An Interview with Business in Africa Pays20/08/2014
In our next interview, we hear from Elizabeth Blake from Business in Africa Pays – they help companies and organisations looking to Africa find out all they need to know before making their first steps onto the continent.
Elizabeth, could you give us some insight into the main objectives of Business in Africa Pays?
Business in Africa Pays highlights the business opportunities available to overseas investors and companies wishing to move operations to the continent.
Through online interviews, quarterly events and bespoke trade missions, we deliver a wealth of information to the interested party. Our aim is to become the conduit between the supplier company and the business that wishes to ‘do business’ in Africa and thereby making the emerging market more accessible to the rest of the world.
What is your personal experience of Africa? Where have you travelled to and done business?
I was born in the UK and was moved to Ghana (West Africa) by my parents when I was very young. I lived with my father and siblings in Ghana for over 4 years before returning to the UK. I return when I can. My career has taken me to South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Senegal, running events within a plethora of industries.
Business in Africa Pays has contacts across the continent I have always wanted to focus my business aims around the benefit of Africa and Business in Africa Pays is my way of doing so.
What in your opinion is driving the current positivity around business in Africa?
In my opinion due to the opportunities in the West being very few and far between many companies are looking elsewhere and considering the prospect of moving into new and developing markets. There has been a great move towards the BRICS in the last ten years and now the savvy businessperson is looking to break into the newest markets before their competitor. Africa, for years now, has been a very ‘there be dragons’ space. Investors and businesses know less about conducting operations there than other countries that have been successfully tapped. The state of the economy recently has meant many companies have had to look abroad to survive. Poor sales have driven more people to take a look at other areas, so now it’s not just the contrarians that are looking to enter the market; business in Africa is becoming more mainstream. Now that more people have seen that Africa is not as dangerous a place as the media reports the word is slowly spreading and I hope so will the wealth.
In which sectors would you say you are seeing the most activity in terms of what you do?
Immediately I can see that investment is heavy in precious mineral and metals, soft commodities and financing. For the company wanting to expand and globalise there isn’t an average pattern. We at business in Africa Pays get an array of enquiries. From companies trading in one African country and now wanting to move into another to the diaspora wanting to take a business home and not knowing how to. The industries facilities and ideas are very vast. The biggest shift is Africans returning home: The natural sense of entrepreneurship that Africa has, combined with active help from government authorities, is making it easier for Africans to return home than ever before.
If I was a company looking for opportunities on the continent, how can I go about identifying a country or region that may work for me?
Just as you would if you wanted to holiday in another country; you would talk to people that have already been there. Read guide books, watch travel shows and get as much information as possible before making more plans. When looking for business opportunities I urge you to do the same. Yes Africa is a very large space but just by talking to people, you will narrow down the choice of countries you would like to visit. Once you read a little more about those countries you can then make an informed decision on which to start in and then begin to start making plans to travel over and start to network. Eventually, however, you will need to go out to your chosen country and start asking questions yourself. In the meantime, by all means, come and speak to Business in Africa Pays. We love talking about Africa!
What advice would you give to people who may be doing business on the continent for the first time?
Africa is not a space to make quick money – I urge anyone enquiring to be prepared for the long game and be prepared to do business differently. Understand that this is a different space with a completely different culture and a way of doing business. Be flexible, genuine and be prepared to do business in an alternative fashion to your normal procedure in order to see the fruits of your labour. It’s about networking and as you would do in the West you need to take time to build up your contact sheet give yourself at least two years to build this network. Find partners on the ground and connect with people just as you would anywhere else.
People often talk about Africa as one place however we know it’s much more diverse than that – can you give us some examples of maybe how business or the culture is different in one place to another to illustrate this?
Every country in the continent has its cultural nuances that make them stand out beautifully against its neighbouring country. All countries within the African continent all have the same goal: to do business and make money. They just have a different journey laid out as to how to get there. For example, you may find dealing with a company in Nigeria rather straightforward compared to one in Angola, where there can be heavy involvement from the government. That’s what makes the whole prospect exciting. Embrace the differences and enjoy the experience.
Seeing as we work in translation & localization, what would you say those going into Africa need to understand about the languages?
Doing business in a country that speaks a different language from you is more difficult but certainly doable. Do not assume that the English language is the normal standard of communication and learn as much as you can about the mother tongue of your new space. Language translation is a hugely useful tool for the those who do not understand or speak the language of a new prospective country, having a trusted translator and guide can be the difference between making or breaking a deal. On a personal note take time to learn some basic greeting terms and words, the first impression will always be the most important so do your best to accommodate your prospective new partners. Having a translation service on hand immediately shows your guests or hosts that you are serious about the future of the business relationship and gives you immediate respect.
Which African country do you love working in most?
I am always trying to find a reason to go back to Ghana as its my country of origin, it holds so many wonderful childhood memories and I always have a good time while making new contacts and its a space where I make the most sense. However, I love Kenya as it’s so different from home, I find it very beautiful. It always takes me a few days to remind myself that I am not in Europe whenever I am in South Africa. All countries have such inviting moments, but Ghana is home and is far easier to do business in because I know the most about it.
What would you say to people who feel Africa is way too risky to do business in to change their minds?
Anything new is risky; in business and in life. I wouldn’t want to change anyone’s mind about doing business in Africa. Business in Africa Pays is a facility to give you as much information for its clients to make an informed decision yourself. If you are slightly intrigued about the prospect then learn more about it get a more rounded view of your space and then you can understand risks and the advantages. Working in the US is just as risky but we know more about the continent so it seems less a of gamble than Africa, but the advantages and disadvantages I believe are the same. We have an array of choices of food, clothes, cultural experiences and friends that make life far more exciting enjoyable and knowledgeable. Why stop now, lets keep on exploring and broadening the business horizon. If you like what you see get in touch with us and let’s find out more together.
Interested in Africa? Visit their website find out more about Elizabeth and Business in Africa Pays and how they can help you.