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Business Landscape

Investing in Africa

Business can help to build the Africa of the future, the right way.

Mannie Hirsch

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A quick count of posts by Trade Invest Africa on its website during March 2012 showed some 150 major opportunities for investment in Africa. The sectors covered included just about every possibility from A to Z – from aquaculture to zinc mining

These 150 posts are just the tip of the iceberg. The African Development Bank has tripled its capital base to $100 billion in anticipation of the $93 billion investment that needs to be ploughed into power plants, railways, ports and roads over the next decade. International management consulting firm McKinsey has estimated that the value of opportunity in Africa in the sectors of consumer goods, agriculture, resources and infrastructure will reach $2.6 trillion by 2020. The number of people now using mobile phones in Africa is greater than the population of the United States. Local business consulting group Ernst & Young predicts that, by 2015, seven of the fastest growing economies in the world will be from Africa. The list of positive projections goes on.

Public-private partnerships

Most interesting is that a considerable number of the opportunities reported by Trade Invest Africa originate from public sector initiatives; at least 13 governments in sub-Saharan Africa were featured as seeking private partners to assist with funding and delivery of infrastructure, expertise and services. This underscores the very real movement towards public-private partnerships that can bring to Africa the kind of development that leaves a legacy of empowerment and sustainable economic growth.

Indeed, Africa presents an almost blank slate for doing it right this time. The continent has survived a long history of exploitation and greed; despots are being toppled, political stability is on the increase and there are ever fewer violent conflicts, there are market friendly economic and trade reforms, and some one-third of Africa’s people are now middle-income earners. Now as the First World looks again to Africa for new investment markets, far-sighted leaders are welcoming global partners who can boost capacity and help bring prosperity to their countries.

Moving SA into Africa

For business in South Africa in particular, we have the opportunity not only to expand our activities across our borders, but also to structure our involvement in such a way that we build, educate and empower as we go.

In their recently published book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, MIT economist Daron Achemoglu and Harvard professor of government James Robinson argue that inclusive institutions – governments that protect individual rights and encourage investment and effort – are the ones that create wealth.

With an inclusive approach, business too has the power to achieve a far-reaching economic outcome. When a commercial project is structured to ensure that local communities also benefit, both in skills transfer and in socio-economic terms, the result can be economic and capacity upliftment which, in turn, stabilises and grows the market.

One example of this inclusive thinking is a well-known South African logistics company that delivers pharmaceuticals across the continent. Lack of infrastructure is its biggest challenge. The company needs regional warehouses, sophisticated IT and communication systems, electricity, safe roads, state-of-the-art security, and so on. Therefore it puts these facilities and services in place itself, using local resources and training local people to run its facilities, thus building skills capacity and boosting economic activity in the regions where it operates. The return on this massive investment comes from how the company is able to open up and access new markets.

It is this kind of engagement with business opportunities in Africa that will build the kind of future we want for our continent. But we need to see a more concerted shift to balancing business sustainability with the imperatives of poverty alleviation and meaningful participation in the economy.

An inclusive business model

We very quickly realised the importance of taking an inclusive and holistic business model approach for development projects into Africa. The Gestalt Group identifies infrastructure and service needs as well as investment opportunities available in targeted communities. We then secure procurement and service agreements with relevant stakeholders (most critically with local governments), raises funding, brings in technical and management expertise, sets up local capacity and establishes community ownership of the facilities. In all the projects that we undertake, we build in local manufacturing or production capacity, community shareholding and ownership.

To name just two examples: our flagship project is a $125 million solar powered electricity plant in Mali which will sell electricity to the Mali government. A Danish technology partner will provide the expertise and skills transfer, and the local community will have a share in the ownership of the facility. In Zimbabwe, Gestalt is rebuilding the country’s moribund and obsolete bus transport system, starting with bringing in an Indian bus assembly company to set up an assembly plant and provide skills transfer. Gestalt has also secured an agreement from the Zimbabwean government to subsidise the cost of ticket prices, ensuring a financially viable business model and affordable transport for commuters.

A portion of the profits must be kept locally and must be distributed in ways that would reduce poverty. It is not only in government’s interest to reduce poverty, the more money that circulates in any economy the more business within that economy will benefit. Our model changes the way money flows in an economy so that the people, businesses and governments benefit.

The potential for building Africa into the economic leader of the 21st Century, from which all stakeholders can benefit, is staggering. But to achieve this we need business collectively to change its mindset and take an inclusive approach. We have another chance – let’s not mess it up this time. Let’s find the right partners, work together, and focus on finding solutions through business.

Mannie Hirsch has consulted internationally on the development of emerging entrepreneurs. He founded The Gestalt Group in order to pave the way for emerging entrepreneurs to enter the mainstream of the South African economy. For more information, contact Mannie at mannie@gestaltconsult.com, on 011 781 7841 or visit www.gestaltconsult.com.

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Business Landscape

We Need To Unite For A Better Entrepreneurial Future!

Here are my key entrepreneurial tips from The Passport Showcase.

Godfrey Madanhire

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entrepreneurship

In our modern world, where nationalists walk the street and xenophobic beliefs are on the rise, as a Zimbabwean serial entrepreneur and motivational speaker, I’ve identified that we need to bridge this division and unite us all through celebrating our diversity.

We need to come together not because it’s the right thing to do, but because united, we can work towards a profitable future.  However, before this can happen, we need to change the global mindset. That’s why I transformed my book The Passport into a showcase in which performers from across the continent took part and showed off their talents.

While preparing for the show I noted some important lessons that I learnt along the way. Here are my key entrepreneurial tips from The Passport Showcase.

Success can’t happen in a vacuum!

Setting up The Passport Showcase took a lot of collaboration. As an entrepreneur and a believer in a united Africa, I’ve learned you can’t operate a successful business if you’re not willing to work and deliver services to everyone. It’s for this reason I invited fashion designers, artists, and dancers, to come together and educate us about the dangers of xenophobic beliefs through their art forms.

We need to be able to blend skills and overcome our preconceived notions, in business and the arts, so that we can achieve great things.

Related: As An Entrepreneur, Be A Motivational Leader To Your Staff

Education is the key to every problem

It’s a part of starting any business; educating the public about your company and quickly converting them into consumers. Arguably the same was true of the showcase, creating a truly unique experience to inform the public about celebrating diversity.

Helping individuals understand that acceptance is key for a better future is critical for business expansion. If any of us want to expand our businesses, we need to be able to engage with different markets – who won’t chase away the unknown.

Be different

Identifying a new opportunity is one of the fundamental building blocks for a new business. Finding unique solutions is a truth that echoes across corporate industries and the arts. But change can cause concern and adverse reactions.

On our continent, ideas that disrupt the norm are needed to catapult our brothers and sisters to a brighter future. But this can only be achieved when we celebrate our diversities and collaborate.

Related: 8 Books Every Manager Should Read To Become A Better Leader

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Business Landscape

9 Ways To Elevate Your Small Business To The Next Level

The South African economy is strongly supported by the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit, which encourages a culture of growth and development in communities.

FedEx

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small-business

With the unemployment rate currently at 27.71%, people of all ages and backgrounds are looking for an opportunity to work.

Although many entrepreneurs have enjoyed great success on their small business journeys, choosing to start your own business comes with many risks. One of these risks is the financial burden it can bring. While there are various challenges faced by small businesses, it is possible to overcome these and jumpstart your business with these useful tips from FedEx Express, the world’s largest express transportation company.

1. Connect with customers

As a small business owner, it is important to know who your customers are, where they spend their time, what they are looking for and how your business can meet their needs. Times have changed and waiting for customers to come to you is no longer a feasible business strategy. In today’s evolving business environment, entrepreneurs need to be approaching their customers and building strong relationships with them to form a lasting impression. If your small business cannot grow its customer base, it cannot grow profits.

2. Network

Attending networking events will allow you to find professionals and other small business owners who offer services your business may require. Many small business owners get this critical aspect of starting a new business wrong by networking purely to gain customers, not realising that networking with other business can assist you in acquiring the services you need to continue the growth of your business. Small businesses have a lot to gain through networking at the right time and at relevant events.

Related: Licensed To Thrill: Meeting The Global Demand For Merchandised Products

3. Use social media

There are a number of social media networks and social networking platforms that can drastically grow your business, however, it is important to understand your customers and identify the channels they prefer to communicate on. By implementing a comprehensive social media strategy, you can ensure social media works as a driver of new business that positively promotes your service offerings.

4. Build customer loyalty

Building customer loyalty begins with great customer service. Great customer service starts with a positive customer experience and first impressions are vital in this regard. If a customer has an enjoyable experience when using your services, it is likely they will return and use your services on an ongoing basis. By ensuring your business has a user friendly website and informative brand collateral, new business prospects will increase and those who have experienced quality customer service from your business are likely to refer you to friends and colleagues.

5. Ask for help

All small businesses face challenges, particularly in the early operational stage. This is why asking for help from your peers/mentor who may be more experienced than you is critical. Tapping into the mind of someone with more experience and a broader knowledge base will ensure you learn and acquire the skills needed to make a success of your business. The FedEx Small Business portal offers business owners useful advice that will assist you on your small business journey. Visit www.smallbusiness.fedex.com for tips and success stories that will inspire and help you to grow your small business.

6. Hire the right people

Each person that forms part of your business needs to share the same vision with you that will drive growth. Your workforce will be responsible for the success of your business therefore, ensuring your staff remains motivated is important. When hiring a new employee, implement a check list that includes traits that you feel are imperative to the culture of your business.

Asking out-of-the-box questions in the interview will also assist you in determining if the potential employee is a suitable candidate to fill the open position.

7. Manage cash flow well

Many small businesses close due to cash flow problems. Managing money spent versus money earned is critical as it provides you with a clear indication of whether your business is running at a loss or whether you are excelling. If your small business is losing money, you can implement a strategy to iron out the issues that are contributing to this and identify ways that will ensure your business generates profits.

Related: How Online Embroidery Shop Trish Burr Found Business Success With Support From FedEx Express

8. Work to build success

Work to make a success out of your business with your employees by being involved in the everyday activities that are critical to your businesses success. Being involved will ensure employee morale remains high while allowing you to identify areas that need improvement.

9. Find inspiration

There will always be someone who has been in your current position, even if it is a different business to yours. Learning how they made a success of their business during hard times will provide you with the knowledge you need to succeed as a business owner. Starting your own business is a learning experience made easier by speaking to others who inspire you.

A business can safeguard its success if it continues to innovate. For example, e-commerce has changed the way the world conducts business, and the rise in technology has made it easier to interact with customers quickly and across borders. With economies becoming more interconnected, companies large and small are now able to access markets that were previously unattainable. E-commerce will assist small businesses in establishing their territory in the market and as a result, guarantee growth and longevity,” concludes Higley.

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Business Landscape

How Algorithmic Forecasting Can Improve Business Efficiency In Challenging Economic Times

Harnessing the power of predictive analytics, in-memory computing, and artificial intelligence to forecast risks will help entrepreneurs stay ahead.

Carryn Tennent

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Algorithmic Forecasting

The ability for businesses to accurately predict risk and develop insights has traditionally involved manual drudgery, spreadsheets, and been confined mainly to the finance department.

With the advent of new technologies such as predictive analytics, in-memory computing, and artificial intelligence (AI), smart Chief Finance Officers (CFOs) are harnessing their power to automate the process, free up human capacity, and get deeper, more accurate insights.

The success of any business, from small start-up to large enterprise, depends on how accurately they can predict future performance, as well as recognise and respond to warning signals.

Deloitte recently launched a report titled Forecasting in a digital world, the sixth in its Crunch Time series for CFOs, which delves into the advantages of algorithmic forecasting and why it will change and challenge the way businesses look at and consume data.

There is a shift away from having people gather, compile and manipulate data, to handing over the menial work to the machines – which employ data-fuelled, predictive algorithms to sift through historical data and use statistical models to describe what is likely to happen in the future.

It is a process that relies on warehouses of historical company and market data, statistical algorithms chosen by experienced data scientists, and modern computing capabilities that make collecting, storing, and analysing data fast and affordable.

Algorithmic forecasting is a well-oiled machine, with more than 80 percent of the work happening automatically. Every piece of financial data a decision maker could want is available on their device and all they need to do is ask—literally.

How it change the workforce

While it seems like the machines are taking over, humans are not left entirely out of the process. The success of algorithmic forecasting depends on collaboration with the machines and among people from different teams, including finance, data analytics, and business.

The business finance talent model should evolve to keep up with changes in how work gets done and that will likely require a different mix of people than what organisations have in place today.

However, once they hit their stride, these teams can move across the range of forecasting needs, embedding capabilities in the business and driving integration. These teams are integral to establishing an algorithmic solution that can work for the business, bring insights to life within the organisation, and support continued business ownership of the outcomes.

Related: Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril

How it changes the workplace

The new teams required for algorithmic forecasting to succeed and the pulling of human resources from other departments will need the workplace to evolve into a more collaborative space, banishing outdated silos.

Forecasting is not limited to finance but all functions, from marketing to supply chain to human resources – basically all functions that need to predict the future to drive important decisions.

While CFOs may not lead function-specific forecasting, they should help shape these forecasting initiatives since finance will inevitably use the outputs they generate.

A shared forecasting infrastructure — even a physical Centre of Excellence (CoE)—can help improve collaboration and coordination while providing efficiencies in data storage, tool configuration, and knowledge sharing.

The beauty of algorithmic forecasting is that once the work is done to solve one specific problem, the same process and capability can be extended and applied in other areas.

Algorithmic forecasting doesn’t create anything out of thin air and it doesn’t deliver 100% precision. However, it is an effective way for getting more value from planning, budgeting, and forecasting efforts.

A commitment to algorithmic forecasting is both cultural and statistical. Making it happen involves people working with technology – neither is enough on its own. Every company will make its own unique journey from its current approach to planning and forecasting to an improved approach.

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