Amid all of the talk about India and China, one of the biggest potential growth markets in the world is in Africa. A resource boom has meant more investment, and the area is projected to grow rapidly for years to come.
The Comcraft Group is one of the continent's largest home-grown companies, worth more than $2.5 billion with a presence on three other contents. In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, CEO Manu Chandaria explains the secrets to his success.
The potential is definitely huge, Chandaria says:
"Africa is growing: Out of the top 10 most important investment destinations today, six are in Africa. [Among those are] Kenya, Angola, South Africa and Nigeria. There is huge potential right now. Everybody is rushing towards it because Africa now has a more stable political climate than ever before. Furthermore, nearly all developed countries are finding it extremely difficult to grow, but Africa is expected to grow probably at 6 percent in the coming years."
While the continent is becoming more stable, it's still nothing like doing business in more established markets:
First, you've got to accept that [the nation you're looking to invest in] is a third world country. It's not a first world country. If you are thinking about the comforts of the first world, they are not there. But once you get past that, you will realize that each country in Africa has its own specialty, and if you can capitalize on those specialties then you will do well.
Doing business in Africa is fundamentally an exercise in risk and entrepreneurship, according to Chandaria. You have to be willing to fail and take a plunge:
Well, the first thing you must do is take a risk and say, 'Yes, I will move forward with my plan.' You have to take the plunge. I've said this many times, if you want to go to heaven, you've got to die first. Essentially, entrepreneurship is all about taking risks, and sometimes failing, if necessary. But failure always opens up another opportunity. But this entrepreneurial mindset is not only for business; this is applicable for running clinics and councils, too. You have to figure out the best way to run these operations. Entrepreneurship is in every endeavor, but the question first is, are you prepared to take the risk? There is a tremendous need for people to become a little bit more daring and say yes.
His last piece of advice is to give something back. If you bring in outside managers for example, you're not building the sort of skills and local workforce that will pay dividends for years to come. Chandaria credits his success to the fact that he takes the time to build relationships, and is not just out for a profit, but to improve people's lives.
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