The GSMA’s Maxime Bayen shares what he learnt about investment…
West Africa’s entrepreneurs and the ecosystem in which they operate require more support and attention on talent, skills and technical gaps which hinder their potential progress and route to scale. Business Investors in Africa often express frustration with burn rates, low returns and the pace of doing business in Africa, says Amma Gyampo who runs Ghana-based business development service AmDeCo. The company advises African Agri and Tech entrepreneurs on strategy, technical skills training and partnerships. Amma is also a matchmaker liaising between funding organisations, technical partners and entrepreneurs in West Africa.
Here, she discusses investments into Africa, the need for business development, technical capacity building, and realignment of expectations of would-be investors and technical partners entering the market.
What are the main concerns of investors, based on your own country Ghana and clients within the Tech and Agric space?
As you know, in Ghana we’ve just had a peaceful transition to a private-sector focused government. I’d say the main concern of private investors still remains the lack of specific project or business investment information and clarity on specific policies to support their investment journey.
Land registration, in terms of agriculture investment, is something I’d like to mention too. This is one of the biggest hurdles to investment in the sector. What investors need to understand is that most private land owners just want to see jobs created in their communities and there are ways to facilitate secure land. Once specific sites have been identified, land discussions will need to be handled in a context-sensitive manner. 50-99 year leases can and have been negotiated with large industries operating huge oil palm and rice mills through community and family owned land. Investing in production to feed into large, local off-taker plants is a strategic investment opportunity, as the current situation involves mass importation of raw materials which is unsustainable on several levels.
Can you give us some examples of small businesses that you support and an indication of their ‘wish lists’
Moringa Connect, Peini, SWIFTLY.global and eCampus are clients that have spent years developing and adding to their product / service offerings. What they have in common is that they’ve built up their proof of concept and minimum value products to validate their business models, secured the goodwill and various levels of funding because they have demonstrated traction and gained the support of investors, as well as corporations like Microsoft, FaceBook and Google.
For tech, I’d say the main issue is access to local development and coding skills is the key challenge. For Agric, access to sufficient local raw materials to feed industry, connecting production sites to electricity, access roads and across the board streamlining of registration and licensing processes I’d say would be the most common asks from local entrepreneurs.
What can potential investors in Africa do to improve their own and investee businesses’ performance?
Investors in Africa should consider factoring in some elements of technical skills transfer / local capacity building if we are to see improved ROIs for investors and sustainable, high-growth African businesses. Due to the contextual risk and local conditions on the ground, we advocate a paradigm shift on the part of both investors and investees, towards technical skills transfer into the continent and engaging with local specialists in Business Development and growth strategy to help with some of the advisory and due diligence processes.
Expectations do need to be reset, to understand how things work here in Africa; the fledgling nature of key infrastructure and ecosystems, as well as the opportunities the continent offers investors, entrepreneurs and its own citizens. It is still an undeniable demographic and market fact that Africa presents a great investment prospect. It is greener and more sustainable to produce and distribute in Africa, for Africa and the world and there are specific ways to win in Africa. Entrepreneurs, investors and Business Development professionals on the continent just need to develop models that crack this immense opportunity.
How do you regard the local, small business development ecosystem in Africa and how do you think the investment community can strengthen relationships in this segment?
I have met the most talented, experienced and insightful local professionals contributing towards small business growth on a number of panels I’ve had the privilege of being invited to sit on, for example those organized by the likes of Village Capital, Africa Women In Tech, #HerFutureAfrica organised by Africa Technology Business Network and Women in Tech Africa. Conversely, there is an acute need for access to support for the African entrepreneur, and this is something I’d encourage the Africa investor and corporate communities to consider.
In terms of Africa’s business development segment of the ecosystem, there is scope for more private/corporate sector players, Foundations etc to support, educate, train and contribute towards upgrading the quality of potential deal sources.
Are your entrepreneurs grasping the value of business development services?
Yes they are beginning to. We have certainly seen a change in the level of appreciation for the support we give. Things are changing and we can point to some success stories in Africa for up and coming entrepreneurs to emulate, which is encouraging. The reality is that for example in the Tech segment, not every entrepreneur can get accepted into a funded accelerator or incubator programme. They are highly beneficial to their cohorts, but equally competitive to get in. There is however, a burgeoning ‘business development community’ offering entrepreneurs access to relevant networks, technical training, partners, strategy, resources and expertise to support entrepreneurs refine their business models and grow. This community is a valuable partner for both investors and entrepreneurs alike, but, for various reasons, including funding, has been underutilised.
By tapping into Africa’s professional business development networks, local entrepreneurs will ultimately see value by being connected to a holistic range of business professionals, technical and funding opportunities that give them a competitive edge. Would-be investors can be assured of having local boots on the ground and connections to vetted business investment opportunities in Africa.
As a funding matchmaker, what is the main thing Africa’s business investors consider?
At Optimum Access, we advise already established and growing businesses in Ghana on how best to access investment for scaling up their operations. Our team comprises experienced Financial Services professionals in the areas of Accounting, Credit and Treasury. I can confidently say that the key thing we’d want to highlight to investors will be, as one of my business partners always says: ‘Comfort, comfort, comfort!’ What we mean really is that risk mitigation is key.
Amma Gyampo has a diverse portfolio career spanning 15 years, managing projects in various Management Consultancy and Advisory roles in the Telecoms, Marketing, IT and Public Sector E-Government. Optimum Access Investments is a boutique Business Investment and Advisory firm and AmDeCo supports Africa’s Diaspora, Entrepreneurship, Start-up and Skills Development ecosystems.