08 Aug Gold Nuggets from the US-Africa Leaders Summit
The first U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit is in the history books and it was an incredible event. I would like to share with you my initial key takeaways, while they are fresh in my mind.
First of all, for the USA business people that did not attend, I must quote Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese (tel-coms) billionaire, that likes to tell it like it is. Here is one of Mr. Ibrahim’s comments:
“I’m actually a little bit amazed that all those Africans I met on the plane … are coming all the way here to America to tell the very smart, well-informed American business-people that ‘guys, you know what, there is a good opportunity in Africa’. They should do some homework,”
“Everywhere in Africa there are Chinese business people, there are Brazilian business people.”
“None of us went to Brazil, or to Asia or to China to tell them, look, come and invest in Africa. They found out themselves and they come and invest. That’s how basic business people behave.”
He added: “Why do we need to come and inform these misinformed American businesses? You know, you guys invented Google. Use it please.”
Secondly, I was shocked at the number of USA companies, that did attend the event, that went unprepared. While they thought they were prepared, and armed with a copy of a standard, somewhat boring, Power-Point presentation offering how great they are – very, very few went with rock solid proposals with REAL action plans. Unfortunately, many business people left Washington anticipating getting contacted soon from the same people they handed those spiral bound presentations. And when they don’t, because a lot of the presentations were simply left behind or on the floor of the limousines, because they were not REAL proposals, the company may deduce those Africans are not serious. To that I say: Nobody really cares who you are – they want to know what you can do for them – and when and how.
Lastly, it continues to amaze me how many people talk as if they are very familiar with Africa or very interested in doing business in Africa BUT have never been there or have only been to a few places. Also, I met executives that complain about flat sales, in the USA, and mentioned increasing sales and marketing budgets in an effort to increase sales – yet they were not anxious to visit Africa.
In the end, we still have a long way to go. USA businesses need to understand Africa and take it seriously. I hope some “Googling” gets done!