An interview with the Africa Network Director for AGS Movers, Nathalie Jeanneau.
There are two types of stories that people like to tell about Africa. One is the tale of the dark continent, a place where potholes pit every road and politicians perpetually extend outstretched palms. The other is a more recent story, that Africa’s time has come. And that if you wait too long, you’ll miss out on the great investment opportunity that is the African continent and its people.
As Director of the African Network for the AGS Group, and with over 16 years of experience living and working in Africa in the logistics and removals industries, Frenchwoman Nathalie Jeanneau has heard both stories often. But in the course of her visits to the Group’s branches – at least one in each of the continent’s 54 countries – she gets many opportunities to see for herself which story rings truer on the ground.
“Africa does pose extra challenges,” she freely admits. “Sometimes our phone calls don’t connect, sometimes a branch has no electricity because there is a power cut and there is a shortage of gas for the generator. But you find a solution. If one way doesn’t work, you try another way. There is no problem so big it cannot be overcome.”
In Africa, a flexible and innovative approach to doing business is key, she stresses – the ability to adapt to unforeseen changes in the political or natural environment. “But,” she quickly adds, “that’s true for business anywhere, not just in Africa.”
Nevertheless, Nathalie knows that these are the challenges that, for many people, make doing business on the continent too much hassle. But she believes that knowledgeable local staff, who are sensitive to the culture and history of their country, play a big role in making business possible and ensuring that clients’ projects run smoothly.
“We have excellent branch managers who run exceedingly tight ships. They have to if we want to stay competitive. We bid against the historic removals companies who have expanded into Africa like we have, but also against newer local companies. They are FIDI-accredited, and their service is as good as anything you can find in Europe. And the customers, they’re savvy and knowledgeable, very business minded.”
These customers form part of an Africa-wide market that, according to the Brookings Institute, constitutes more than one billion consumers who, by 2030, will be spending an estimate of $2.5 trillion every year. Add to that the rapid urbanisation and rising incomes of recent years and it’s little wonder that businesses looking to expand have Africa squarely in their sites.
“What is left to do in Europe? What is left in Asia?” Nathalie asks. “Those markets are saturated, and companies are looking to new horizons for growth. Africa is very attractive. We have an abundance of labour, a wealth of natural resources, and space. Everything still has to be built and developed, there is everything to play for. I do think Africa’s time has come, and I intend for AGS to help make it happen.”