The thing about travelling abroad is that it allows us to widen our perspective and better understand the world around us. This checks for both, your regular holidays and business trips alike. Our recent excursion to the GTR Africa London 2019 conference proved to be another valuable experience and expanded our knowledge on how to run business in this still undiscovered part of the world that Africa is. Here are the impressions we’ve gathered during this very enlightening meeting.
Before we move on to the details, we’d like to take a moment to thank the editorial staff at InvestAfrica.pl and Mr. Sławomir Winiecki and Mateusz Ciasnocha in particular, for inviting us to attend the meeting and supporting the arrangement of the whole trip.
The day’s schedule was rather packed. The journey started on November 13 at 4:30 AM, and finished already on Thursday at 1:00 AM. Despite the conference taking place a couple of countries away, the transportational efficiency of such a round trip was very impressive indeed.
About the event
We arrived to the venue at around 10:00 AM local time. As one may expect from London, the event participants were very diverse indeed. Both among the visitors and speakers, you could spot Americans, Swedes, Poles, Chinese, Brits, Germans, folks from the Indian Peninsula and its neighboring countries, and of course Africans. Such diversity provided for a wide perspective on Africa in many different aspects.
The discussion panels reflected the variety of participants. One could notice the different points of view on many issues. Moreover, guests were not afraid to speak up about problems and introduce their stances in a civilized manner. At times, the discussion was getting heated, however, the parties always remained respectful. Similar events in Poland usually don’t generate such engaging exchanges.
Main players at GTR Africa London 2019
In Poland, there’s still no due attention being paid to doing business in Africa. There are some events here and there, and a couple of success stories, but the interest among companies, mainly because of insufficient knowledge, remains low.
This isn’t the case at all for Americans, Brits, Chinese, and the local businesses. They all understand the risk related to investing in Africa, but at the same time they realize the huge potential that lies within the continent.
Companies from the English-speaking sphere want to do business in Africa, have allocated budgets, but there are too many gaps in their processes. What’s more, they sense strong competition coming from China, which forces them to try and put up a fight via non-economic means, accusing the Chinese of conducting immoral projects, paying no regard to natural environment, and doing low-quality work.
China, on the other hand, also has huge budgets, resists the accusations, and despite many unknowns, pushes ahead with its projects, playing an ever-growing role in the region.
Local African companies are well-aware of the fact there’s still a lot to be done, meaning there’s also a lot of money on the table, however, there are two major factors stopping the processes. First, human resources boasting comprehensive expertise are missing. Second, governments and business instability stemming from the prevailing law and corruption slow down foreign investments.
Scope of investments
It has to be noted that GTR Africa London 2019 was a conference aimed mainly at the financial sector. Thus, the level of investments discussed there was really high.
It stemmed from the conversations we had that investors, on average, are thinking of inputs of about 300 million USD. 20 million was a bare minimum for them, where they saw any point in discussing things.
This is a perfect depiction of the difference between Poland, and the US or UK. Businesses from these countries are ready to operate on a much larger scale and are thinking of foreign expansion long-term. For Sulma & Sulma, all this information is very valuable and instills optimism, but there’s still a way to go before working with such major clients.
Where do we fit in in all this?
Right, so where does our piece go in this puzzle? Americans, Brits, and Chinese have huge budgets, but is that enough to achieve success?
Well, no. Yet again, money, however important it is, isn’t everything.
None of these players seem to be able to create a sufficiently good market fit. They’re in possession of detailed analyses and data, but don’t understand the market and customers. This, in turn, is what we’re good at. The problem of inadequate market fit was clearly seen at GTR Africa London 2019.
The African market in its current state resembles Polish in the nineties, except it now has easy access to all kinds of information and financing, which allows it to grow way faster.
You can’t have a successful event without networking. During GTR Africa London 2019 we’ve managed to obtain contacts to important individuals from finance institutions, startups, and African companies, which creates a range of opportunities for the future.
Interestingly, we met two people from Poland. In particular, we’d like to thank Ms. Monika Mostowska from Fundacja Salvatti for an invitation to their coffee shop for a business chat.
Despite the fact we weren’t the main target audience of GTR Africa London 2019, our presence at the event will definitely pay off. We’ve acquired a number of promising contacts, as well as better understood investors and their pain points.
If you’re looking for a new area to expand into, Africa is your destination. Sure, it’s not a place where money will just start flowing out of nowhere, but with the right knowledge and experience, the opportunities for expansion prove to be much wider than in other regions of the world.
If you’d like to learn more and perhaps try to expand your operations, we’re here to assist you. Contact us to discuss your project and how we can go about implementing it.