Visions and Voices

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Bain & Company Inc. is one of the world’s leading business consulting firms. It works with top executives to help them make better decisions, convert those decisions to actions, and deliver the sustainable success they desire. For forty years, it has been passionate about achieving better results for their clients—results that go beyond financial and are uniquely tailored, pragmatic, holistic, and enduring. The company advises on issues related to strategy, marketing, organization, operations, technology and mergers & acquisitions, across all industries and geographies. The company has fifty offices around the globe employing more than 5,000 consultant. Tiaan Moolman, Partner of the Inc talked about his vision for Africa in the years to come and what his company is focusing on.

 

Capital: Do you have businesses in Africa?

Tiaan Moolman: Yes we do. We operate a regional model from South Africa that covers sub-Saharan Africa. We have an office in Dubai that covers North Africa. But currently we do work all over the continent. From the South African office perspective, we often coordinate but not necessarily own a company involved. We think about it not only from an industry perspective but also from language perspective. For example, we do work in Mozambique and Angola in oil and gas and natural resources in mining. Predominantly there is a discussion on financial services. We think to cover those engagements from our office in Sao Paulo, Brazil from the language perspective. I myself have worked in Angola; the language is a barrier if you don’t speak  Portuguese. We cover Franco phone speaking African countries from our office in France and some times from Dubai as well because we have a lot of French speakers there. A lot of the West African countries are covered from South Africa because the work there is consumer related products. In southern Africa, it is mining because we have a very strong mining practice in South Africa. And then, the east coast of Africa there is also a lot of consumer product, telecommunication, and financial services. So, we have a reasonable coverage as a company.

Capital: Do you have any new business interest in the continent?

Moolman: Yes we do. Ethiopia has a really interesting market not only for us as a company but also for a lot of other companies who are excited about the countries future growth opportunity in particularly and the continent in general. The growth rate Ethiopia achieved in thelast few years and the projected growth is staggering. It sounds as though the conditions for future growth are taking place. The macroeconomic policies of the government are easing up allowing more public-private partnership to foster. So, Ethiopia is definitely a place we are interested in doing business. From a business perspective we are unlikely ever to have offices in every country because so much of businesses in Africa are becoming regional businesses. When we upscale, we have to make a decision where our office will be in East Africa. But for the time being, we basically bring teams and get the work done.

Capital: Can you mention a specific business interest in Ethiopia?

Moolman: As far as I know there is no specific discussion related to Ethiopia at the moment. But the things that are happening in Ethiopia are obviously very interesting. All the emerging agro businesses, manufacturing, agro processing, infrastructure, telecommunication, and financial services are very inviting as the markets open up to the global competitions.

Capital: Are you going to wait until the markets in Ethiopia open up to the global competition?

Moolman: I think so. I mean if projects come earlier than that it must be in the area where the business is open to companies around the world. But, as I understand at the moment there is nothing immediate that is going on in Ethiopia specifically with our company. But one of the things that are interesting for us in Ethiopia at the moment is that we do a lot of work for multinational companies that are interested in spreading their foot print in Africa for the first time based on the 300 million emerging middle class in Africa. We do work a lot with those companies as well as with big continental champions in South Africa and other places to help them figure out what is the best way for them to be successful in Africa. Because you cannot take models from other part of the world and put it down and expect things to work. You need a customized African solution. We try to understand some of those rules of the game without which, how can you be successful?

Capital: So, How do you find the World Economic Forum in Ethiopia in its role to help you understand Africa better?

Moolman: I think it is fantastic. This whole wave of information allows people both from the private and public sector as well as civil society organizations to make crucial decision based on ground up information in “off the record conversations”. You often walk away with a much better understanding regarding real investment potential and what is really going on behind the scene. I am personally coming away with the understanding that the next 10 to 20 years is going to be the African decade. If we as Africans are all together, it could be great time for us.

Capital: Where do you picture Africa 10 years from now based on the moderators view regarding the continent?

Moolman: In one or another session somebody talked about even a longer time frame. He talked about his vision of Africa in 2050 which I think is entirely achievable. Africa will become the base of the world’s manufacturing taking over from China. Obviously, there are a lot of challenges to overcome in order to get there. You need all the skills, the infrastructure, and a braking down of the barriers that exist between countries so that it becomes simple to have a free trade zones. If you can do that, then there are a lot of better conditions waiting to happen. I mean access to raw material becomes simple which were imported earlier in a lower cost. This keeps and encourages more manufacturing in Africa. So, I am hopeful that in 10 years time we will take a big step toward that vision. But, I think, it is not a job done for 10 years only. My hope in 10 years time is to see three things happen: All the talks for infrastructure projects materialized because people talk about the fifty bond plan for Africa investment. If five projects actually happen, that is really a big step forward. Second, Africa needs to graduate with skill base. That will require bringing in the Diaspora of Africa from all over the world. It is necessary to open up their minds for the opportunity at home. Government and companies need to be very serious about skill development. Africa’s big gap in skill is observed in technical areas. We need to bridge it. We need to produce enough engineers, mechanics, trades people; people that work in heavy take manufacturing. Thirdly, I believe there is a kind of business war going on the entire continent at the moment. It is much easier for African countries to trade outside Africa than to trade among themselves. Those practice needs to be broken down. There must be a way to allow a free flow of capital and goods throughout the continent. I heard a very surprising statistic today. Africa represents 15 percent of the world population but only 2 percent of the world trade. And of that 2 percent trade, 15 percent of it is inter African trade, I think. All the rest is traded outside Africa. This is obviously the legacy of the colonial regime. It is a crime and shameful that the real opportunity from trade is almost lost. We are not yet engaged on it. The change in these three things will make real progress in the continent. It will transform the continent.