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Kevin PhillipsKevin Phillips

Africa is a popular place to be right now – and looking at the growth prospects of the world’s developed economies over the next three years, it’s no wonder. If the multinationals are going to make their targets, they will need to venture beyond familiar markets into burgeoning economies like Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya.

It’s true that doing business in Africa brings challenges including unfamiliar business practises, legislation differences, and red tape. Flights are few and unreliable, connectivity is slow or non-existent and it can be expensive. But the opportunities that come along with these challenges are immense.

The bigger the current deficit, the more work there is to be done. The rewards for doing the work are not just financial: There is great satisfaction in developing innovative ways to meet new challenges and entering into exciting new partnerships. It certainly puts new life into the tried and tested environments you have historically worked in.

Meeting the challenges can also help to make your business more efficient. When the client is in Accra rather than Sandton, returning to fine tune an implementation or retrain a client is not an option. The pressures of working at long distance with limited connectivity are forcing many companies to look at how they can make their implementations more efficient.

Careful advance planning and rigorous triple-checking are indispensable to this process. If the client isn’t ready for the consulting team when it arrives, or if they aren’t able to finish the entire job in a single trip, the budget gets blown out of the water.

It also helps to be more systematic about the sales process, scheduling multiple appointments per trip and making as much use of remote meeting technology as possible. Web based demos and screen sharing are powerful tools that deserve more use.

Ultimately, the needs of the market in the rest of Africa will probably drive South African software companies to deliver more cloud-based services. And here the constraints will deliver another gift: Delivering cloud services to places where bandwidth is limited, expensive and unreliable is not a small challenge. Meeting that challenge will require innovation and ingenuity that will never be demanded from those working in a bandwidth glut – and that again will bring new opportunities in its wake.

About the author: , MD of idu Software