Business in Sub-Saharan Africa
18 mayo, 2012
Mr. Ignacio Pombo is an architect who currently works as a partner and director manager of Colum
bus Consultora. He has worked as a director manager for FOCE Consultora and is the owner and d
irector manager of Pombo Arquitectura S.L., Pombo Grupo Inmobiliario, Grupo Constructor Obraval and Valenciana de Proyectos Inmobiliarios, S.L. He has studied several things like architecture, business and Spanish language in this universities: Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Universidad Alfonso X El Sabio, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia – U.N.E.D., IE Busines
s School, Columbia University in the City of New York and Universidad Politécnica de Valencia.
Currently he is working in some projects like being the Director Manager in COLUMBUS CONSULTORA which works in Ecuatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast. He is also working with FOCE Consultora, which was created to promote the internationalization of companies in the Arabian Gulf and Brazil. And is also working as a partner for GESPROAIN, a company of project management of architecture and engineering created to develop projects of Charter Schools in the Comunidad Valenciana and it also manages residential and urban planning work in Spain for banks.
1) Why did you choose Africa to expand your business?
Because it’s close to Spain and it has a great growth potential.
2) How you see Africa’s future regarding to development?
I think that Africa finally is about to wake up because it has the necessary conditions.
3) Is easy to work with the African politicians?
I think that it’s easier to work with the African ones than with the Spanish ones because they say more clearly what they want
4) How would you describe your work experience there?
At the beginning I have been finding out everything, business lines, opportunities and knowing the ground.
5) Did you reach your expectations?
In the current year 2012 I hope to sign several contracts in Ivory Coast and Morocco, and to commercialize some products in 17 countries from the Gulf of Guinea (From Senegal to Congo)
6) What’s your business about there?
What we basically do is commercializing products (stone for building, fitchen worktops, spanish food, etc.) and developing architecture and urban planning projects.
7) How is the political situation in Africa?
Right now most of countries are stable with outgoing democracies working reasonably well or monarchies and dictatorships that provide much clarity in business operations
8)Which advantages do you think European investors have in Africa?
They make business so fast and they have a big gap of growth.
9) It has been easy to develop your business there?
No because I don’t have so many resources and it’s expensive to travel around Africa. It’s a big continent. Nevertheless I hope to develop much more projects all around Africa.
10) Which differences do you see between Africa and Spain?
Spain is a hypertrophied country by regulations and politically. It has become very difficult to develop projects and doing business in Spain. In Africa things are done very fast, although logistics are difficult and not always you find what you need as easily as you can find in Spain.
11) How was the adaptation?
I began little by little and in a three-year period, I have gone quite a few times to Morocco, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast. I have adapted myself better to the African “kaos” than to the Spanish “order”. There, they do what they can and they try to help; on the other hand in Spain are all impediments when you want to start a business.
12) Do you see a great future for your company in this country?
Of course. I am really hopeful and I have prospects of carrying on a lot of things in the coming years.
13) Do Europeans get the same rights as Africans when you start to build a business?
In most countries is the same. In some, sometimes they favour European because they know that we have more business skills to develop as we have more experience and a more sophisticated and feasible mind-set than the African. By contrast in some countries there is a strong protectionism in favour of the local population.
14) Which was the process to start a business there?
Primero, establecer contactos y conocer los escenarios
Segundo, establecer alianzas con socios locales fieles y con mentalidad operativa
Tercero, desarrollar los proyectos diseñados
First, to establish contacts and to know the differente grounds
Second, to establish alliances with local partners minded fiattful and operational
15) Have you had any problems?
Of course. There are always problems but this belongs to the core business of the company
16) Is it worth to invest in Africa? If so, why?
As I already said, the potential growth is very high: there are young people, there is consumption, there is money, there is public investment…
17) Since when have you been working in this area?
18) Would you move there in a future?
If everything runs as I hope I would like to move there with my family by 2013 or 2014.
19) How is the relation between your company and the certain governments you are working with?
Very friendly and efficient, but they carry their formality that does not have anything to do with ours and we must know.
20) Which advice will you give to someone who wants to start a new business there?
Those businesses in Africa are made in the African way. You should have to remove the prejudices about your own way of doing business and you must know how the African people works.
21) Which is the greatest experience you have had in the country and the worse one?
The best are the projects that I am carrying right now. The worst are the people that want to cheat you when you get there the first few times.
22) Which are the best areas to invest on?
It depends on the countries and in what you have in mind, but it could very interesting to invest in mining, oil, real estate, food industry, etc.