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We speak with Stuart
Maclachlan, Chief Executive at Butterfly Effect Intelligence, the GIA Member in South Africa as well as Stéphane Rosenwald, President and Chief Executive Officer of the GIA Member company for France and Northern Africa, RV Conseil.
What are the challenges of conducting strategic research and analysis on the vast African continent?
“There are four major challenges. First, there is great diversity across Africa's 53 countries. Corruption and bureaucracy still persist, while rapid economic and sociopolitical changes means that information can be quickly outdated. And finally, there is a sore lack of structured and reliable information.
Quality information in Africa is mostly unregistered or even considered classified in some areas. There are no universal standards and protocols for Market Intelligence. In many cases, local economic and financial reporting and information systems are opaque. In some places, money can still be a taboo subject and families who own private businesses are not eager to disclose information. Sources will also be different from one country to the other.
Overall, market and competitive intelligence in Africa is a challenge. In the more developed markets here, there is generally a fair amount of information available but the most valuable insight, “the golden nuggets”, are still only available through primary relationships and networks. Tapping into that network is the biggest challenge in Africa."
What research are international companies most interested in for Africa?
"In our experience, international companies are mainly looking to conduct market assessments – either to identify the size of a market and the major players currently in an industry or to assess the viability of introducing a new product into a market/ industry."
Is this different from what local companies are interested in?
"Local companies look for more in-depth market or competitor intelligence – they will hone in on a particular sector, consumer group or competitor and look for more deep dive strategic intelligence. Generally the local companies are more established and have a more detailed understanding of the market they are playing in, so they require more detailed intelligence."
The Fifa World Cup will be hosted by South Africa in 2010. How would you characterize Southern Africa as a market area in general today?
"The business environment is different in every African country. One must prepare for such things as poor infrastructure, transport and unreliable electricity supply, as well as logistical issues such as the slow release of imported equipment through customs. Arguably the biggest challenge to doing business in Africa is the lack of quality information.
In spite of these challenges, the business opportunities in Southern Africa cannot be ignored. This is a part of the world on the rise with opportunities in telecommunications, energy, infrastructure and financial services, to name but a few thriving industries in the Southern African region."
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