Sunday, 8 April 2012

10 tips for doing business in West Africa

1.       Be ready to deal with some government officials who do not understand or really care about the business you are setting up and how it benefits or create jobs for the people. All they are really interested in is how your business idea benefits them or their relatives immediately.  

 Kadre Desire Ouedraogo-President  Ecowas Commission 

2.       The infrastructure challenge is real across most West African countries. So, be ready to put up some form of infrastructure for your firm or for the community or for both. A simple borehole can sometimes make a great difference in the community you operate in, especially if your business is located in the rural area, where access to clean water is usually a challenge.

3.       Be ready to occasionally accommodate the village chief, the local leader, the local parliamentarian or just the local big man who will approach you to employ his or her son, daughter, niece or relative who may not be exactly qualified for the job. Not accommodating him or her could negatively affect your long term business prospects in the community or country.

4.       Give allowance that your signed contract with the current government may not be respected by the next government. Make a provision for negotiating with a new government whenever there is a change of government while your business is still on going

5.       Be ready to accommodate different taxes that may not be clearly spelt out in law or clearly defined by the government. Some of these taxes may not be officially receipted.

6.       Going across borders in West Africa is not a drive through experience. Be prepared to deal with real and fake border officials and even thugs with official endorsement. Dealing with all the official and unofficial border agents means that your goods may not always arrive on schedule at their destination.

7.       Be friendly with customs officials especially those in charge of the borders if you do any business that requires you moving goods across the border. Having an officer friend at the top could make a lot of difference on how fast your goods move across the borders

8.       Being able to speak both English and French can make a lot of difference for doing business in West Africa

9.       Flying across West Africa will not always be smooth. Be prepared for a bumpy flight once in a while. Also do not expect to be able to fly to all parts of West Africa anytime you need to. There are still many places where flights do not go. Also, note flights may not always be on schedule.

10.   Do not panic over the occasional crisis especially around and during election periods when everything look like they are going to fall apart. They will not. Ignore CNN, BBC and most media networks. Even your embassy’s travel advisory always gets it wrong. Remain calm; the noise will blow over soon for you to continue with your business with the same old faces or with some new faces that have similar interest, lining up their pockets first and national interest second.  

Do you do business in West Africa? What is your experience like? Share it by commenting below 

1 comment:

  1. I never knew that starting a business in West Africa can be very difficult. Thanks for your info.

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