There are few things more frustrating in business for a North American than when things are moving slowly when trying to close a business deal with a partner or customer, especially when it seems like such a great fit. Your partner needs a solution to a problem of theirs, your solution is perfect for that problem, you’ve shown value, there is a need to get the problem fixed quickly, yet for any number of reasons, the deal does not get done. Doubts start to creep in, conspiracy theories rise in your head as you wait for one delay after another to resolve itself before the deal gets closed.
This is an accurate description of getting deals done in many parts of Africa. It is a common occurrence that many unexpected things have to happen in order for a deal to close. There are many factors which many affect the close of business, including banking issues, governmental issues, corporate governance, approvals from ownership, etc… The number of steps involved in getting the decision made, and payment issues sorted, seem to be much higher in Africa than in North America, and one has to be cognizant of this when working on your own internal timelines. While this may seem as a deterrent to wanting to do business in Africa, it should not. Africa has so many fantastic markets with enormous potential. It is just a question of understanding what you are getting into before moving forward with development into these markets.
When following up on business transactions in Africa in the past, I have often heard that “it takes time” when wondering why a simple event has not transpired weeks ago or “Things are moving along very well” when my thoughts were wondering what the major problem was that was bogging down the transaction. Continued diligence and patience is the ordre-du-jour. Given Infrastructure differences and the logistics of everyday business in Africa, things take longer. Just the process of getting a simple banking transaction finalized might take a few days when one would expect it to take a few minutes. Traffic congestion, constant power outages, supplier deliveries and outages can all lead to small delays which can then add up to major delays. Understanding that these delays are not an intentional attempt to slow down the process, but an unavoidable obstacle that is part of everyday business is important.
I’ve seen lines in banks that take hours and in some case days. I’ve seen telecommunication outages last for days and a single phone call be cut off dozens of times due to network congestion. Internet connections can sometimes be painful and the cost of doing business due to these issues is slightly increased and must be factored into the local economics of any deal.
For the most part, the developing world has different problems that the developed world, however with due diligence to understand which markets are your best targets, patience and understanding in the timing involved at getting things done in those markets, and the ability to know who to partner with to get things done as efficiently as possible, you will find success and it will be rewarding. Rewarding not only for you, but for your customers who benefit from your offering.
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