Sunday, 24 February 2008

"Does Your Stuff Work In Africa?"

Ten minutes into a party back home in Bath and I get asked a pretty fundamental question about my recent visit to Africa:
“Does your stuff work out there? What value were you adding to the local economy?"

So, an answer...
As with all my work, I am not interested in simply entertaining – they could have hired in some local acrobats if they wanted that…

Neither am I interested in blinding people with science – too easy to do (and you get spotted if you do this).

So what was I bringing to the table in Africa?

1 UK/European culture is very different and so generates different approaches to marketing and growing a business… sharing these insights was highly valued – there was a real curiosity to understand how things are done/not done in N Europe. (Increasingly, local African businesses have to deal with the European ideology and need to understand it.)

2 The N European/US business model and its managers are different: they tend to be more sophisticated than many African business people and have different agendas (no-one in the UK ever mentions their family, their tribe and their church as fundamental parts of their make-up). We compared and contrasted these differences and how to deal with it.

3 'Bright Marketing' and the 'Kick-Start' ‘ologies’ are refreshingly simple and pretty much universal – in other words they work and they don’t hide behind some clever clogs theory. I saw lots of 600-page marketing books at my African seminars which I am sure are great to pass exams but may not be so relevant to help people grow their businesses.

4 Growing local capability – it is crucial for local managers to grow, develop and take ownership and control of their management capability. The British Council is doing great things by running programmes for ‘young rising stars’ as well as the current cohort of managers – economic stability and political stability are inextricably linked.

5 At all my events, I worked to the agenda of the participants – I asked them what they wanted to know by the end of the sessions and these agendas are not the same as in the UK – the marketplace is different, the attitude to entrepreneurship is different, the culture is different.

6 At all events we spent time discussing what would be done differently as a result of attending; the focus was on action.

So, what I have left behind will be measured by actions taken… What will be done differently by those who attended…? Has the way that they work been challenged/questioned and have they come up with better/smarter ways to run and grow their businesses?

That is not for me to judge!

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