The African market is so vast and diverse, it’s important that new entrants utilize the right business guide to facilitate business growth across the continent.
With 54 countries, over 3000 tribes, and 1000 spoken languages, the culture varies from one region to another and this is no different when it comes to doing business.
That’s why to succeed in business in Africa you need a partner or a resource that acts as a guide.
A compass to point you in the right direction for the most valuable opportunities while also steering you away from the common traps that can completely bring your business momentum to a halt.
That’s why one of the most important things successful business development managers and directors look for when they want to enter a new market is a “trusted contact.”
That contact is the initial guide that not only provides a proven and tested way, but also is the key to opening up more contacts and business relationships in the market.
I can go on about the benefits of having a professional guide but I’m here to talk about the different types of guides and partners that companies should prioritize as they look to expand their business in Africa.
Here are the 6 types of business guides and partners that multinational business managers and developers should prioritize as they expand their business in Africa.
Online Guide & Resource
The place most people start today when searching for anything is online.
Same thing when it’s time to explore this large landscape, business developers start with some desktop research.
This can help you at least scratch the surface for the type of information you’re looking for.
There are three main types of online resources in regards to doing business in Africa
- Public data sites: such as the World bank that provide numerous publicly available data that can help with making high-level macroeconomic estimations.
- Business blogs: such as Quartz, Mckinsey, KPA Insights, these sites provide thought leadership information about the leading practices for succeeding in business in Africa. You just have to bookmark the right ones.
- Online news outlets: these are usually nation-specific giving updated economic, business, and industry-specific news. The only challenge is that you have to curate several to stay up-to-date
- Company databases: these resources such as Nigeria’s Finelib provide company names and details however they sometimes retain outdated contact information.
Triangulate the data from these guides as a starting point to point you in the right direction but don’t limit your search to what you find online.
Market Insight Guides
Desktop research and online resources can only take you so far.
To get things moving you need boots on the ground.
Compared to other parts of the world, in Africa, there is a lot of business information that’s still not online. There are not a lot of trusted databases of business contacts.
In fact, some of the businesses you would want to do business with do not actually have a strong online presence. That’s why you need a local market research guide to fill in the information gaps.
To work effectively with this guide, be clear and thoughtful about the questions you need answers to.
This will make sure you are getting actionable insights to help build out action steps for both the short and long term as you build the business across the continent.
Sales Agents and Business Development Reps
Another guide or partner that you can collaborate with as you build out your organization’s business in Africa is a sales agent or a business development representative.
This could be an individual or an organization. Their primary goal is to generate sales and build out your pipeline to prospective customers.
Some of these representatives work on sales commissions and already have access to an extensive network of customers in the industry or field that you’re interested in.
Building on the insights you get from the research guide, the sales agent can guide your team, through implementation, on the most lucrative areas to focus your resources to get the best ROI for your efforts.
After all, organizations will need to see sales growth in order to invest some more into the Africa business unit of your organization.
This is a partner that’s crucial for companies that want to sell tangible products (not as applicable to service providers).
The distributor acts as a crucial ‘guide’ in your supply chain, providing the importation infrastructure to bring your products into the country along with the in-country logistical and regulatory know-how to get the products to the different ends that your customers exist within each country.
Depending on whether your product is technically advanced, the distributor can also provide technical support to help with after-sales service to keep your customers happy while using your solutions.
After your business makes an entry and shows signs of growth, you may want to invest more into the new market.
A dedicated business manager will be the guide you need for this phase of your business.
This manager will lead the sales, marketing, and customer service efforts for the region while also coordinating with your channel partners (distributors and sales agents) to hit quarterly and yearly goals.
This could also come at the phase when you are considering incorporating a local entity for your business to become more present in the market.
Your business manager will own the relationship you are building with your customer base and create evolving strategies to help you capture more market share.
Every business is different and different challenges arise as you build your business, so along the entire journey the type of guide you need is, ultimately, a problem-solver.
Someone that can take a look at your business, audit your current challenges, and can set a path forward (with the leading practices) to get you to your goals.
Whether you need some market insights, a new distributor to expand your reach, or a manager to coordinate all your resources, a strategic advisor and partner that knows the best approach to building global businesses across the Africa continent is the type of guide that can be your anchor as you navigate the dynamism of your Africa business expansion journey.
As you look into expanding your organization’s business in Africa, pay attention to the type of guides you need along the way and make sure you are working with trusted and vetted sources, guides, and partners.