Does your your product or service have the potential for success in the African marketplace?
That is not an easy question to answer. If you quickly answered it with a resounding “yes”, you would do well to list the reasons why you think it has the potential for making you money. Then follow that with “is your answer the result of current, on the ground research, or just a gut feeling?”
Even if your product or service is successfully putting money into your account at home, that does not necessarily equate to the same level of success in Africa. In fact, the level of success in one country or region of Africa may not be repeated in another without adjustments and contextual realignment.
Before hurriedly ramping up your venture in Africa I advise clients to conduct or commission an Opportunity Analysis. What is an Opportunity Analysis?
Here is how I conduct an Opportunity Analysis for my clients:
Get a handle on the proposed venture
I listen to the dreams of the client. I want to understand as much as I can about the product or service they are offering to the African marketplace. Some know exactly what they are offering. Others only have a general idea. I need to know how far along they are in the development of their product.
After listening to them, I compose a set of questions – an Opportunity Analysis Worksheet. The worksheet is unique for each client. The questions concern areas that were not so clear to me in their oral presentation. I also ask questions that help them consider new regions of Africa to market their product or partnerships to develop.
Agree on scope of the research
When I have read trough the answers to the questions, I call the client again to discuss the particulars of the research that I will conduct. We decide the type of contacts in Africa that I will connect with. Will they be people who will supply general information about the market in the specific region being targeted, or will they be potential buyers of the product? Will I need to contact lawyers to understand the current specifics and legal requirements of bringing such a product to market? I inform the client that my research always reveals other questions that need to be answered, but at this time I tell them exactly what I will be doing and get their agreement.
Now, the real work
The best information is current information. The Web has a lot helpful information, but when it comes to the African marketplace, much of what is archive in the cloud is dated. Africa’s economic and business landscape is rapidly changing. I get the most useful information from my contacts on the ground in Africa. I make scores of phone calls, via Skype of course. Some of these contacts not only supply information. They also suggest others who might have information.
These contacts may have a vested interest in supplying their take on venture’s probability for success. Often they will become buyers themselves, offer their services to the client, or become a partner in the venture.
It normally takes three to four weeks to get the necessary information.
Write it up
I prepare a document detailing all of the findings:
- the demand in the market for the product or service, both in Africa in general and the specific region the client has proposed
- the competition (who they are and how their product compares/contrasts to the client’s)
- price points for similar products currently on the market
- a S.W.O.T. analysis
- a list of contacts (potential buyers, legal offices, government ministries etc.)
- suggested next steps
Talk it over
I send the report off to the client and schedule a time to discuss it with them. In this discussion the client normally decides what steps to take next.
Most of my clients own or are in the process of forming SMEs. They are just getting started on the journey to market to Africa. They are seeking some sound, current fact-based understanding of the potential for their success. They do not have the budget nor the desire to hire one of the big ten advisory firms. They want someone with experience in Africa and one that has vast contacts on the continent.
I understand the concerns of SMEs and I work very personally with them. If you have a venture that you need analyzed, give me a call. +1 903 624-4292 or of course, I am available on Skype at rchowning