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African SMEs and Entrepreneurs – the time is now!

Africa is quickly emerging as a top contender for business expansion in large company ventures. In many ways, Africa has been referred to as the “next Asia” with strong investment growth. After all, the continent is home to 7 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. The future has been looking much brighter for Africa, especially in the last decade where we have seen Africa’s GDP more than double.

According to EY’s recent attractiveness survey for 2014, Sub-Sahara Africa places in second place.  Three years ago in 2011 SSA was listed 3rd from last on the same list. This year, North America is the only region that ranks ahead of Africa in terms of investment attractiveness.

Growth within these nations not only provides incentive for foreign direct investment (FDI) from all over the world, but also more importantly provides immense opportunities for African entrepreneurs across the continent. EY also cites Intra-African investment and development as a major source of growth for the continent.

Inherently Africa has a high level of risk associated with business investment with many nations battle political instability, corruption, and problems associated with the lack of proper infrastructure. All of these factors contribute to the risk in conducting business in Africa which is eminently complex. In the past, such issues have resulted in the hesitation by global companies from exploring expansion into African nations. However in present day, it appears investors have been able to see beyond negative headlines of nations such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Sudan due to the market potential outweighing many of the risks.

Africa micro business While many large size multinational enterprises (MNEs) such as Nissan, H&M, and Burger King are making headlines for their decisions to expand into Africa for business ventures, the success behind these rapidly growing countries is largely due to SMEs, small and medium sized enterprises. Several MNEs have recently been attracted to the region due to significant improvements in regulatory, legal, and business systems. However, according to IFC and World Bank reports, over 90% of all businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa are SMEs. Aside from this, there is also the informal market of micro businesses that are largely unaccounted for.

With the exciting growth of the mobile phone industry, it presents a major opportunity for Sub Saharan companies to prosper. MMIT, Mobile Media Info Tech, a Nigerian software provider of mobile payments is an example of how Nigerian entrepreneurs and SMEs can benefit from the recent growth trends. With the significant increase in cell phone users, mobile opportunities are abundant. MMIT quickly entered the market by creating M-Wallet and M-Diaspora products.  These products allowed Nigerians to use their mobile phones to pay for products, acting as a mobile wallet, and our M-Diaspora product which allowed ex-pat Nigerians in the United States and United Kingdom to send money to friends and relatives in Nigeria. MMIT saw the opportunity and benefit of mobile payments, a technology that has revolutionized the African consumers’ lack of banking access and dependency on carrying cash.

With the overwhelming majority of the business landscape being SMEs, they are instrumental to the growth of the economy within the Sub-Saharan region. African SMEs growth and development helps create the desperately needed jobs within the formal economy which can ultimately boost economic growth and stability. Although things are looking up, reports of high unemployment rates in SSA, particularly among the youth, continues to plague the continent. The need for the creation of jobs and infrastructure is still in dire need to foster the current economic growth and to sustain it.  Therefore, it is imperative that they do not ignore these rising opportunities created by the economic growth of the past years.

Business in Africa is challenging and varies significantly from country to country which further adds to the degree of difficulty for foreign entrants. African companies have many advantages that they can capitalize especially in terms of market knowledge, understanding of consumer behavior, and realizing what innovations can revolutionize the African way of life. African companies partnering with foreign companies is another smart option for both sides of the spectrum as local African business are able to fill many of the gaps that large MNEs cannot always fill. With new economic developments and increasing incomes, consumers are demanding access to more goods more than ever before. African entrepreneurs and SMEs should seize the opportunities before the MNE’s flood gates open.

To follow MMIT please visit www.mmitonline.com and to subscribe to our monthly newsletter please contact us at newsletter@mmitonline.com


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