“Doing business in Africa is, for example, vastly different from how you would go about it in the United States, UK, Canada or Europe,” says Louise Robinson, Sales Director at Database 360.
She points out that the obstacles extend beyond the obvious, such as language barriers.
“Foreign companies and investors are often left frustrated when they conduct business in Africa for the first time,” says Robinson says.
“They soon discover that the concept of ‘African Time’, which sounds so mythological, really does exist – that time genuinely has different meaning here. It takes them a while to realise that, just because a business owner or employee does not answer their phone for a week or two, does not mean that you have the wrong number.”
Understanding as much about your potential customer as possible is the key to the success of any business and marketing campaign, Robinson says. “It is tricky to break into any new markets, even when there is no cultural difference to consider. It requires networking anywhere in the world, but in Africa this is especially vital. The ability to reach the correct people in Africa and to deal with them in a certain way once you do, could definitely make or break any business opportunity,” Robinson explains.
Robinson adds that Africa’s unique business environment is one of the reasons that market research is essential for any company looking to break into these new markets.
“Anywhere in the world, you have to understand your market before you enter it. Since the market landscape in Africa is littered with potential landmines of language barriers, religious differences, time differences – in zones, in perception and attitude towards it – and other cultural disparities, the prospect of navigating it alone can be a daunting one indeed.”
According to Robinson, companies that try to accomplish this alone soon find out that local knowledge is vital to breaking into new markets in countries that have a different approach to business. To add to the problem, obtaining corporate data is challenging. The challenges should not scare foreigners off from doing business on the continent, Robinson says.
“Instead of going through the frustration, time and expense it would take to create an effective inroad into the business environment of an African country, invest in a partner that has the experience and knowledge about the various cultures to compile the most accurate, up-to-date, and targeted approach for you. Why struggle on your own when we can help you?”
“Africa holds tremendous potential. It is the second largest in the world in terms of both size and population with a wealth of natural resources. The opportunities for development and business are endless.”