It’s a tough, single-minded journey. An estimated 250 000 of the wildebeest don’t make it, though practically every one of the zebra get there. It is said that the zebra learn – from their past and from the experience of the wildebeest. Surely we want our clients’ experience to be that of the zebra: undeniably challenging but without casualties and successful to the extreme.
With this kind of thinking, it isn’t difficult to draw immediate parallels to the world’s interest in Africa, resulting in what may yet emerge as Africa’s greatest migration ever. Also in search of opportunity, leaving behind markets that are otherwise drying up or at best slowing down, investors are recognising new lands worth fighting for – and the stampede is on. But while the patterns of the animals’ migration has been learned over countless years, many investors are brand new to Africa – to its subtleties, its nuances and its ways of doing business.
KPMG’s specially commissioned research into the causes of complexity in business today is also revealing. With a population of around 1 billion people, 52 cities each with a population of over 1 million, the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world and an unfair share of natural resources, it’s hugely attractive to view Africa as a single market full of opportunity.
The fact is that doing business in Africa is nowhere near as homogenous or simple. It really is about 54 separate countries, with widely differing legal and regulatory frameworks, languages, populations, core industries, infrastructural and market maturity, and so on. Understanding this is the first step to cutting through the complexity.
Whether from around the world or from around the bigger existing markets in Africa, our clients are looking to extend their reach into previously untapped growth areas across the continent. This is why we’ve established the Global Africa Practice, focused very much on working with our clients to facilitate inward investment into Africa.
The most essential aspect of this is that the experience is real – it’s not about a notion to cross a river in search of greener pastures. The waters are already raging, the crocodiles are snapping, the vultures are hovering overhead and the wildebeest are stampeding. Yet the zebra are still confident of getting across safely to the other side.
To realise this, we’re already capitalising on many opportunities to state our case for Africa, whether by attending the highest-profile events, such as the World Economic Forum Africa Regional Summit earlier this year that Tim Flynn (KPMG International Chairman at the time) co-chaired, having Joseph Winful (Senior Partner of KPMG in Ghana and member of the KPMG Africa Board) deliver an address at the very recent Africa/China Summit in Xiamen, China or even internally through a high-profile presentation by myself and Seyi Bickersteth (Senior Partner, KPMG in Nigeria) at the 2011 KPMG EMA Partners’ Conference.
I’m reminded that a group of zebras is referred to as a ‘dazzle’. What a wonderful expression! And that is exactly our intention – to dazzle our clients with an experience of Africa that is beyond rhetoric, which ignores the clichéd prophecies of doom and instead focuses on a realistic, balanced view of doing business in Africa today with a keen eye on sustainable outcomes for tomorrow. It’s all about strategic priorities with a credible track record. We began investing across Africa a long time ago. It’s particularly exciting to see the benefits of this coming through so clearly today.