Phrases such as “It is Africa’s time”, “Africa is the last frontier” and “Africa is the next frontier” echo loudly at such conferences.
Africa by the numbers
The Ernst and Young’s “Africa by the Numbers 2012 Report” has some interesting statistics about Africa:
• There are over one billion Africans in the continent’s 54 countries.
• 3 of the top 5 fastest investors into growing projects in Africa are African.
• 7 African countries are among the 10 fastest growing economies in the world 2010 – 2015.
A recent report puts the number of mobile phone subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa at over 650 million. Who wouldn’t take notice?
What does this wave of optimism mean for you and your organisation? How can you get ready to make it your time too?
Ensure that you can be found – whenever and wherever
The first sign of readiness is whether people can find accurate, relevant and current information about your business’ proposition. Do a search on any of the popular search engines with the keywords for your brand or industry. If you don’t like what you see, then it is time to update your web presence – your website, Linkedin profile, directory listing, alumni group, professional association, etc. Rewrite the profile of your management team, products/services and provide testimonials. You would be amazed how many connections are made daily from results obtained through search engines.
Get involved early
In the past we complained that the chiefs sold our birthright. Let’s engage with elected officials at street, community, country, city, state, regional and national levels across traditional and digital media channels. It is time to shape the agenda before the “deals are signed and our commonwealth mortgaged”. Rise up to leadership and take charge one agenda at a time. This time around we would share part of the blame.
Build your brand for thought leadership
Authenticate your presence on the web by providing next levels insights in your field or industry. In an era where many simply cut and paste content from other websites, it is time to explore and share solutions that can change your industry. For instance, an insurance may choose to become known as the organisation that helps people understand the nuts and bolts of insurance by providing relevant content. There is dearth of content online on most subject matter areas in Africa. Can you step to the plate and become the go to brand in a specific expertise area?
Retool your business model
As the challengers enter your market, there might be some disruption in how incumbents (like your organisation) do business. It is time to shape up or be cut to size by competition. The strategies that brought you here today may not get you there tomorrow. The Internet is a gateway to breakthrough solutions. Put this virtual Research and Development (R&D) tool to work for you and your organisation.
The report suggests regional integration as critical to accelerated and sustainable growth. “Creating larger markets with greater critical mass will not only enhance the African investment proposition, it is also the only way for Africa to compete effectively in the global economy.” A case in point is the integration of the Owner Manager Programme (OMP) of both the Lagos Business School, Nigeria and the Strathmore Business School, Kenya. This is an executive education programme for entrepreneurs. Every year, participants from both schools spend a week together, taking classes and undergoing acculturation. This approach is helping to improve the understanding of how business is done in both regional economic powerhouses. We need more of such collaborations across different sectors in each country in Africa to enhance our competitiveness. If fierce rivals such as Harvard and MIT can collaborate, what’s stopping us?
Famous author of the Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Adichie, once said, “Africa does not have a single story.” Not only are the countries within the same region markedly different, many are made of multiple ethnicities with diverse socio-cultural practices, which have implications for doing business.
Everyday planeloads of non-Africans arrive Luanda, Kigali, Nairobi, Lagos, Abuja, Accra, etc – seeking to explore and exploit the opportunities here. Where are the Africans? Where is the local content to engage responsibly with these people? West Africans must take an interest in Southern Africa. East Africans should seek out opportunities in West Africa and Central Africa. To do this effectively, we must drop our biases against one another.
This post also appeared in the Punch Newspapers. Click Here