If there was one important piece to succeeding in business in Africa, it is building trust.
“Businesses grow at the speed of trust.”
If there’s no trust, the rate at which your business grows will be stifled.
This is very important across Africa where the established legal institutions are not the most reliable to enforce laws and trust within each country or state.
Trust is usually built on an ongoing basis through multiple interactions between people, organizations, and communities. There’s a reason why customers will always rely on one supplier for a certain product, because over the years, they have come to trust that supplier or organization.
After making an entry into the market and meeting your short term goals, you have to prioritize building long term relationships and trust to develop a sustainable business in Africa.
Keep this in mind, as you continue to build with everyone in your businesses’ ecosystem. Here are ways to build trust as you scale your business in Africa.
Building trust with partners
Usually when you first enter a new market, you want to find the right contacts and partners that can shorten your lead time to your target base.
These partners assist with importation, distribution, and access to markets. They are your immediate key to unlocking business in that market.
Before building a partnership, a certain level of trust has to be established and that trust has to be nurtured over time to grow the business together.
Frequent checkup, visits, and consistent commercial fairness while working to make sure your partner is benefiting from the partnership is the one-sure way to build trust here.
Building trust with customers
Before engaging a new partner in a new market, it is important to understand who your target customer base is.
Besides understanding the addressable market, it is also important to uncover the needs and challenges of these customers and how your solution will help them overcome these challenges.
Understanding this will allow you to create a unique value proposition for your base as a differentiating point from the competition. This is important as you start serving this client base either directly or through your partner.
But this will only last as long as you keep finding ways to meet the evolving needs of your customer.
One of the biggest challenges in developing African markets is businesses not providing after-sales service. Customers are looking for businesses that they can rely on for warranties, availability of supplies, and maintenance. For longevity, your business should be built around long-term value to customers even after the sale.
The best way to build trust over a long term with your customer is to continuously include service offerings that match the needs and this requires frequent touch points with your customers.
Build trust in ecosystem
When doing business in African markets, you are usually not working in isolation. You have to work with commercial partners, government agencies, community leaders and organizers.
A typical business would and quite often only care about their business and their customers. Doing business in Africa, you usually cannot take such an isolationist approach.
You have to be open to the discussions with multiple players in the ecosystem that revolve around your business.
Organizing events and conferences around your topic of interest and field allows you to bring the different ecosystem players together.
Find collaboration opportunities to align with the incentives of the non-commercial entities too. That includes community activities to show that you care about building a long term relationship with people in the market.
This is usually a soft skill but goes a long way in building trust with communities and their leaders. Oftentimes, in Africa, organizations have to pick up the responsibilities of the government.
So a few places to invest are in activities that involve social development such as health care and education. Find programs that align with your business and partake in the development of the community around your business.
I can’t reinforce this – it goes a very long way.
Building trust with employees
The most important piece of your business is the people behind running it.
One of the biggest challenges for businesses across Africa is finding, hiring, and retaining talent.
To build a long term sustainable business model, you have to build out trust with current and prospective employees that will be running your business (on-the-ground) in Africa.
This includes developing a good hiring and onboarding system that properly educates and compensates your employee base.
You want to give them tools that allow them to be problem-solvers. Empowering them with the agency to take charge of their role and how it pertains to the end goal of growing the business.
One of the biggest opportunities in Africa is the untapped potential of the people – and more importantly the young people.
Today, more than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. By 2030, young Africans are expected to constitute 42% of global youth. Building trust with these young people will really set your organization up for long-term growth.
Do this by providing educational content about professionalism, creativity, problem-solving (to mention a few) as it pertains to upskilling.
“Any realistic, impactful education system must harness multiple synergies between Africa’s universities, industry and business through targeted investments.”– World Economic Forum
This trust you build with a growing employee base is really what is going to keep your business buoyant.
Trust the vision
The most successful businesses and business people in Africa are those that have been around for a while. They navigate the ups and downs of the market.
They persist and just continue to stay in the game – that’s how they build long term business and wealth.
As you help your organization with developing new markets across Africa, always keep the importance of trust in the long term in mind.
Business in Africa is relationship-driven and commercial trust cannot be built on the backs of institutions, so you have to focus on building that trust with your partners, customers, employees, and the community.
That’s how you set yourself up to create, capture, and hold on to the long term opportunities of building business in the world’s largest economic opportunity of the next two decades.