The African growth story is an exciting one, dotted with giant forward leaps and unexpected dips. It holds the thrill of an under-exploited market, and represents huge diversity that is still shrouded with mystery for many. Many international brands choose South Africa as a springboard for growth into the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past year, Hilton Hotels, Airbnb, Cotton On, H&M and Forever 21 have been just a few of the mainstream international brands making an entrance into the continent via our shores. Theoretically, this means companies like yours — that were founded and established in South Africa – are one step ahead. Already successful in the South African market and more familiar with their neighbours than non-African entrants, many SA-founded companies are perfectly poised for expansion into the rest of Africa.
However, it only takes one attempt at doing so to realise that this is no light undertaking. The first lesson to learn is that categorizing the “rest of Africa” as a homogenous ‘other’ is a foolhardy mistake. Every African market is vastly distinct from its peers, and it takes expert insight to understand the market you’re entering. At times like this, an interim financial executive can act as a subject matter expert and partner during the expansion process. Here are some of the insights an interim financial executive can offer as you weigh up the possibility of expansion in Africa.
Understanding the GDP
Anyone can google the GDP of an economy, but your interim financial executive will know what the numbers mean for your business. For example, Nigeria, with its Gross Domestic Product of $522-billion has recently officially overtaken South Africa’s GDP $351-billion to bag the title of having the largest GDP in Africa. Does that mean your company’s market would be more buoyant in Nigeria than SA? Not necessarily.
South Africa’s wealth per capita is double that of Nigeria, at $6 600 per capita here versus just over $3 000 in Nigeria, according to World Bank 2013 figures. Your interim financial executive can further help you understand the cost of overcoming infrastructure and transportation limitations in your host country. Understanding the GDP means knowing how likely people will actually purchase your product in the new country, not just how much money is collectively amassed in the country.
Understanding who the big players are in the new country.
Your interim financial executive can help you know who is already established in your space, how long they’ve been there for and what they did to get there. Knowing your competition – and how they prosper – is key to your own strategy and survival plan.
Knowing the labour market.
Your interim financial executive can research and help you understand things such as wage and salary trends, and what they mean for your business. Assuming that you will be able to find and attract the right talent in your new host country, how much will it cost you to keep the human resources you need? Can your company afford to pay employees what they will expect to receive, in light of operational and capital costs? Your interim financial executive will be able to analyse these possibilities and answer these questions.
Becoming au fait with tax requirements.
If you thought doing tax in South Africa was a headache, try navigating a completely different set of tax requirements in a foreign country where the system is likely much less sophisticated. Your interim financial executive will make it his job to get to know the ins and outs of the system, what the reporting requirements are, how your company needs to comply, and when.
The nuances around paying employees and suppliers.
In South Africa, you may be used to a “30-day from invoice” expectation with your suppliers. In the new host country, suppliers may demand cash on delivery. You might be used to paying employees via bank transfer, whereas your host country may require cash payments for many of your workers. Your interim financial executive will get to know the local way of doing things, and help gear up your company with the right systems, processes and checks to make this work.
Expanding into the vastly under-explored continent of Africa is both daunting and bright with opportunity. With the right partners assisting you, it can be part of a fulfilling and successful endeavour. Contact The Finance Team to find an interim finance professional who is willing to travel with your company and become your sounding board and partner as you take the leap.