to go as it requires deep specialist guidance from people who have had first-hand experience in helping companies get started. For this reason, OUTprof prefers to assist clients by drawing on its extensive network of associates to find the right match for the venture. Often, this is a much more prudent route to take and because these partners seldom have the huge overheads, they can solve for the client at significantly discounted prices.
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