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COMMENT: Nick Durrant

Wired up to the Nigerian connection Nick Durrant, Director of Bluegrass Digital, in conversation with Jeremy Kuper, GTA Editor, about the opportunities, challenges and cultural differences of doing business in Africa.

GTA: Describe your business. Nick Durrant (ND): Bluegrass digital tends to focus on partnering with agencies. We are a digital agency, so we basically develop websites, content management systems, web mobile applications, social media or Facebook applications – broadly we call ourselves a digital production agency. We’re a slightly more technically-led than creatively-led company, so we tend to work with creative companies – for example, ad agencies or communications companies, where they will use us really for our technical skills in implementing a concept. In one instance we worked with JWT (J Walker Thompson) in London and with them we manage (as technical partner) the Lego Duplo account for Eastern Europe. We do all the web development work and implement the content management system for them – it’s fairly technical work. Similarly, we’ll work with maybe an agency in South Africa, one of the big ones, and deliver something like a website for Converse, or an iPad application for Honda cars, for a motor show or an event. Or we work with a communications company in Nigeria, for example, to do work for the Dettol brand and some Standard Bank digital mobile banners [for Nigeria]. So it’s quite a broad range

of work across web-mobile and social platforms essentially. GTA: Tell more about your African ventures. ND: We are in the process of doing a trade mission with Wesgro, a Western Cape Government initiative to try and take companies from the Cape abroad, to Kenya or Ghana, for example, to meet with companies on the ground. The reason companies in East and West Africa, for example, still tend to work with firms outside their countries, is a lack of service delivery on the ground, in terms of running a business and delivering solutions, especially for larger brands. They’ll tend to come to South Africa or go to Europe to find the skills, and there’s a status associated with working with a foreign company. GTA: What’s the difference of doing business in Nigeria compared to Britain or South Africa? ND: I suppose doing business in the UK – and I spent 15 years there – is somewhat more [of] a trust-based environment. A handshake and a nod and you know you’ve done the deal, so to speak. In SA there’s slightly less trust. Going into Africa, it probably just gets worse in terms of doing business, so in terms of

contractual arrangements and making sure you get money up front, those are all important. I know from other companies that have been in there, that that’s what needs to happen. I know of cases, for example, where they almost get the invoice paid before they arrive at the airport. And I think companies recognise that there is a lack of trust in the business world, and that’s the key to trying to get into Africa – we’re not really looking to physically set up shop in the country. I mean Nigeria has a complex business structure, so it’s difficult to do that. Our reach is really going to be through partnerships, with people we meet and trust who are running some form of business on the ground where we can partner. What most people have done is won a client which has then led them to have to set up some infrastructure and generally that client has grown into the neighbouring territory. That’s how a lot of the smaller companies have done it…It’s all about collaboration. GTA: You’re paid in US dollars when you work with Nigeria? ND: Certainly in Nigeria, everything is US dollar-based. I’m involved in a pitch there in Abuja with a client who is one of the largest pension fund administrators in Nigeria, and everything was US dollarbased. From a budget perspective, budgets are generally pretty decent in those parts of the world. People pay for luxury goods, so everything is quite expensive. GTA: What kind of market research have you done for this African project and how does it differ from doing business in SA or the UK? ND: It’s been really talking to businesses. I mean in South Africa a lot of companies – there are a few in Cape Town – have only clients in Africa. In fact there’s one company that has only one client, in Nigeria, and that’s all they service, and they do it from Cape Town, and they fly out there to do the meetings and that sort of thing. There’s a lot of that going on, and they’re now in a position where they almost have to put someone on the ground there and almost set up a satellite office an operation. If you’re getting into business where you need to provide an ongoing service to a client, that is inevitable. But it’s not really a strategy of ours. Our strategy is to work with partners where we can, and then to use them to get African

Gateway to Africa February 2013 is a multi-platform title for businesses looking to take part in expansion opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.