1) The African business culture, similar to the Asian business culture, is driven more by relationships and less by transactions.
2) African consumers have more money than you think, and they’re willing to spend less money on food to purchase airtime. As one of Africa‘s bloggers wrote recently about Kenyans, “basic needs, in the eyes of a growing few, include access to cheap mobile (and internet) services.”
3) When it comes to doing business in Africa, it’s neither one country nor 54 countries. Rather you have to take a regional approach. You have to know and understand what the people in that region consider when doing business.
4) Brand loyalty is high. See the food and beverage and banking sectors. In Africa we stay loyal to our brands.
5) Corruption—it’s not just an American (or Western) concern. Africans take corruption very seriously because it costs entrepreneurs, drives uncertainty, and inhibits growth. Contrary to popular beliefs we Africans hate corruption too.
6) Africans think China is good for business. Firstly and perhaps most importantly, Chinese treat Africans as peers, not children who need incentives for good behavior. Chinese are faster to make decisions, and have provided high profile infrastructure–in other words, they have delivered on projects. An example is Ghana’s new international airport.
7) Poor people have market preferences, too. Before entering a market, research is essential. Don’t assume that cheaper is always better; durability is often a core value. We like qaulity too.
8) Modes of communication are different. Cell phones are ubiquitous, so expect to text–a lot. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll rely less on e-mail and the post office. Your driver might also serve as your courier. Flexibility is a key part of business in africa.
9) Use local consultants and experts. They’ll have knowledge of local customs, culture and relationships. It’ll minimize “school fees,” and deepen your perceived investment. Make the right connections.
10) Americans are the last ones to the party. Perhaps a more apt name for this article might be, “Ten Things No One Ever Told You…If you are an American.” Europeans, Chinese and South Africans—yes, this is one of those weird regionalisms where South Africa is a separate market from the rest of the Continent—are already doing business in Africa and profiting.