June 7, 2021
Why employability and skills matter
This week’s article is inspired by the upcoming Business Insights International Festival of Innovation, where I am chairing a forum on Employability and Skills in the context of International Trade.
The concept of employability has been around since the late 1990s and it was propelled by the awareness of a global shift towards knowledge and skill-based economies. The current education and training systems are largely unrelated to the needs of the job market, thereby widening the skills gap between graduates and the world of work.
Generally speaking, employability is the combination of what a person knows, what they do with that knowledge, i.e. their skills, and their attitude, that enables them to get employment, keep it and find new employment when they need to. However, in this globalised market, the definition of employability inevitably varies from context to context and from country to country.
As a corporate trainer in the United Arab Emirates, the emphasis was on the shifting world of work. Employability was seen from the perspective of gaining transferrable qualifications and competencies that augment a person’s ability to utilise the education and training opportunities available to them in a quest to secure and keep a well-paying job and to hopefully get promoted within the company. All of these requirements stood while the individual was expected to keep up with the changing technological landscape as well as the constantly changing job market conditions.
Employability in most parts of Africa is in the context of entrepreneurship because the volume of graduates outweighs employment opportunities in the job market by miles. Employability skills are not widely taught in the formal education system; those exposed to the concept are likely individuals who have been exposed to incubators and accelerator programs across the continent. In fact, while companies acknowledge the skills gap between their expectations and the actual performance of job seekers, critical employability skills are seldom taught in formal education across the world.
It therefore seems fair to say that employability is a person’s capacity (a.k.a competencies or successes) that supports him/her in getting a job, accessing career advancement and becoming successful in life. Employability should be transferrable across sectors and adaptable to the ever-changing technological landscape. Employers agree that job seekers are most employable when they have the right combination of knowledge, skills, and personal qualities.
Four main employability skills:
Adapted from Brewer (2013)
But when is the right time to start developing these employability skills and is basic education contributing to these much-needed competences? In too many education systems, essential employability skills are more of a bolt-on to basic education. However, more and more, education systems around the world are starting to acknowledge that knowledge developed through reading and writing must be accompanied by so much more if job seekers are to become employable. Specifically, technical skills required for the performance of specific tasks, the right attitude that’s measured from an individual’s personal qualities, e.g. honesty, reliability, time management and practical experiences. Remember that these skills are not always certified or officially recognised.
I also lectured at a UK university and during that time I observed that many institutions still predominantly offer knowledge-based teaching through teacher-led classes. Africa is no exception with limited chances for students to participate in discussions, critique or apply the concepts given and experience learning by doing. The unfortunate reality is that most businesses in Africa are micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and therefore do not have the capacity to train their employees. This highlights just how difficult it is for job seekers on the continent to acquire the skills that are vital for formal paid roles. Thus the growing demand for the education sector to assume greater responsibility.
In the context of Africa, considering that the private sector is not very big, absorbing the rising working age population within the presently limited labour market will be close to impossible. Additionally, many CEOs express concern that new graduates do not possess the basic skills necessary for the workplace. Creating job opportunities as well as opportunities for entrepreneurship to thrive is key not just to Africa’s sustainable development but for the global workforce.
I will be joined by a diverse and varied panel of speakers on Wednesday 9th June, 2021 at 12:00 to discuss this topic in more depth. We'll be considering employability and skills and their impact on international trade from a UK, Japanese, Middle Eastern and African lens.
To book your tickets go to: https://bi214-employment-skills-forum.eventbrite.co.uk
We look forward to you joining us!
Founder of Gen A Consultancy
May 24, 2021
Showcasing good practice coming out of Africa: A Case Study of Selina Wamucii, East Africa
Selina Wamucii is an East African-based B2B digital platform that enables small holder farmers across Africa to trade their fresh produce. This company is an example of an Africa-led innovation that has resulted in growth and therefore employment generation.
The company’s informative website details all of Selina Wamucii’s work to date. Although the business is not large enough to require statutory reporting in the form of annual reports, their blogs have been a useful window into their operations. The company’s blog, coupled with articles featured in various online magazines (incubateafrica.net; disrupt-africa.com; globalgap.org; cnbcafrica.com) ensure that readers are up to date with their activities and progress.
Selina Wamucii is originally an avocado farm that grew to become a smallholder specialist company, providing a B2B digital platform for the sourcing of fresh crops from other smallholder farmers. They assure buyers of consistent quality and fair pricing and guarantee farmers access to regional markets as well as fair prices. The company is categorised as an MSME as they begun as a micro-firm with just 2 founding members, before growing to a small company of 38 employees in the business.
Selina Wamucii is headquartered in Kenya, which is strategically positioned for trade with China, Russia, the Middle East and the rest of Africa. Founded in 2015, they have been in operation for six years. The business was initially self-funded as the founders believe in taking a long-term approach to growth; it grew steadily since inception while entirely funding its own growth. Eventually, the company received a $100k grant in 2018 by partnering with a global social impact programme aimed at helping Selina Wamucii to integrate smallholder farmers into regional and global value chains. Selina Wamucii is also a leader in its approach to understanding market needs and promoting the production of specific produce; for example, Kenya has surpassed South Africa to become the top performer in exporting avocados.
Kenya’s Global Avocado Market
Selina Wamucii is trying to tackle the following challenges through their role in society:
· To link smallholder farmers in Africa with local and international customers
· To eliminate barriers that exist for smallholder farmers in selling their products
· To create employment via value added activities having identified a market for extra virgin avocado oil.
However, according to the CEO, “Sub-Saharan Africa’s working age population is expected to grow to around 800 million by 2030…. and agriculture is the only immediate viable economic opportunity for these young people”.
There is strong evidence of an ecosystem developed by the company to support theirs and competitors’ operations in an effort to reduce risk of individual failure. Selina Wamucii founded the Avocado Smallholder Association of Kenya (ASAK), an association that supports avocado smallholder farmers via financing, resource contributions, supporting farming cooperatives and groups. The company also provides training and expert agriculture services to approximately 6.8k smallholder farmers via locally trained representatives, to improve yields and quality of their produce. As such, 5,000 smallholder farmers across Africa are currently registered on their B2B platform.
Several benefits of the ecosystem have been identified:
1. Growing network of smallholder farmers has enhanced the supply chain and increased sales & exports directly to global markets.
2. Reduction in fresh produce losses.
3. Increase in volumes and revenue earned by smallholder farmers – e.g. income of mango farmers on the platform has increased by 60%, helping farmers become self-sufficient.
4. Farmers empowered to pledge quality products, and secure sustainable markets to absorb the produce as soon as it is ready.
5. As more farmers register with the platform through cooperatives, the platform can increase acceptance rate of buyer requests to at least 5% from 2.4% currently.
Finally, the employment generation potential of the company is visible from the growth in employees between 2015 and 2020, from 2 to 38, averaging an increase of 7 employees each year. The company’s growth has led to their value today of USD$8m.
There are several contributions that Selina Wamucii company makes to our understanding of successful business practices in the context of Africa. This is a leading company, both in terms of innovation through their formation of regional smallholder farmer ecosystems as well as their growth into markets across Africa. Selina Wamucii is a Kenyan, home-grown company that is able to engage with global markets because of their integration of technology into their processes. Therefore, the case study is applicable to African MSMEs that seek intra-African and worldwide trade opportunities through value-added activities.
This SME has been featured on the London Stock Exchange Group as a company that inspires African agriculture; as a company that has demonstrated success in ecosystem development and employment generation. Ultimately, Selina Wamucii is an agri-tech company aiming to empower African agri-business owners to connect with consumers, by building social networks of smallholder farmers.
Now, while this business exports across borders, start-ups in general are too small to export although their ambition is to grow large enough to participate in global export activities.
So in practical terms, how exactly did Selina Wamucci achieve their current status? From my perspective, what follows are the four core ingredients for sustainable growth of MSMEs:
First, this is my depiction of the characteristics that have allowed Selina Wamucii to grow and therefore increase the number of employees in their business:
Figure 2: Core ingredients for MSME growth
i) Long-term approach to funding
The founders of the company used their own resources to start and grow the company to the point where it was operating in a structured manner, before involving funders to support their operations. Initially, self-funding allows for incremental but steady growth, which eventually develops the business’ proof of concept – something investors expect to see as there is a risk to corporate partners in funding micro start-ups.
ii) Contribution to society
Furthermore, they actively engage with local and regional institutions in the industry to promote themselves, the sector and to help other smallholder farmers with resources. For example, Selina Wamucii provides training and expert agriculture services to smallholder farmers because without them, there would not be a sustainable agri-business ecosystem in Africa.
As a provider of the largest B2B digital platform for the sourcing of fresh crops in East Africa, Selina Wamucci is using cutting edge technology to connect international markets to smallholder farmers who would otherwise be disconnected. Through their coordinated efforts in the region, they can assure buyers of consistent quality and fair pricing while guaranteeing their farmers access to regional markets.
iv) Business Model based on Collaboration
A working group of MSMEs must put a clear leadership structure in place and transition from operating informally to registering a formal entity, which will allow the group to reposition themselves in the network value chain. In this way, they are able to partner with other, more established entities for greater business support. On the other hand, Selina Wamucii becomes the platform that exposes cooperatives of farmers to accessible global export markets.
To learn more about the amazing work that Selina Wamucci does, visit https://www.selinawamucii.com/.
This is a special week as I am hosting another webinar on “The Gold Rush that's Africa: The Massive Opportunities you've been missing!”
My guest speaker, Mr. Tawanda Lozane, will be sharing further insights into how you can participate in value adding activities through Agri-business on the continent, leading to higher profits while you make a lasting impact. Sounds good, right?
We look forward to welcoming you to this informational talk for entrepreneurs, SMEs, investors and professionals looking to transition into entrepreneurship! To register, go to:
To your success!
May 17, 2021
Women Supporting Women in Business
As a socially conscious woman in business, there is often an assumption that I want to uplift other women in business, naturally. Well, that assumption is correct. Please do not misunderstand me - I believe that people, men, or women, have so much to contribute to the sort of international trade relationships that cultivate business growth. In spite of this belief, I feel it is important to spotlight the achievements that women have made and continue to make, particularly those who are operating in challenging environments, such as Africa, where they have so much going against them.
This article is inspired by one such woman, who I first came across while looking for examples of good practice on the African continent during my MBA dissertation last year. Whether or not she knows it, she has inspired me and others on our own journeys through entrepreneurship.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association, women entrepreneurs are particularly common in the global south, such as in Angola, as well as in places such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Panama and Chile. Contrary to these results, many global north economies, such as Europe, have rather low rates of women entrepreneurs.
Now, focusing on Africa, surveys have shown that Uganda, Ghana and Botswana have the highest percentage of female-owned businesses globally, making them some of the most entrepreneurial nations in the world. Most of these small businesses are in the agricultural sector. I have always believed that it is important to give visibility to SMEs doing great things on the continent, and below is one such example - a southern African company, based in Zambia called Java Foods.
I have chosen to spotlight this company because of their close working relationships with local smallholder farmers and the lessons that the CEO (Monica Musonda) shares with women wanting to scale their agricultural activities.
Java Foods was founded by a Zambian entrepreneur out of a recognition that there are not many Zambian entrepreneurs in her country, whose industries are led mainly by foreign multinationals. It is headquartered in Zambia with a market presence in both Zambia and South Africa. The CEO was the sole founder in 2012, however the company has grown to 43 employees in its 8 years of operations. The CEO decided to become part of the change that was needed and has grown the company to become one of the top southern African food production companies. As a small business with no experience of Zambia, the CEO initially self-funded with the help of family and friend loans and in time, she formalised her borrowings. In fact, after 3 years, the company was venture capital backed by DSM Venturing & AHL Venture Partners. To date Java Foods has generated revenues of USD$9m (these statistics have probably increased since researching the company last year). As the company grew, a regional network of businesses was sought after to strengthen the competitiveness of indigenous businesses.
Java Foods is a food manufacturer of high quality, affordable healthy food made from local produce. Its products include fortified maize and soya been breakfast cereal and snacks as well as imported instant noodles that it packages in Zambia. Packaging is one of the innovative ways that Java Foods has included the bottom billion in their offering. They also sell nutritious products in bulk to schools, hospitals, mining communities and NGOs supporting people in crisis.
Java Foods’ role in society stems from the challenges they have faced in growing the brand. Thus, its three key roles are:
- To empower women entrepreneurs
- Business development across southern Africa
- To harness innovation to transform youth eating habits
Monica Musonda, CEO of Java Foods
According to the CEO of Java foods, the following are several challenges women face when attempting to become a serious contender in the agribusiness sector:
- Extremely productive MSMEs in the agribusiness space need specialised professional and technical skills in the areas of food safety and conservation, certification of produce and packaging. However, a lot of African women tend not to have this specific know-how although education is on the rise for women on the continent.
- One of the largest barriers for any MSME is the lack of access to financial support. However, female entrepreneurs particularly struggle to secure funding for many reasons, including the unavailability of collateral (land or other assets) as well the perception that women are high risk.
- Female entrepreneurs have little choice but to depend on personal savings and request for loans from the family. These options are seldom sufficient to finance their businesses adequately for growth.
- Finally, socio-cultural impediments as well as stereotypes continue to exist. For example, African women are still the main caregivers within their families, therefore it is a challenge for them to balance these responsibilities with a growing business.
To mitigate some of these challenges, the CEO has embedded herself into an agribusiness ecosystem. Monica Musondo worked closely with one of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, pre-starting Java Foods. She also acts as non-executive director on Zambia Sugar Plc’s board, African Life Assurance’s board and Dangote Industries Zambia Ltd.’s board. Currently, she serves as Global Advisory Board member assigned to scale the Nutrition Business Network of Zambia as well as a Bank of Zambia board member and Chairperson of Kwacha Pension Trust Fund.
The benefits identified from this ecosystem are mainly that experts share best practice thereby increasing pan-African cooperation. There are many female entrepreneurs across the continent and what this case study demonstrates for me, is that we have a responsibility to our businesses and the societies within which we operate. Africa is still a way away from becoming one unified trade market but guess what ladies? It starts with us - we are the glue that is going to make pan-African cooperation a legacy, not just a reality!
As a woman supporting women, let me know how I can be of service in your journey to success on the continent at email@example.com
Here's to women supporting women and to your success!
Gen A Consultancy
May 10, 2021
Agri-business: your future with Africa is bright, together!
Africa has a plethora of talented commercial farmers across its regions. These African farmers recognise that there is money to be made in agriculture - the backbone of Africa; and some would even go as far as calling it the oxygen of Africa! With its vast land and optimal climatic conditions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa is poised to be a major supplier of food, not only for themselves but internationally.
The World Bank estimates that Africa's farmers and agri-businesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030 with the right access to additional capital, a constant supply of electricity and better technology. However, young farmers have found it difficult to get funding for machinery and any other equipment that technologically enhances their practices. For this reason, it is easier for many to remain small and focus on producing quality, rather than quantity.
The last week has been a particularly interesting one for me as I have engaged in various conversations pertaining to agriculture and its accompanying supply chains across Africa. I was engaged in a conversation with a company looking to solve the transport problems of Liberia by introducing sea transport. What I love about their approach is that they are not only pursuing this venture to ensure safe passage for individuals to and from Liberia, they are also considering all the SMEs whose operations they will automatically enhance through the provision of a direct means to market. And who are these SMEs in Liberia predominantly? Agri-producers.
So, let us talk about agriculture from a standpoint of how international SMEs can collaborate with African commercial farmers to create a win-win scenario on both sides of the continent. From my own observations - having interacted with a diversity of agri-business owners from across the region, there are several touch points that can potentially be exploited for mutual benefit. Today, I will focus on two: hospitality businesses and farmers.
I. Hospitality Businesses
Many advantages exist for farmers as food producers as well for hotels, restaurants, and food outlets as vendors of food, to be engaged in profitable business relationships. Although in a lot of situations such relationships appear to be a rather obvious process that benefits consumers as well, the British Food Journal conducted research and found an alarmingly weak relationship between farms and hotels/restaurants.
Engagement in business relationships with hotels or restaurants could assist farmers in maximising the prices they get paid for their hard work. It would in turn give them a stable distribution channel for their products, thereby eradicating poverty through consistent and sustainable practices. However, to benefit from these advantages, deeper interactions between both industries must be cultivated.
But it starts with creative thinking! For example, I imagine a hotel in Gloucestershire (where I am currently based) innovating its menu to include foods that are not ordinarily available in the region. Then, collaborating with a farmer’s cooperative in sub-Saharan Africa that can guarantee organically grown varieties that enhance their offering. For the hotel, this is a cheap source of a delicious, certified organic variety of fresh produce. It also has the feel-good factor of knowing that communities in Africa are literally being saved through this business relationship. Farm workers can pay their children’s school fees, look after their families on a daily basis and move past basic survival to making longer term plans. Real social impact!
I have access to local networks of farmers in Africa, so if your eyebrows just raised, get in touch and allow me to make the introductions! Afterall, it is all about connectivity!
There are over 100,000 employed and self-employed farmers in the UK alone. Naturally, the first thing that springs to mind when I consider growth for these entities is partnership building. Suppose a dairy farmer in the UK wanted to expand their global reach – why not go into a joint venture with a dairy farmer in Africa, where you not only tap into a new market, but you now have a whole other customer segment that will generate additional revenue for you. And through the expansion, you automatically create jobs locally. Win-win!
But how do you get started with such an audacious operation? Going into a new, unfamiliar market where you do not know anyone.... Well, I believe it all comes back to relationship building – both formal and informal. Therefore, I would advise anyone considering such a partnership to start by networking. It is a simple, risk-free strategy to get to know how the other half live and work and I am willing to bet that you will discover that you have more in common than not. Networking allows farmers based outside of Africa to learn, explore, partner and be introduced to farmers in Africa. This is a great way for them to share experiences and strategies for doing business with Africa. Again, this is something that I am willing to facilitate. As someone whose business is anchored firmly in collaborative working with strategic partners, I can vouch for the value addition you will get simply by engaging with international networks.
If you are in the agri-business sector yourself or have an interest in finding out more, I would like to suggest a practical way forward for you. To get you networking, why not check out Nourishing Africa to give you a look into what is happening on the continent. Nourishing Africa is a hub for Africa-based entrepreneurs in the agribusiness space. They hold a monthly networking event to engage in peer-to-peer exchange of insights, shared experiences and solutions to common challenges. Feel free to attend one of their Thursday sessions: https://www.nourishingafrica.com
But if you are ready to make that slightly bigger jump and secure long-term partnerships with reliable, vetted commercial farmers then contact me and let’s make it happen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like the title suggests, your future with Africa is bright, together!
To your success!
Founder| Gen A Consultancy
May 4, 2021
How Entrepreneurial are you?
Some say entrepreneurs are born and not made, while others believe that entrepreneurship is a practise. Can you really create an entrepreneur? Or are entrepreneurs genuinely born with innate skills that bloom when they come across that opportunity that they can take to market?
Either way, one thing is true—not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. It calls for a rare type of persistence and independence; a willingness to be proactive and be unrelenting through times of doubt and uncertainty.
While the entrepreneurial journey will test you, it can also be incredibly gratifying. My own experience has been my single most powerful transformational journey resulting in the greatest personal growth to date.
But where do you begin if you are contemplating entrepreneurship in this fast-paced world we live in, and you know you have what it takes?
Perhaps start by answering these questions for yourself:
1. Are you self-motivated? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. If someone starts me off on a task, I can keep going and get the job done.
B. I like to come up with my own ideas and do things my own way to accomplish a goal.
C. I prefer not to over-exert myself unless it is necessary.
2. Do you consider yourself a leader? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. I usually let people lead themselves.
B. I can get people to do what I need them to, but it is rather difficult.
C. Most people go along with my suggestions without too much difficulty.
3. How organised are you? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. Before I commence anything I like to have a plan and I stick to my plan until the task is complete.
B. I simply take things as they come; I prefer not to stifle my options with too many plans.
C. If things do not go according to plan, I take this as the sign that it was not meant to be.
4. Are you capable of making decisions? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. I need time to make up my mind as I am more comfortable running things past my friends first.
B. I like to make my own decisions whether it is a good decision; I am happy to face the consequences.
C. I would rather have others make the decisions because I worry about making a mistake.
5. How do you feel about people? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. Most people drive me crazy.
B. I have enough friends and I only make new friends when it is necessary.
C. I really like people and I get along with most people very well.
6. Are you trustworthy? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. I try to avoid hurting other people's feelings and therefore say what I think they want to hear.
B. I tend to say what I am thinking in a straightforward manner, even if other people do not agree with me.
C. I really do not care if people trust me. I do and say what I want.
7. Would you consider yourself a hardworking individual? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. I do not mind working hard, so I continue to work hard and keep pushing until the task is accomplished.
B. I will work hard if I am certain, it will pay off straight away.
C. I prefer not to overdo it. I am highly creative when it comes to thinking up ways to avoid hard work.
8. Can you commit to something long-term? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. I typically finish what I have started.
B. If something does not work out as I intended or if I find it too difficult, I do not fight it.
C. When I set my goal and make up my mind to get something done, nothing can get in the way of that.
9. Do you naturally take responsibility? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. I tend to take charge and I make sure I see it through to the end.
B. I will take control if I must however, I prefer to let someone else have the responsibility.
C. There is always a dominant person around. They can do it.
10. Is record-keeping important to you? Consider these descriptors before you answer:
A. I understand the importance of documentation, but it stifles my creativity.
B. Record-keeping is critical to help me measure my success.
C. I keep records in my head since I can figure things out as I go along.
Now, if your answers look something like this, you possess extremely strong entrepreneurial characteristics: 1.B 2.C 3.A 4.C 5.A 6. B 7.B 8. A 9.B
And if your answers look something like this, the risks and commitment levels required may be too challenging for you right now: 1.C 2.A 3.C 4.A 5.C 6.C 7.C 8.B 9.C 10.C
However, if you are somewhere in-between and you really want to become an entrepreneur, acknowledge your weaknesses and start working on strengthening them. At the end of the day, when you learn to become competent in what you want to do, your confidence grows.
I would say that if you recognise any of the following traits in yourself, it is time you find out what you love to do and start working towards becoming the best at it:
- Perhaps your “business mind” began spinning at a young age – think about the chores you did that you persuaded your parents or friends to pay you to do back then.
- Maybe, you are very observant and always seem to notice trends each time they change. Do you see the bigger picture and find yourself thinking on a larger scale than most?
- Do you naturally surround yourself with positive people because you recognise that allowing negativity to surround you will undermine your vision? Well, you are right! You will reach your goal faster when you surround yourself with people who support you and motivate you.
- You know how to network and maintain good relationships with people. Relationships are central to your success as an entrepreneur. Afterall, the average customer is more likely to buy from you when referred by a friend.
I help entrepreneurs discover their passions and execute their visions and I can help you step into your greatness too!
If you would like to find out more about working with me through training and coaching, drop me a line at email@example.com, or make an appointment to speak with me at https://calendly.com/gen-a-consultancy
I cannot wait to help you uncover your potential!
Here's to your success!
Founder of Gen A Consultancy
April 27, 2021
Assessing Alternative Means of Market Entry
In developed countries, acquisitions and alliances are the go-to strategy for increasing revenue, profits and stock prices. According to Dyer, Kale and Singh (2004), however, only a few mergers and acquisitions are succesful, with 40- 55% early failure of alliances, causing financial damage to either or both parties. It is widely agreed that acquisitions and alliances are two different strategies, however, I believe that although these strategies are employed to achieve growth, this growth is realised differently.
Companies usually use acquisitions and alliances to increase economies of scale or cut costs, move into new markets, consumer segments and regions. The key differences are that acquisitions are competitive, centered on market prices and risky whilst alliances have mutual collaboration and are less risky.
For example, Coca-Cola formed an alliance with P&G in the hope of gaining access to their expertise in further developing innovative products whilst P&G profited from Coca-Cola’s global supply chain and cut costs significantly. In reality Coca-Cola’s profits would be shared by the partner company, 50-50, leading to a 6% drop in shares while P&G benefits from their strong position in a fast growing segment. A better strategy for Coca-Cola would have been to pursue growth by aquiring P&G’s technologies and building their portfolio of brands. Unfortunately, this lack of prior understanding of the best strategic option to opt for is common.
Done right, both acquisitions and alliances are a means for two businesses to unite for growth through synergies formed by merging resources. It is however, the type and coordination of these resource combinations, the sorts of synergies they hope to form and the market and competitive factors they face, that result in different collaboration arrangements:
- Modular synergies: where only those resources that generate greater profits are pooled together, are best for non-equity alliances.
- Sequential synergies: where one firm finishes its tasks before passing them on to the partner to achieve a common goal are best for equity-based alliances
- Reciprocal synergies: a cyclical knowledge-sharing process achieved by closely working together where joint resources are adapted to create interdependencies that produce better efficiencies are best for aqusitions.
In essence, equity alliances are better for alliances that involve people (soft resources) and acquisitions favour synergies generated from hard resources. Equity alliances align the interests of the two partners more closely to gain a better commitment to common goals. When it comes to shared risks however, a company’s experience of managing acquisitions or alliances is bound to influence its choice.
However, more often than not, it appears companies often go into a purchase agreement without a full unerstanding of the implications of doing so.
They risk a drop in stock price and the acquired business is susceptible to a loss of employees as well as their most profitable customers due to unacceptance of the new leadership.
The question is therefore, when to ally and when to acquire?
And put into the context of Africa, it is worth considering whether acquisitions and alliances are two different ways of achieving the same growth goals.
Business-to-business partnerships provide a viable solution. African-based multinationals have used partnerships to expand across the continent with great success, and foreign businesses eager to enter the market can take advantage as well.
For starters, East Africa is developing a strong regional focus and had almost left Southern Africa behind, although lately, Southern Africa has come back onto the radar. Additionally, particular economies such as Ethiopia are becoming more of a discussion point as a popular investor destination in Africa due to attractive development initiatives taking place in the country.
Most of the intra-regional deals in Africa have been in advanced technologies (with 82% in the financial sector), accounting for 21% of all agreements.The financial services sector, particularly banks and insurance companies have been deploying various models for their expansion into Africa, including regionally focused strategies.
Key lessons learned from these markets include that having the right local partner remains key to being successful in Africa - no matter how big or small a company you are. Furthermore, it is important to think carefully before imposing your brand on a market where you have recently made an acquisition. The reason for this is that you could end up changing the recently acquired company into something unrecognisable from what had made it successful in the first place. Retaining the local brand together with the local management teams in place has worked really well for some in the financial services sector who have expanded into Africa. Therefore, expanding into the continent and having a regional approach as part of that expansion is something all Africa-facing businesses should be considering.
It is worth noting though, that investment growth in both the financial services and the technology sectors in Africa are intertwined. Financial services organisations are becoming more dependent on investment in technology and innovation as they look to modernise their IT systems and find news way to grow their customer base.
Another sector that has seen massive growth through partnerships and acquisitons is the power generation segment - The US has been a significant investor in the African continent for some time and by the start of 2019 they had carried out the largest number of acquisitions in Africa, representing 18% of deals. However, as many are aware, China is leading investment throughout Africa and that is also the case in the power sector.
So, whether you go into Africa using an acquisition strategy or a joint venture alliance, having the right local partner remains key to your success on the continent.
To find out how Gen A Consultancy can assist you, please get in touch with me at:
To your success!
For further insights into this topic check out: Dyer, H., Kale, P. and Singh, H. (2004). When to Ally & When to Acquire. Harvard Business Review. Jul/Aug2004. Vol. 82 (7/8), pp.108-116
April 19, 2021
14 years in the same role...& counting!
14 years ago, I was living in Fukuoka city on Kyushu Island – the 8th largest city on the 3rd largest island of Japan - so no, not a large city. In fact, Fukuoka is approximately the same size as Peterborough here in the UK, though its population is 7.5 times that of Peterborough, with 1.5 million inhabitants.
14 years ago, I was a teacher of African heritage, from London, which confused the heck out of the Japanese, particularly because they could not understand how you could be from London when your passport says birthplace: Edinburgh, your name is Zimbabwean and for crying out loud, your skin colour does not match English people’s!
They were just getting over these facts when I announced that I would be having a baby with one of their own. What would he/she look like? Would we give him a Japanese name? African name? English name? Perhaps 3 - one of each? I felt as though my pregnancy had been hijacked by my team of nurses and all the staff I worked with across the 5 different schools I taught at.
14 years ago, I got married in Japan and this Wednesday the 21st of April marks 14 years since I took on the role of Mom. I cannot believe my baby boy is turning into a young man before my eyes. It is a surreal feeling literally watching the changes and trying to reconcile the differences, yet at the same time knowing this day would come.
14 years ago, was 2007. This was the year when:
- the New Wembley Stadium was completed.
- Apple announced the release of the very first iPhone.
- Gordon Brown became the new British Prime Minister
- The Final Harry Potter book was published - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Heads of State and Governments of Africa and the EU adopted the first ever Joint Africa-EU Strategy at the EU-Africa Summit that took place in Lisbon.
What were you doing 14 years ago? This was the year when I….. (complete the sentence).
It is good to take stock of where we have been, where we are and where we are going because there is meaning in each of these moments and how they shape the future. I am a big believer in the concept that the events we encounter (good and bad) are building blocks to the future awaiting us. To take this a step further, since I turned 40, I became an even bigger believer in the idea that we create our own futures.
There is always a quote out there to support your beliefs so of course I found one; it’s by Brian Herbert who says:
“We create our own future by our own beliefs, which control our actions. A strong enough belief system, a sufficiently powerful conviction, can make anything happen.”
Think about it for a moment – the thoughts you have as you go through any stage in life are indeed your reality, whether or not it is a shared reality.
And if this is the case, then surely the future you want is also determined by your thoughts, which are in turn translated into specific and deliberate actions to bring it (said future) into fruition.
I love asking my clients what their frame of mind was before they made the decision to take the leap – and this leap can be becoming a start-up or for operational businesses, growing in a new, international market they had perhaps thought about but had not explored yet. Then I ask how they feel now that they have done it – a sort of before and after picture.
What I hear most commonly is that people often have some idea of what they want for themselves – be it they no longer want to be stuck in a rut and they know they deserve better – perhaps they are seeking independence, financial freedom, and autonomous working – whatever the case, it can be distilled into these 4 words:
Personal and Professional Growth
Which I have further narrowed down into one category:
A wise woman once told me that when people’s minds are shackled their behaviours follow suit - and to those who have found their freedom, those actions make little to no sense! But we must acknowledge that years of living in a set system, within a set paradigm, with set societal and cultural expectations can take an individual further and further away from the life they are destined to live.
The good news is, if you are carrying with you limiting beliefs or sabotage patterns within your mindset, they are just that - beliefs and thoughts - and they can be broken. I've exercised years of personal mindset shift work, and I've noticed the things that set me apart from many of my peers. I cannot take all the credit however – my father taught me from a young age that I could be whatever I put my mind to…and I believed him! So, I generally went through life knocking barriers over and taking the path less travelled.
What I am trying to tell you is that you have a choice today. You can either choose to stay exactly where you are – unhappy, unfulfilled, knowing there is something greater you are meant to be doing out there, OR you could reflect on the words I have shared and start to consider stepping into your greatness. Let me tell you – the latter is far more exciting and rewarding!
Imagine setting yourself free from the thought that “you cannot do X” or “This is too difficult to achieve” or worse still from being in the same role for a crazy number of years (sorry moms, we’re not giving up this role any time soon!)… to joining a community of purpose-driven entrepreneurs who are not only discovering their greatness and monetising it, but they are making such a positive impact in people’s lives?!
Who is this community?
We call ourselves Generation Africa – micro entrepreneurs, small and medium sized organisations located globally but with a determination to put Africa at the centre of our business goals.
If you would like to find out more, I would love to tell you about our work at Gen A. Equally, I would love to hear more about you and your aspirations and help you step into your greatness.
So take that initial step today - it's just a conversation and really, no obligation. Book a call with me here: calendly.com/gen-a-consultancy/
Here's to your success!
Founder - Gen A Consultancy
April 12, 2021
What should social responsibility look like for your small business?
Often, small businesses also known as small and medium companies are overlooked in favour of multinational companies. While larger corporations undoubtedly have a higher net worth and greater visibility, small businesses are in fact the main organisational type accounting for more that 95% of companies in the private sector.
The European Commission defines Small Business Social Responsibility (SBSR) practices in terms of a responsible entrepreneur, i.e. one that
(1) behaves fairly and honestly towards consumers, business partners and industry rivals
(2) is considerate about the wellbeing and safety of employees and consumers
(3) inspires his/her staff via opportunities for training and development
(4) behaves like a 'good citizen' within the local community and
(5) is considerate of the natural resources and environment in which they operate.
Are you practising all five of these recommended behaviours? And if not, which one(s) do you prioritise?
There are many examples of socially responsible practises coming out of Africa and I’ll highlight a couple below:
Jean Nzeyimana, founder and CEO of Habona, a clean and renewable energy company, is passionate about protecting the environment & building climate resilient communities in Rwanda. At Habona, he makes briquettes from organic food waste & other materials, contributing to healthier homes. By transforming waste in his community to briquettes, a greener alternative to wood charcoal, Nzeyimana provides jobs and a cleaner environment.
When Nzeyimana spoke at the Mastercard Foundation 2017 summit he said: “ We care about the legacy we are leaving for the future generation. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past….The only way therefore is to accept and apply our responsibility which is to safeguard our planet, instead of destroying it. We have to strive to build climate resilient farming.”
Jean Nzeyimana, Founder and CEO of Habona
Secondly, Vanessa Zommi, now 25, is one of Cameroon’s most inspiring young women. She was only 17 when she founded Emerald Moringa Tea, a product created to fight diabetes by lowering one’s blood sugar levels. Since her mother was diagnosed with diabetes, Vanessa was determined to find a low-cost yet effective treatment, when she discovered the Moringa tree. This extraordinary tree is known for its homeopathic uses as its leaves contain antioxidants that treat several kinds of diabetes whilst boosting the immune system.
Emerald Moringa Tea processes and packages moringa leaves into tea locally in Cameroon. What motivates Vanessa is that her product keeps her community healthy and tackles the chronic problem of diabetes that has not only gripped her country, but is rife across the African continent.
And finally, the Moroccan company, DabaDoc, aims to help millions of patients by democratising access to healthcare and levelling the playing field in the health marketplace. In so doing, they help hundreds of thousands of doctors reach patients more efficiently through a disruptive technology they developed in 2014. The technology allows instant doctor appointment bookings by streamlining the patient-doctor relationship.
While the greatest challenge that the team faces is changing the mind-sets in place, the platform was created to support the democratisation of access to healthcare. It is now the leading virtual appointment platform for doctors across Africa, with more than a million patients and thousands of doctors.
Their current target markets are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria and South Africa.
In the context of the entrepreneurs described above, who are driven by the need to empower those in underserved communities, we can see that their social responsibility practices are grounded in the ethic of care philosophy (Spence, 2016) which encompasses the following characteristics :
- Meeting the needs of others for whom they take responsibility
- Informal, personalised communication mechanisms
- Acceptance of partiality
- Informal relationships assisted by a flat hierarchy
- Relationship-based with a dependence on personal integrity, reputation, and trust with business partners.
Additionally, Spence and Rutherford (2000) offer four dimensions for observing the social outlook of a small business:
- profit maximisation priority
- subsistence priority
- enlightened self-interest
- social priority
Because the local community is the main concern for similar ventures, their primary interest is governed by the enlightened self-interest priority, whereby their involvement in social issues is balanced with conscious awareness of the positive influence they have on the business.
Now, you may have come across Carroll’s pyramid of CSR that states that each organisation has 4 levels of responsibility to fulfil - economic, legal, ethical and philanthropical. Whether you have or not, Spence (2016) came up with a new “small business” version of Carroll’s model that allows a small business owner to reorder the pyramid in order to tell the story of how you are individually prioritising your responsibilities within the society. In other words, responsibilities are accumulated as you ascend the pyramid. The bottom of each pyramid, as shown below, is the starting point for responsible behavior while the apex represents aspects that are preferable but not essential.
Small business social responsibility pyramids (Spence, 2016)
(a) Responsibility to self and family means responsibility to the owner-manager him/herself (and to the family) is a key area of accountability.
(b) Responsibility to employees means that employees are very important to how the business is run, including in terms of social responsibility.
(c) Responsibility to the local community means that the business owner's primary concern is that they are treated in an ethical manner - fairly and with respect.
(d) Responsibility to business partners refers to suppliers, customers and collaborators and means the chief responsibility is an economic one; making sure payments are made on time, quality products delivered, and ensuring the sector prospers.
For example, a pyramid drawn with a focus on business partners is based on the business’s requirement to be economically sustainable and operate adequately in line with minimum legal requirements. It's worth noting though that prioritising the components of the pyramid according to the stakeholders you value most, could create conflicts for you as abusiness owner. Similarly, a conflict could arise from having a firm survival priority while claiming to prioritise your employees and the local community. So, how do you balance the two?
There is no right or wrong approach, however I'm proposing that trust-based relationships in business warrant individual reflections of accountability and social responsibility from an ethic of care perspective.
For further reading check out:
Spence, L. J. (2016). Small business social responsibility: Expanding core CSR theory. Business & Society, 55, pp. 23-55.
Spence, L. J., & Rutherfoord, R. (2001). Social responsibility, profit maximisation and the small firm owner-manager. Small Business and Enterprise Development, 8, pp.126-139
Have a great week!
Founder - Gen A Consultancy
April 6, 2021
Microfinance and its Role in Africa’s Economic Development
Grassroots organisations have different approaches to offering people on the continent financial assistance, however they have several attributes in common:
- Operating as an NGO
- Inclusivity: lending to all without consideration for religion, race, ethnicity etc
- Encouraging the practice of savings as well as taking out small loans
- A source of continual training and support to guarantee success
- Instilling accountability for repayment commitments
- Lifting people out of extreme poverty
Thus, we arrive at a holistic meaning of Microfinance: end-to-end financial services that are offered to unemployed and low-income individuals as well as small businesses that have no other way of securing regular banking services. In other words, microfinance offers a way to reach poor people who are excluded from the formal financial sector. Many of these clients live on less than £1 a day and live in remote rural locations not served by any other regulated financial provider.
Microfinance is typically provided to women because women are more likely to participate in small-scale informal business ventures usually associated with farming or crafts. It is also largely recognised that women have a better track record for fulfilling their repayment obligations than men do. The micro loans tend to be given to groups of women who already know each other and act as guarantors for each other’s loans. So, microfinance lies at the heart of Africa’s efforts at delivering inclusive socio-economic development.
However, a new approach, known as a catalytic innovation, is needed to create a scalable and sustainable business model to meet this largely unmet need. Christensen, Baumann, Ruggles, and Sadtler (2006) first coined the term ‘catalytic innovation’ for innovative solutions that create social change, usually on a nationwide scale. They characterised a catalytic innovation as a scalable, sustainable and transformational solution that meets an underserved need. Ten years ago, Mohan and Potnis proposed a framework for a catalytic innovation which comprised five factors:
1. Customer focus on the poor & social entrepreneurship for the social mission
2. Operational innovation
3. Information technology
4. Human capital management for scaling
5. Financial sustainability
For example, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP, 2021) did a study that showed that countries with higher poverty rates have the lowest penetration of deposit accounts per 100 adults, with around 70% of people excluded from mainstream financial systems.
Microfinance (small amounts of around $100) provides financial services such as loans, savings, and insurance to the poor.
However, there is a limited pool of donor funds, predominantly from government agencies and charities, inhibiting scaling. We all know that in poor communities, people do not have sufficient funds to buy the items that a new business may want to sell. I would rather see governments addressing the causes of poverty, subsidising growing businesses and improving their welfare systems. Besides, in a lot of cases direct grants are a better alternative to a loan.
Having said that, when supplied in a financially sustainable way by a well-managed organisation, microfinance promotes and facilitates economic activities, helping to reduce poverty and increase financial inclusion. However, if distributed negligently or in an exploitative manner, this type of lending can have negative consequences. The success or failure of the model partially depends on the financial expertise accessible to providers and their customers and part of those capabilities can be offered by accountants employed by or working in partnership with microfinance providers, whether paid or voluntarily.
Venture capitalists could be another viable alternative of funding for social entrepreneurs who can come up with innovative solutions to increasing collateral for this underserved community. A key problem that social entrepreneurs may want to tackle could be that of improving literacy, as the lack of it has been cited as a key reason commercial banks will not serve these communities. Since historically there has been no incentive for banks to reach the people in remote areas as it is far more costly than in more accessible areas, VCs can provide the capital to expand outreach work but also, know-how, coaching and mentoring for such initiatives.
In terms of information technology, digital microfinance removes the costs associated with setting up a physical bank and storing large amounts of money. Furthermore, credit control processes become far more efficient. On the other hand, when targeting extremely remote regions where villages are further apart and travel costs to get to these remote villages is higher, a door-to-door microfinance service may still be required. This is where the lowest tiers of the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) live. Either way, standardisation for scaling operations, i.e., for selecting the underserved region, villages and target clientele, as well as training, becomes important. As operations scale, there is a heightened need for financial compliance and accountability to be strengthened.
The recruitment strategy for attracting the right loan officers and their performance appraisals are vital areas of human capital management since the loan officers tend to be recruited from the same poor villages as the clients. This is because they have an intrinsic advantage of being capable of dealing effectively with their customers. Targeting the younger workforce also has a cost benefit of paying a lower salary.
Operational innovation, information technology and the human capital management combined are all necessary for financial sustainability. Funding, mainly when it comes to setting up a business, is only one component of the equation: it is the combination of funding and support that eventually means borrowers not only start up and survive, but flourish.
This article raises several questions:
Have microfinance projects in Africa really improved people’s lives, both individually and in their wider communities?
And should microfinance institutions continue to operate as not-for-profits or should for-profit organisations take on this role?
We all have different ways of seeing the world and it is in debating these ideas that we co-create the best solutions. If you would like to discuss this topic further with me, you are welcome to leave your comments.
29 March, 2021
Why Fear is Problematic
Fear is paralysing. Fear can torment you for years and if left unchecked, can invite panic and anxiety into your life. It’s a visceral feeling or an internalised thought about the future. But fear in itself isn’t real although it stems from a real place, from a real event that has induced a feeling of insecurity or danger.
Fear is however, a choice - how we’ve chosen to respond to an event. The problem is not the fear itself; the problem is that people do not take time to consider the fear rationally. For example, by considering the following questions:
- What am I afraid of?
- Is my fear realistic?
- What’s the worst that can happen?
- What can I do to protect myself from that outcome?
- Is the worst-case scenario really the worst?
Let's start with my fears. I'm afraid of rejection. So what do I do? I minimise the risk of rejection. I'm afraid because I'm a parent though I try not to show it. So I teach my son the harsh realities of the world he’s growing up in, in the hope that he’ll be better prepared. I'm afraid because my parents are getting older - I'm afraid to get that call, that dreaded call. I'm afraid of failure; not so much afraid of making mistakes but afraid of my mistakes culminating into failure. So, I hold extremely high standards for myself and anyone I work with.
See, I am one of four children in my nuclear family. I am a middle child - so according to the experts it explains why I’m even-tempered. Growing up, I was this really energetic and excitable child that was told I talked too much. I didn’t think so; I just had a lot to say!
I used to entertain my family in the living room by spinning on my head and dancing like a lunatic; looking back I wanted to be accepted for my quirkiness, not just when I met someone else’s expectations of me. I loved to sing but was told, in what was perceived to be in jest, that it was best that my sister establish the right note and then I should join in (I can laugh now).
Despite an amazing childhood, this part of my life became the birthplace of my fears as a young adult. For starters, I stopped singing in front of others because I was convinced I had an awful voice. I would only speak freely with people I was familiar with but appeared quiet to those that did not know me well. I was quite an awkward kid - I had bad posture because I was tall and did not want to be noticed, so I hunched forward to try and disappear amongst my peers. I was a tomboy because I felt freer than I would with the weight of the expectations laiden on young girls. I kept my hair short, climbed trees, rode a mountain bike, was always on the tennis court either at home or at school, and avoided spending too much time with my parents’ visitors. It was my way of telling the world to just let me be.
Lucky for me, a determination lived inside of me that encouraged me to face my fears head on and see what could happen when I did. The one consistent result is that nothing changes until you change something - until you take some sort of action. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true.
I landed in Japan for a new job, on my 25th birthday and the Japanese being so hospitable, took the new cohort of staff out for dinner and drinks. Being a special birthday, the air stewards had me on champagne on the way to Tokyo, so the latter dinner and drinks event was the perfect setting for my introduction to live karaoke. I had so much fun that evening singing my lungs out without a care in the world, not knowing that a year later I would actually be singing in an acapella band. Go figure! But when I dissect this experience of how I went from over 10 years of only ever singing in the shower to singing on stages in a foreign country, it comes down to these three things:
- I carved out a space for myself that I felt comfortable in, despite it being on the other side of the globe
- I decided that other peoples’ judgments of me are their prerogative; I would grant me the permissions I withheld from younger Gamu all those years prior.
- I found belonging in my tribe - my community - people I spend less time explaining my thought processes to and more time taking action with.
I apply the same principles in business today. I focus on building long-lasting relationships with clients and associates that I am comfortable working with - you’ve got to love what you do and part of loving what you do is choosing who you want to work with. Afterall, these are the people with whom you spend the most time with!
Secondly, advice is just that - advice. Everyone has an opinion about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and how best to do it. Don’t misunderstand me - I value feedback, I really do. However, I remind myself that there is only one me and ultimately how I do things is unique to me. So believe in yourself even when the voices around you are shouting loudly! Give yourself the permission to do what is best for you; no-one knows what that is better than you do.
And finally, it is so important to be a part of a community that will support you whether business is going well or when difficult challenges are thrown your way. As human beings we crave that sense of belonging and I have seen the acceleration in my own results by being part of a business community that aligns with my values. Your community is your tribe.
If you recognise some or all of what I’ve talked about today in yourself, I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve been thinking about going into business for a long time and you recognise that fear is holding you back then I’d like to help you realise that reality. I help professionals that are ready to transition into entrepreneurship, face their fears head on and live into their purpose, on purpose.
I look forward to hearing from you via LinkedIn or you can book a quick chat with here:
To your success!
March 12, 2021 What do you lack in your business?
There are 5 lacks in business generally that prevent you from attaining your goals. I first heard about these ideas from Industry Rockstar's Kane and Alessia Minkus, over a year ago. I thought it made sense as I sat in the conference audience contemplating whether or not I would choose this team to be my business mentors, but it wasn't until I started running my own business that it really made sense! (and I'm pleased to say they have lived up to my expectations as mentors!)
- Without further ado, the first lack that may not be getting you to your goals: a lack of Clarity. A lack of clarity on what you want, where you're going, what your values are, where you are in relation to your goal, who your client avatar is.... clarity is a massive lack in business. Recently, I was reminded by a good friend who is also an investor, to ensure I check in with my values before I take on a new client, because getting new clients wasn't my lack - finding those clients that are aligned to my value system and that I'd enjoy working with was.
- A lack of Structure: do you document things? Are you able to grow and scale your business? Are you getting momentum throughout your activities that allows you to accelerate your growth? We should all be committed to adopting a worldclass structure in the key facets of our businesses, whether it's curriculum design, speaking, influencing, getting high end clients.
- A lack of Influence: do you lack the ability to influence people whether it is online or offline? You need to have influence on other human beings because whatever business you think you're in (B2B, B2C, B2G, B2P), we're all infact in the H2H (Human to Human) business (coinded by Ryan Deiss). Projects are not enough - you must trade and teach other people why they must buy your products and services, why they should listen to you and why now is the right time.
- A lack of Visibility. When you lack visibility, noone knows who you are! And if LinkedIn has shown us anything, it's how powerful a discussion is in finding your true tribe. I have met some of the most amazing collaborators on this platform that I may not have otherwise met. But not everyone you need to know and who need to know you is on LinkedIn! This is about exposing your innovations, your credibility, your presence on the market.
- The fifth lack links nicely to point #4: A lack of Community: this is the crux of a human to human business model. What is your level of community status? Are you actively building a community? Because this is by far the most important element for your business. You want to aim to create as many first followers as possible (watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ if you are wondering what I mean).
Which of these 5 are you strongest to weakest in? Whatever you're strongest in, start with that to build self-esteem, certainty and confidence. This in turn will build momentum as you tackle your 2nd strongest point and so on till you've attended to all 5.
To your success!