I had the privilege to listen to great African expatriate, Zimbabwe born, Tawanda Mushuku. He has extensive Africa experience working in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Nigeria (and has closed deals across the continent).
MBA from GIBS, South Africa
PhD in BioChemistry from Lund University, Sweden.
On obtaining a PhD:
Mushuku holds a PhD in BioChemistry and attests to the fact that his PhD has a opened a lot of doors for him on the continent.
Career in Africa:
Zimbabwe (Unilever), South Africa (SAB, Sasol, ABI, Tiger Brands, Premier Foods), Nigeria (Tiger Brands, Dangote).
Claim to fame:
He has a knack for turning around distressed businesses. He is back in South Africa, after a working sting in Nigeria, and is starting a new career with a Greek FMCG in order to help the business internationalise.
We picked his brain and learnt a few tips around running businesses on the continent.
How can we run and turn around African businesses?:
- Compliance and governance are critical to the success of a business.
- Understand the numbers – interrogate the business income statement – it is important to understand the finances and which levers you can pull to change the direction of the business. Do not only look at the numbers when the business is doing badly but when you are doing well, look at your numbers to see how you can actually make more money.
- Invest in your brand – run an accelerated innovation agenda, pulling in and taking out, as and when necessary. You need to do your portfolio analysis continuously for each business entity. You must not let inertia set in.
- Engineer you route to market by remembering that selling is very analytical. Collect customer data and reconfigure your distribution model around your analysis of the customer and customer gaps.
- Walk the streets and understand consumers and get insights, especially consumers at the bottom end of the business. [Mushuku spends time literally walking the streets in shorts, takkies and a cap to immerse himself in his selling environment].
- African countries are not the same. Businesses cannot superimpose market dynamics from one country onto the next. The customer profiles are very different; take the time to understand the nuances.
On Institutional Voids:
- Institutional voids are a deterrent to doing business in Africa. In South Africa, there is a great concern around leadership and the destruction of institutions. Zimbabwe used to have strong institutions and these have been decimated. In Nigeria, President Buhari is trying to bring in reforms and restructure the Nigerian economy.
- Corruption, in some geographies, remains an accepted way of doing business, this has to change. The great source of reform is strong leadership.
On super profits by multinationals:
Key inputs into revenue growth management include pricing structure and price elasticity. In order to extract value you have to have diverse portfolio in order to balance margins and volumes (e.g high volume/low margins; low volumes/high margins). Multinationals should ask themselves – How can we make responsible profit?
The secret to success as an expatriate CEO:
- Take time to learn and understand the culture and people in your host country. Knowledge is power, understand your team first and then give them guidance, training and add outrageous value.
- When you are in a country that has high inflation, lack of forex, large fixed cost base, low utilisation of people – how do you manage this and maintain volumes and margins? You downsize and operate in survival mode and sustain that for as long as you can. Be creative and innovate around the business and your circumstances. African businesses with the right direction are resilient.
On African time
Leave with it – the person will show up.