The Tech4Africa Guide to conducting Tech Business in Africa
Tech4 Africa was a two day sprint – hectic and jam packed with back to back to information delivered by speakers, workshops, panel discussions and break-away sessions around coffee tables.
There are many amazing companies who pop up all over Africa. Those that understand that Africa is about providing African solutions – tend to succeed. Those that take a US or Europe product and “File, Save AS…” into Africa result in failure.
There are three predominate trends that emerge when conducting business in Africa:
Africa is about collaboration
In Africa its about understanding the end-to-end journey of the product/ service/ app and not just focusing on your own part of the system.
Many companies see Africa as a rising opportunity continent but do not understand the local intricacies. Offering an ecommerce service in an African country is not as simple as setting up a cool ecommerce website. You need to remember that whilst the populace might be huge, the amount of people who have access to credit card is far fewer. You also need to recognise that there are countries who’s credit cards can not be used on the internet at all. You also need to know that even if people do manage to buy from your site, there isn’t a developed postal system that you can rely on to deliver your goods. So Amazon.com would simply not work.
This is where collaboration with other companies plays in integral role. So whilst you might only want to be an ecommerce merchant, you land up rejecting “standard” payment methodologies and partner with companies who can help with localised payment methods such as M-pesa . You also abandon traditional delivery method and find the local provider who can negotiate insane traffic condition and deliver your products to customers. Check out Konga.com who has invested in drivers on motorbikes who deliver their goods so they don’t have to rely on the local “non-existent postal service”
John Hoehler from Deloitte sums it up nicely “In Africa, its not an EGO system but and ECO system”
Own the Ecosystem
This is a the paradox that is Africa. Notwithstanding the above section, there are companies that have taken the opposite stance of collaboration as it suits their model. There are several companies who are developing African mobile phones and tablets that are cheaper than the cost of the “brand name” devices. These companies recognise that once their phones are in the market, they do not want to rely on the traditional App Stores and so they launch their devices with access to their own stores, in the local language, with the local currency, using the local networks and working within their limitations.
Check out Way-C, the first African tablet to rival the iPad from VMK who not only created the hardware but also created a pre-paid card to purchase apps from their own store.
“Way-C fist tablet device designed in Africa sells around $200 – “iPad Mini beware !
Africans do not want content that doesn’t apply to them. Whats the point of looking for a French restaurant on your phone in Nairobi and to be shown a link to a restaurant in New York ? Phone and computers that come preinstalled with images of European/ USA people and places do no resonate well.
Content must be relevant to the local country. Need to recognise the location and what is important in that specific location. eg. the price of Maize is more important than the price of Apple shares – so make that a feature of the phone. In French speaking countries make the content in…eh…French. For example you can SMS NAIROBI MAIZE to query the prevailing Retail & Wholesale Prices for the Specified Product in the Market and the service replies with the Prevailing RATIN Market prices(KShs/Kg) for maize in Nairobi: Wholesale Price=30,Retail Price=30.Service by EAGC. Its not about fancy Apps but real practical solutions.
Africans also love to express themselves via music, poems, videos. Platforms such as Bozza make this possible without the incumbent networks taking the lion-share of the revenue.
So in summary:
The closing words that summarised the landscape and how to operate tech business in Africa can from Alan Knott Craig :
- Get someone in your team who is not afraid to sale and take money that is owed to you
- Play it by BEER doesn’t work in tech companies. Need processes. No matter how small/ big company is get someone who understand processes and implement them.
- If you cant convince people of your vision than it is your own fault and not theirs. You need to put your picture into other people’s mind
- South African are reserved. We need get over the shyness.Put yourself out there is the secret to success