If you’ve ever wondered what Africa is like, let me tell you, that’s like asking what an American is like. A Texan plumber may have many things in common with a New York Insurance Broker and a Montana rancher, but there are many things which differentiate them. Considering that geographically, the African land mass is so large that the US, China, India, Mexico, France, the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Peru, Greece, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Norway, Nepal & New Zealand combined are almost as big, it really is massive as are the opportunities.
That being said, Africa is different from all these places and doing business in Africa can be a truly rewarding and profitable experience. The difficulty with doing business in Africa is that it can be a real challenge if you are not prepared for how things get done there. The most important aspect about doing business in Africa is understanding the cultural differences of the country that you want to do business in. Noting above that the sheer size of Africa is massive, it goes without saying that there is not one cookie cutter African approach to doing business throughout the continent. Strategies which you might find successful in Egypt and Libya may not necessarily work in Mali or Senegal. An understanding on the particular motivations of the people that you want to work with and want to target in each market is essential to success in that market. Often times, the best African strategies start with targeting a specific market which your product and/or service best addresses their needs.
Depending on your available resources and the product or service that you are offering, language can play an important part in deciding which markets to address. French West Africa for example might require significant investments in translations to your offering and various tribal languages may also play a factor.
Finding the right local partner is a key indicator that will help you find success in African markets. There are many companies and individuals which are perfectly suited to help you in your local launches but finding them among the many options available is what an experienced consultant can help you do.
It is also important to remember that your cultural bias will affect how you view others and that you must be open to new ways of thinking.
Business is business after all and the end game is relatively similar in most instances, but understanding how businesses are set up, how day to day business is done, and the pace at which things are done is important to achieve success. Most Africans are wary of foreigners as much as foreigners are wary of Africans, but if you are committed, honest and know how to find partners who are the same, you will find success. There’s a lot of success to be had in such a massive place such as Africa.
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