The High Growth Africa Summit’s goal of teaching entrepreneurs how to build, scale, and fund high growth businesses in Africa fit perfectly with my desire to learn more about doing business in Nigeria. Although the conference’s sessions were primarily targeted to start-ups, I believe that companies of any size that have an interest in expanding or establishing a venture in Africa can benefit from many of the lessons explored over the two-day event.
Listed below are my key observations from the conference:
· Uber Africa / Disruption - Uber constantly asks itself how do we disrupt ourselves and believes this way of thinking is essential to staying ahead of its competitors in this fast moving technological age. Driverless cars will be the next disruption and one day driving a car yourself will become a hobby. The company is also using data to gain insights from its customers and is sharing traffic patterns with the cities where it operates. In Lagos, the top three destinations for riders are hotels, malls, and nightclubs. Interestingly, in Kenya, one of the top three destinations is hospitals.
· Foreign Investors Attitude towards investing in Africa – Foreign investors remain cautious. “Africa may be rising, but not with my money.” One panelist mentioned that her Private Equity firm is currently receiving more interest from banks and governments within Africa than from foreign investors. Key sectors for potential investment include: Education, E-Commerce, Health, Energy, Fintech and Ag.
· How to Build a Pan-African Company – Entrepreneurs were encouraged to build their core function first in their home country then find a local partner in another country. In some cases, however, a Pan-African strategy may not be necessary if a company is operating in a country with a large market or has a product that may be difficult to scale beyond a particular region. Positioning is key as well as the intended value proposition. A business-to- business oriented sell may be fairly similar from one country to another while a business to customer transaction could be drastically different.
· Establishing a Culture at a Start-up – It is important for the CEO to set the vision for the firm. Cascading goals (each person has specific goals that play a role in accomplishing the overall organization’s goal) can be used to move an organization to achieve certain targets. “The actions you take as a leadership team will reflect the culture of the firm.”
· General Advice for Start-ups in Nigeria – Instagram and email have proven to be strong mediums to advertise to Nigerians. Start-ups may need the assistance of experienced or foreign partners to aid in the overall credibility of a venture. Nigerian entrepreneurs should be aware of both the positive and negative perceptions of Nigerian businesses should they desire to expand to other countries.