- Published on Thursday, 19 July 2012 15:47
- Written by Nkwasibwe Geofrey
- Category: Local News - Business
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Summit TV looks at why CEOs across Africa are more optimistic than their peers from developed nations, with Tom Winterboer of PwC
TOM Winterboer is financial services leader for Africa at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the professional services firm.
SUMMIT TV: PwC has released the findings of the Africa Business Agenda survey of 200 chief executives in Africa that includes in-depth interactions with business leaders.
There is lots of interest in Africa, the second best performing region in the world at the moment. Is that translating into deals?
TOM WINTERBOER: When we look at what we’ve done, spending time with more than 200 CEOs across Africa, it’s been about stories of individuals in their different countries that are very diverse and complex, and about defining what should be on the agenda.
STV: In terms of the countries you profiled, did you go to all 54?
TW: No, we covered 10 African countries. On the east coast we covered a number of countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Mauritius. On the west coast we looked at Nigeria, Uganda and Angola. We also looked at South Africa.
STV: Were there differences in the approaches of the chief executives?
TW: Yes, I think approaches are very different. What we are seeing on the agendas are very different but the common themes were talent, risk and strategy.
Talent is a big area of focus and people are saying it’s important first to recruit the right people and second to retain them. Retention is really around the people you have in your company, who know the DNA and the culture.
STV: On talent, what are CEOs saying about strategy?
One of the points that is always made is trying to get people into the continent and into specific countries where they’ve never been before but where their skills are needed, which might be difficult, and then keeping them there.
TW: First there’s recruitment and what is needed. For technical people South Africa might be a source, with concerns around governments making movement much easier. But many of these countries say they’re looking for the African diaspora, which is a term used across Africa. The Ugandans are saying, "We want those people back," and they are starting to get them back — that’s very important.
STV: I see 95% of CEOs are confident of growth in the next three years while the rest of the world is asking for bail-outs. What makes African CEOs so confident?
TW: The big thing here is the economies, and politically it’s more stable. Also, understanding the risk. This is a story of different companies and economies, and on saying, "We can make this work," where they have had to work around all these challenges.
STV: Obviously that is driving strategy change for many CEOs, so what are they flagging as risks?
TW: There is more general risk, such as social instability, and then there are economic risks and politics. When you look at specific areas there’s the energy side, while infrastructure and politics are seen as challenges — yet they work around those.
STV: That is a bit of a tightrope walk, managing the risks yet keeping an eye on growth. How do they navigate that?
TW: There’s always this whole thing around the balance and getting it right in terms of growth and risk — that is hugely important. We ask the CEOs if they thought they were spending enough time on strategy and risk, and whether they would like to be able to spend more time. Most said they would — but it’s not as if they are spending enough time.
High-growth areas such as Rwanda and Nigeria are constantly evolving and they are focusing on both but saying they would like to spend more time on strategy.
STV: What are they saying about innovation?
TW: That is quite a big topic. Innovation in the traditional sense of the word probably not, but more what CEOs are seeing around the world and adapting and making it applicable to their own markets, once again getting around the obstacles and making it work.
STV: If you had to compare their optimism with the mood of their global counterparts, is it night and day?
TW: Much higher optimism for Africa as a continent, with people saying, "This is the next frontier," and making it work with African people and people who have been brought in that understand it.
STV: There have been lots of discussion about regional integration and expansion. When CEOs’ talk about growing their businesses, is it a regional focus?
TW: There are three parts. There’s the local focus on exactly what they do. Then they look at the region such as the Economic Community of West African States, and then there’s the global feeling, but one sees more of a local and regional African focus, moving resources across territories.
Source: Business Day