Expert Opinions

“Understanding the local market conditions in Africa is vital”

 

MICHAEL IKPOKI ex-CEO MTN Nigeria & Ghana; Non-Executive Director UNILEVER Nigeria

Which industries in Africa do you have experience in?

Telecoms in West Africa

Which disciplines in Africa do you have experience in? 

Leadership & Business Growth in Africa

What are the most exciting opportunities?

COVID-19 has amplified the need for increased African private sector investment to power a post-pandemic economic resurgence and growth in the Continent. To this end, Africa needs more capitalized businesses and companies, across all economic sectors, run to the best global standards, nuanced to local African market realities and unleashing positive socio-economic impact. These companies should develop strong, capable and ethical leaders.

What is something you’d like changed?

I would like to see more home-grown African companies dominating the African economic space.

I would like Governments to become more of an investor-friendly enabler of private capital/enterprise in Africa.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

Replicating business and operational models across markets without fully understanding the local market conditions, nuances, and peculiarities of the new markets.

Underestimating the quality of local talent and advisory support within the market

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

Lack of a long-term belief and commitment to the market: companies that have demonstrated a long-term commitment to African markets have built resilience to overcome short-term challenges in the environment and with time have succeeded phenomenally

Lack of commitment to the fundamentals: companies built on the right foundations of purpose and culture with good governance structures and stakeholder relationships will continuously attract more customers, endear itself to the society and have a sustainably strong business in Africa.

What is something you wished you’d known before?

The unique value of leadership mentoring. It is an invaluable opportunity to have an objective independent and knowledgeable sounding board that has rich experience to advise business leaders (CEOs/C-Suite) in navigating business and personal leadership challenges.

Where do you see Africa in 5 years’ time and why?

McKinsey & Co. in their Lions on the Move II Report 2016 state that at the time, Africa had only 400 companies with revenues more than $1b. The Report also stated that Africa’s large companies are growing faster and are generally more profitable than global peers. In five years’ time, I would like to see the following:

Much larger African companies across different sectors in Africa. We are already seeing positive movements in the financial technology space. I would like to see that growth in these African companies is sustainably supported more by strong leadership, human capacity and governance structures rather than market opportunism.

Expectedly, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) should be fully in place, so we should see much more intra-African trade and investments resulting in more truly African businesses across National and sub-Regional lines.

Book Michael Ikpoki

“Africa’s digital revolution and Renewables are very exciting opportunities”

 

LEON VILJOEN ex-MD ABB South & Southern Africa

Which countries in Africa do you have experience in?

South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, DRC, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Mauritius.

Which industries in Africa do you have experience in?

Electrical Infrastructure & Food & Beverages including Automation and Renewables. I have been very involved in the Digital Revolution over the last 5 years in these industries as well as in the healthcare sector over the last year.

What are the most exciting opportunities?

Southern Africa is more ready for the digital revolution than people want to acknowledge. Southern Africa has a very youthful population that is comfortable with mobile technology. They see this as an opportunity to become more competitive on the global market and to reduce poverty in their country. This, together with Renewables, are the most exciting opportunities.

What is something you’d like changed?

Corruption is a big issue, especially in the public sector.  Data connectivity in most Southern Africa countries.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

The biggest mistake foreign companies make is to think all African countries are the same. They differ as much as Germany does from Italy. It is not only the language, but the culture differs tremendously between the countries. The difference is not only between French, English and Portuguese speaking countries, but even between countries that speak the same language.

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

Utility business coming to a standstill the year of government elections and the year after elections in most Southern African countries.  Funding and Compliance are also two big barriers to growth.

What is something you wished you’d known before?

Don’t have all your eggs in one basket. People might say this is the case everywhere but in Africa you cannot focus on one market segment and expect sustainability.

Final thoughts?

A company cannot expect to be successful by “parachuting” into the country. It is important to have a local presence and be able to support your systems and products with local expertise.

Book Leon Viljoen

“There is a lot of potential in Angola’s FMCG industry”

JEY DE FREITAS  – ex Senior Franchise Manager – Coca Cola

Which countries in Africa do you have experience in?

Angola and Malawi.

Which industries in Africa do you have experience in?

The FMCG industry, particularly the beverages industry.

What are the most exciting opportunities?

  • Both countries are yet to develop further in the FMCG industry, looking at the variety and quantities of products imported from different countries.

  • Portfolio diversification, as a means to further improve market presence and consolidation.

What is something you’d like changed?

Both Angola and Malawi should invest in producing solid information which should be easily accessed by potential investors.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

Foreign companies often neglect local factors that can dictate the success or failure of a product or service. It is important to marry global trends or guidelines with strong local insights in context of the industry, market and consumer perspectives

When gathering market information, companies tend to call for research houses with no knowledge of the market. This leads to inaccurate information that can lead to wrong decision making.

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

  • Volatile exchange rates, and restricted access to forex to import raw materials

  • Unfair competition, due to lack of systems in place to regulate industries and the trade.

    • Revenue authorities do not have tax collection systems in place, leading to tax evasion, which is often used to drop consumer prices, fomenting price wars

    • Excess bureaucracy, often with strong government interference to enter (or expand) the business.

 Where do you see your industry in 5 years’ time and why?

  • Angola – Projected GDP growth for the next 5 years, as the government is strongly committed to diversify the economy, with strong financial support to vital sectors such as industry, agriculture, services, construction and the fishing industry.

    • Development of control systems leading to a fair marketplace, with the right conditions to attract foreign investment

    • In the FMCG industry, more and more players are expressing the intention to invest in the country, as the government is also fully committed to replace imports by locally produced goods and services (Angola is still highly dependent on imports of goods and services).

    • What other insights do you offer?

    • EDS survey – Retail outlet information, which helped me to consolidate my expertise in the Route To Market function

    • Market and consumer insights information, which led to successful product launches in different industries (tobacco, food and beverages industries).

    • Beverages Industry size information and its evolution and 5 year volume and financial projections

    • Sound knowledge in the tobacco and food industries

    • Access to relevant business information

    • Sound knowledge in the agro business, as well as fishing industry in Angola (these are sectors in rapid expansion, with increased focus from the government).

Book Jeremias De Freitas

“There are very exciting Community-to-Community opportunities in Africa”

 EMMANUEL GAMOR  ex-PM Google, Ghana 

Which countries in Africa do you have experience in?

Ghana & South Africa

Which disciplines do you have experience in?

Digital, 4IR, Creative Manufacturing and AfCFTA for women & youth

What are the most exciting opportunities?

New strategies and digital enablers in commerce, powered by the internet and mobile, present exciting opportunities. These can be exploited from the C2C market to conversational-commerce market opportunities to innovation spaces, hubs, and accelerator programs across the continent.

What is something you’d like changed?

The perception that local artisans and creative manufacturers cannot scale and grow intra-regionally and from Africa to the rest of the world.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

Diversity in the ecosystem – play from key stakeholders to incentives-for-success and long-term versus short-term play opportunities.

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

Scaling up relevant businesses with the right financial investment packages; mentorship; and access to market matches; consolidating resources to address interruptions in utilities (electricity for example), and creating infrastructure for supply chain logistics.

What is something you wished you’d known before?

That culture makes money too! And when done right, keeps entrepreneurs in African communities in their home communities with economic empowerment for them and their families.

Where do you see Africa in 5 years’ time and why?

In 5 years I see more democratization of digital engagement driven by equitable access; more inventive digital storefronts that disrupt brick-and-mortar storefronts for increased trade across borders in Africa by women and young people. I also see new economic alliances being formed by formerly subsistence economic agents who now have fintech, enterprise support, and digital marketing tools to engage with a larger customer base.

Final thoughts?

I am at the intersection of creativity, connectivity and commerce within our African communities with the opportunity to share insights on next-wave products and services for and by Africans.

Book Emmanuel Gamor

 

“There are very exciting opportunities in Renewable Energy”

 MANDLA NDLOVU ex-VP HR Unilever

Which countries in Africa do you have experience in?

South Africa

What disciplines do you have experience in?

Business Strategy and People Strategy.

What are the most exciting opportunities?

Renewable Energy Business.

What is something you’d like changed?

Investment to ensure the success of SMME’s; and localization.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

Cultural differences in various African countries, and formulating a unique Route to Market (catering for all consumer segments).

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

Availability of Power (Eskom) and skills.

What is something you wished you’d known before?

There is a major skills shortage in some industries.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time and why?

South Africa is coming from a low growth rate so opportunities are still huge.

Book Mandla Ndlovu

 

 

“Africa’s Healthcare industry is growing signficantly.  Getting experienced help will save you a lot of time and money”

 

LORENZO ARCA  ex Head of HR Africa – Roche

Which countries in Africa do you have experience in?

Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, but in general Sub-Saharan Africa.

Which industries and disciplines do you have experience in?

Healthcare and discipline Human Resources and Transformations in general including Coaching.

What is something you’d like changed?

There should be more exchanges between Africa and other countries, it would enrich everyone and would help the continent grow even faster.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

The stereotypes, misconceptions and fears about Africa, when in reality this is a land with immense opportunities and great people – this is a missed opportunity.

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

Selfish interests and corruption: however, they can be tackled with the right approach and mindset.

What is something you wished you’d known before?

The beauty and warmth of African people. I still miss that as they made my experience there life changing.

Where do you see your industry in the next 5 years?

Healthcare will grow significantly and will need the right talents and structures in place. Getting some experienced help before embarking on a journey on this continent will save a lot of time and money.

Book Lorenzo Arca

5 reasons why Africa is the place to incubate technology ideas

ENYO KUMAHOR – Ex Exec Director Technology EY

5 reasons why Africa is the place to incubate technology ideas

1. Sizeable youth population eager and ready to work on new ideas.

2. Constraint-driven incubation that ensure your innovation is robust, and can be evolved quicker.

3. Africa is open for business – incentives and collaboration

4. We have a history of innovation – South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Rwanda

5. The incubation and innovation communities are active and rich. Number of hubs in Africa is 700+

Book Enyo Kumahor

“The software & data-led technology revolution in mobile-first markets, will create opportunities.”

KOFI DADZIE – Co-Founder & ex-CEO Rancard; NED MTN Ghana

What are your areas of expertise?

Ghana, Nigeria, Technology, Digital Media, 4IR, AI, ML, Data Graphs, Software Platforms and Fintech Innovation

What are the most exciting opportunities in Africa?

Digital Transformation, Technology Infrastructure, Edtech and Healthtech

What is something you’d like changed?

Large corporations and governments in Africa should be intentional in identifying and engaging local excellence.  They should set aside input sectors where local context is advantageous; plus develop capabilities, so that they can grow opportunities.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

The potential informal  market vs the formal traditional economics based market estimations in gap areas.  Examples of this include proliferation of telecoms via prepaid mobile; and the growth of electronic payments via mobile money.

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

Local market access for local enterprises in significant procurement areas by both state and large corporations.

What is something you wished you’d known before?

Leading the market with relevant innovation is important, but understanding the adoption rate and mode for new innovation in a given market is even more critical to success.

Where do you see your industry in the next 5 years?

The software and data-led technology revolution being favourable to mobile-first markets, will create opportunities across African markets.

This will be especially evident especially in solutions that are customizable to unique circumstances and can overcome significant obstacles to growth.

I think the next 5 years will be an eye-opener in unprecedented capital flows, venture formation and scientific and technological breakthroughs across the continent, especially related to health, education and agri-business.

Book Kofie Dadzie

“Mobile Content is one of the next big revenue opportunities.

RICHARD FIELD ex-Marketing Head MTN, FIFA and VIRGIN

What is your field of expertise?

Mobile Content in Africa. Content is a broad catch-all for mobile communications, advertising, entertainment, edutainment, commerce and the like.

What are the most exciting opportunities?

Mobile Content is one of the next big revenue opportunities for MNOs, OTT Providers, Content Aggregators and Producers (as well as anyone wanting to effectively advertise or transact).  But only if they understand the end-to-end pipeline and target more than just the consumer demographic segments. Understanding the nature of access, the style and structure of consumption and the regionally/local nature of the market is key – this educates the entire process from idea to display.

What is something you’d like changed?

The revenue model(s) that is being used (historically) is unsuitable for the new environment and distribution/consumption model. New revenue generation and production styles and formats require new and matched commercial models. Not just in the content:distributor space, but very much so in the production space.

What do foreign companies get wrong in their African assumptions?

The most obvious misconceptions are generally that this is a homogenous market, that the access to, and ownership of, technology is the same as elsewhere in the world (or even elsewhere in Africa), that “Western” or “European” content is in high demand, that services and apps that are “crucial” or “essential” in USA/Europe/Asia are the same here, and that services like simple voice and messaging are no longer relevant in their basic form (due to smartphones); these are the most common across all industries

What are the biggest barriers to growth?

Local legislation, regulation and bureaucratic red tape can be massively time consuming and cause big delays (and be costly due to this). Also the local ownership requirements in some territories. And often the perception from incoming businesses that Africa is a bit “backward” and therefore ripe for the picking (low hanging fruit – large populations, low service penetration, low demand for latest products and services etc).

What is something you wished you’d known before?

How long it takes from Lagos airport to your hotel or meeting venue.  Seriously these things become important. But also to find good local partners and business associates through recommendations not credentials.

Where do you see your industry in 5 years’ time and why?

The mobile service industry (Content, advertising, communication, commerce and transactions) will be the dominant channel across Africa for all personal and business interactions. Advertising will change dramatically as digital (mobile) eclipses all others. Data and information for segmentation and targeting will become deep and highly targeted (down to “new real-time”). Entertainment and edutainment will be primarily delivered via mobile. Production of African content will focus primarily here.

Final thoughts?

Africa is a “first screen only screen” continent. And that screen is mobile. Not understanding the implications for media and communications is fatal.

 

Book Richard Field

 

 

 

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