5 Tips To Succeed In Africa

Reltex Africa
Reltex Africa

Simon Lucas is the CEO of Reltex Africa Ltd, situated in Athi River, Kenya. The company manufactures and supplies the international community with shelter-related products, with key clients including UNHCR, The International Federation of the Red Cross, ICRC and the British Government. The company relocated from China to bring the finished product nearer to the source of use, cutting down the supply chain and reducing the carbon footprint of shipping humanitarian supplies. The company has created 25 management positions and over 200 full time jobs in the 3 years that it has been operating. Here are Simon’s top 5 tips on planning and running a business in East Africa.

1.      Planning and preparation

“Arm yourself with a great deal of patience and do not count or rely on any professional services delivering in the time quoted. Allow at least 50 percent more time than you need to complete your request. There will always be a reason for a delay so factor this in during due diligence and going forward. Above all, you must persevere and be persistent but polite. Hire a consultant to guide you through the process of local government regulations and make sure your first appointment is a strong HR manager.”

2.      Employing staff

“Operate your company as you would do from your own country and offer the same benefits to your staff. Create a strong and sustainable CSR policy offering non-contribution lunch and medical care. Budget to pay at least 25 percent over the country’s minimum wage. It is expensive and time consuming training staff as most new enterprises cannot find experienced workers in their field and these measures will drastically reduce your turnover of staff. But more importantly, it is the right thing to do.”

3.      Be Innovative

“Start a business that has very few if any competitors and be prepared to take a risk, but intelligent risks. Most African countries are still far behind in modern opportunities that may have passed by in the West. Look back at your previous business plans as they might still be applicable. Look into export opportunities to companies that practice good CSR and ethical purchasing policies. Some multinationals and governments have a policy in place to buy a percentage of their requirements from developing countries.”

4.      Financing and Funding

“The African continent is extremely aware and indeed affected by climate change and many carbon opportunities are being introduced across the market sectors. See if your business qualifies. Many nations are offering grants to start up companies in Africa, check with your country of residence. Interest rates are very high in East Africa so secure your funding from an International bank based on USD Libor.”

5.      Networking

“Make as many connections as you possibly can, however diverse they may be. Make yourself available as much as you can and attend seminars and conferences even if you think you know it already. You can never stop learning in Africa.”