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oreign direct investment in Africa has increased strongly over the past decade, and capital inflows are forecast to reach US$ 150-billion by 2015. Inevitably, this


improvement in investor perceptions is the basis for global business leaders to include Africa in their strategic plans. However, this rapid expansion and capital investment are placing an intolerable pressure on the people, processes and technology currently available to organisations intending to participate in Africa’s development.


Too little too soon.


When it comes to execution of expansion strategies, the desperate shortage of skilled management resources in Africa’s developing economies makes most organisations too dependent on a few key people, most of them being expatriates. Thus, the war on talent is becoming increasingly fierce, triggering a high staff turnover in business-critical areas such as financial, procurement, human resources and technology management. Succession planning is almost unattainable, putting business continuity at risk. Without the skills and experience required to design and implement them and without the information systems to subsequently monitor them, business processes are woefully immature. Reporting is irregular and infrequent, controls are random and often ad hoc, and governance is theoretical at best. Process workarounds are the norm. Technology, which should be the means of catapulting Africa into the mainstream global economy, is very often limited by ageing legacy systems, the lack of infrastructure to support high speed, the lack of secure data exchange, inadequate system and network support and insufficient direction of technology strategy. Professional services are thin on the ground and highly fragmented, with limited integration across different functional service areas.


The answer already exists As is often the case, however, the challenges of Africa’s growth contain within them their own solution. Since there is fragmentation of people, processes, technology and professional services, the answer then is to tap into integrated capabilities across all four areas. There is also very little depth of strategic and operational experience. Why not take advantage of a single, coherent source of experience that has been garnered across all industry sectors in many differently sized organisations in many different areas of the world, including Africa? And, if infrastructure is lacking, why not gain the Opex and Capex benefits of sharing infrastructure? In other words, if one applies the opposite of each negative, one can begin to create a realistic, cost-effective way of being in Africa as it reaches its tipping point.


The approach we suggest when expanding into Africa: • If you are unable to comfortably manage your own technology infrastructure and associated resource requirements, shared services is a viable option • Work with a reputable organisation that already has a footprint in Africa and has the ability to attract and retain talent • Things to look for in a shared service provider is the ability to combine centralised strategic skills with on-the-ground, in- country, operational specialisation • The shared service provider should enable you to tap into


Celebrating 30 years of inspiring Africa’s managers


March 2012 | Management Today 81


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