As one of the few remaining untapped markets in the world, Africa has come onto the radar of many international companies looking for additional revenues and a competitive advantage. However, the process of doing business in Africa is different to anywhere else in the world, and can prove difficult for the uninitiated.
Louise Robinson, Sales Director at Database 360, says there are few things companies should bear in mind as they expand their operations up the continent:
- Have a sense of humour
Doing business in Africa is very different to anywhere else in the world. It’s a long and expensive exercise. You have to have a great sense of humour and lots of patience, especially since everything works on Africa time. If no-one answers the phone today, that doesn’t mean you have the wrong number. Keep trying – you’ll get hold of someone eventually.
- Be aware of local holidays and business norms
Bandwidth, language and public and religious holidays are a problem for companies who expect operations similar to the kind they have become used to elsewhere in the world. Always ensure that you have people that can speak the main local language, and understand that business in an African country may come to a complete standstill if there is a national or religious holiday.
- Remember that bandwidth is limited
Africa is still growing, and outside of the industrial centres, there is extremely limited bandwidth and access to technology. Don’t offer solutions that require constant connectivity or high-speed Internet, because applications will be severely limited. Many African businesspeople use Google or Yahoo e-mail addresses as their primary point of contact for this reason.
- Network, network, and network some more
As with business anywhere, networking in Africa is vital. Getting to the right people will make or break any business opportunity, because making a sale comes down to how good a lead is. In many African countries, titles are very important, so always refer to potential clients correctly as “chief”, “prince”, or “engineer”, etc.
- A little research goes a long way
A little research goes a long way when it comes to the purchase of an African database, and doing so can save you from an unwanted purchase of a fake database. When looking for a provider, always choose the one that can guarantee that the database they provide is accurate and fresh.