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African Business: So You Want To Go Global?

by Bolaji Sofoluwe, 14 May 2016


Today, like many days at the Centre for African Business Education (CABE), the business team connected a grower in Kenya with a large, well-established buyer in the Netherlands. This is usually a great feature that is exclusive to those who have gone through CABE in one way or the other. It is always a hugely exciting and rewarding experience for the team.

Every time I am asked to speak at a conference, seminar or workshop about African businesses going global, I meet excited entrepreneurs who are really eager to take their businesses to the next level by entering a new market or globalising their product/service. I meet people with transferable, innovative ideas, ‘well-packaged’ products and a great sense of optimism on how well their product can do in a global market.

However, there are huge costs to count and several preparations to make. I know there are some unique cases where the ‘accidental exporter’ has huge success without any glitches or failures, but this is rare. Going global requires careful, thought-out planning and a strategic approach. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Adaptation: There is always an assumption that the market will want what you have to offer. This is usually typical with companies that have experienced tremendous success in their domestic market. Sometimes, a product or service requires considerable adjustments to be ready for international markets. The main goal is to make these products adaptable – universally accepted and produced to a very high standard. African clothes, for example, are very bright and colourful. The style of clothes should be season appropriate (if selling to countries with very different weather patterns) and designs should be prêt-a-porter.

  2. Financial Support: Try to get as much local information as you can from your local trade finance manager. You must also be very clear about how you will get paid. 

  3. Consistent Supply: It’s great to be able to deliver a product into a new market, however, if your product is really good and a sizeable order comes through, it is important that you have the capacity to take this order on. In fact, the moment you start exporting, you need to bear in mind that you may need to scale up fast. It is never a good idea to overpromise and under deliver. For example, if you are a grower selling to an international buyer, to ensure all year round delivery you could form a co-op with other growers. 

  4. Reliable Logistics: At the very beginning, it is important that you identify your logistics partners and work with them in order to achieve seamless delivery. 

  5. Finding the right partners: Who are your buyers/distributors? Yes, it is exciting, your product or service is going global! However, make sure you get a lawyer to review all your contracts and everything you need to protect your business.  You should ensure that information like price, promotion and place are clearly covered in your agreement. 

  6. Intellectual property protection: Is this also something you need to explore? Does your product have adequate protection? These days, IP is becoming harder to protect so you must make sure that you have the right protection in place.

  7. Get your supply chain right: Ensure that all the pieces of your supply chain are able to deliver what you need to be reliable and consistent. If you identify the weakest link in the supply chain, say goodbye or ask them to improve their game.

Some of these points will apply to anyone in the world considering expansion. The unfortunate truth is that most times, people are not very convinced about African quality, consistency and capability which is a huge problem faced by most African businesses. As Africans, we must ‘up’ our game, ensure that we deliver quality at all times and show two of the best features of the peoples of our great continent – creativity and hard work. 




#AskAfrica: The Changing Face Of Business In Africa

by Kevin Korgba, 07 January 2016

I read a very interesting article a few days ago entitled ‘PR in Africa: The Next Frontier?’ written by Kate Douglas for HOW WE MADE IT IN AFRICA and I would recommend you read it if you have an interest in the direction the African continent is going. And I say it was interesting because it relates quite well to what we – Centre for African Business Education – are providing to organisations engaging with the African continent - practical business education, and on the ground experiences which will assist your company with effective engagement with Africa’s numerous markets.  I have selected three quotes from the article to further highlight this need: 

 “More courses are now focused on communications and so this is changing, but it needs to move faster,” says Sconaid McGeachin, president and CEO of Africa, Middle East, and Turkey at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

 “We also need people who’ve worked across sub-Saharan Africa and who are culturally sensitive to other markets. What works in South Africa for example may not work in Nigeria, so the ability to localise and tailor to the market needs is important.  Mobility of talent will also be key going forward and those willing to spend time across different African markets will be highly sought after.”

Some firms are developing in-house training programmes to upskill local talent for their African operations. For example, Dubai-headquartered Djembe Communications plans to build its African Centre of Excellence in Maputo to train local employees in best practices as well as educate the international team on African markets.”

To engage in business effectively across the continent of Africa, you must be able to:

  1. Understand (and I mean truly understand) the market you are dealing with both from a cultural as well as a business perspective, and how those two elements are interlinked.
  2. Communicate effectively in the way the locals want to be communicated with (and I don’t mean just knowing or understanding the lingua franca even though that would be a bonus)
  3. Having a win-win mentality because mutual respect will get you very far.

Africa is changing rapidly, not just from an infrastructural or (arguably) political point of view, but also from a perception point of view. The new generation of African perceives themselves (ourselves) much more positively. They are much more aware, more informed, well-travelled and view themselves as at par with their counterparts from any other part of the world. They are the ones taking their places as business leaders of today and tomorrow so it would be a grave error in judgement to approach doing business in Africa as “business as usual” going forward. There is still a long way to go however, but perceptions are changing and this will (and should) affect your strategic decision making - who to hire, type of training to provide for yourself and your staff, what strategies to adopt?

In addition to your own reasons for doing (or wanting to do) business in Africa, it is time to start thinking more about what Africa wants and how she wants to be engaged, bearing in mind that there are probably as many similarities as there are differences between the individual markets (as one of the quotes above has alluded to). 

It is never as easy as it sounds but a good place to start would be to listen, learn and #AskAfrica!


JOIN US for one of our very exciting Half-dayTaster Sessions and get a flavour of how to effectively engage Africa and I can guarantee you will be glad you attended. Alternatively, just go right ahead and BOOK NOW!


Kevin Korgba is a Co-founder and Director here at the Centre for African Business Education (CABE) and also Managing Director of CABE's parent company,the Enterprise Training & Knowledge Group, UK. Contact Kevin at kevin@etkgroup.co.uk



Realising the true benefits of Local Content for SMEs in Africa

by Bolaji Sofoluwe, 07 October 2015


This week I will be participating on a panel at the Global Local Content Summit (NOCs & Governments) organised by the Global Local Content Council.

This is the second time I have been privileged to share my views on SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) participation and the effects of local content policy on their growth and development. I will be speaking strictly from my personal experience of working with local companies in Africa’s oil producing countries.

SMEs need two major things: Skills and money. I know this may sound like a cliché, but it is a recurring problem that just would not go away. For SMEs to truly participate in the competitive business environment, specifically within the oil and gas supply chain, (which is largely dominated by international companies), they need the right people and of course, the cash for the implementation of projects.

Local content policies were initiated to boost the local economy, help oil producing nations to enhance the skills and capacity of their people and whilst ensuring that the benefits of being resource rich were beneficial to the people. Whilst there have been many success stories, there have also been many colossal failures – with dire consequences ranging from a hostile environment for both local and international business to the actual closure of operations within countries that have unrealistic expectations for local participation.

One of the biggest gaps with the implementation of local content policies, particularly in Africa, is the need to invest in research and development as demonstrated in Malaysia and Brazil. This can be a very expensive, time consuming but much-needed exercise to carry out for SMEs. There are very bright engineers, for instance, who have great potential for innovation and the ability to invent new technologies and equipment for the oil & gas sector but have very little access to the resources which are needed to produce and test this equipment.

The other gap that exists, is the investment needed in creating lasting structures within organisations that service this industry, to ensure that they are able to compete with international companies. There are international standards accreditation programmes such as ISO9000, ISO45001 and ISO14000, which would help boost the overall value of these businesses as well as their chances of being included in the supply chain. Government assistance on achieving these standards is crucial due to the extensive requirements for standardisation. For instance, in 2006, the government of Hong Kong helped companies to achieve ISO14000 through training and extensive assistance programmes.

One can safely assert that it is time for a Local Content Funding Platform to be established. This could be a platform that specifically addresses the need for competitive local content providers to grow and expand their businesses, invest in R & D and generally improve their outlook for participation. A Local Content Funding Platform will be a proactive means of supporting the development of local businesses who will eventually, be key participants in the supply chain. I would recommend a joint effort of the local banks, government, energy and mining companies - who all stand to gain the most if this is implemented successfully. The platform should also be accessible to those who have demonstrable potential for growth based on determined indicators. I believe that this will be a huge step in the right direction for purpose of achieving the initial motive for the creation of local content policies.

Bolaji Sofoluwe is a co-founder and Director of Strategy and Business Development at the Enterprise Training & Knowledge Group, UK. Bolaji is passionate about SMEs in Africa becoming globally competitive businesses through a hands-on, realistic and inclusive approach.

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