How Africa Can Seize the Global Market
With global industries & populations booming everywhere, basic inputs and commodities are in higher demand than they’ve ever been. This is especially true for products made in Africa. With a huge percentage of the working class working in agrarian and raw materials markets, African exporters have the advantage of being able to source and sell many products at lower prices than other developing countries.
Despite the large demand for products worldwide and the myriad products Africa produces, many Africans have a hard time selling their products. One of the biggest factors working against those Africans making deals with international buyers is trust. There are three key ways that exporters can develop heightened levels of trust: certifications, transparent operations, and relationships.
Certifications are very important for gaining trust from buyers to whom you intend to export. Though there are numerous cases of individuals being able to export without certifications, they’re generally as necessary to export as a college degree is to gaining employment. It is highly recommended you join your state’s Chamber of Commerce. Groups such as these often have records of enforcing and adhering to international standards. Citing educational backgrounds, trainings, and materials that increase your knowledge also help to reinforce trust from potential business partners.
Another important component of establishing trust is making your operations transparent. In the words of Alfred Fadugba, CEO of Stakgroup Nigeria Enterprises and this article’s coauthor, most exporters aren’t prudent about what is happening on the farm. If an exporter wants to increase the success of his business, he must develop a model of checking in on the farm or whatever is the source of the produce. If you are sourcing cashew nuts locally, the interaction with farmers should not be restricted to the market. The best exporters take the time to understand the challenges they are facing and how they can be of help. This can mean improving the quality of fertilizers and pesticides, and outsourcing education to teach better practices. In order to boost production and improve profits, it’s important to invest in your supply. This helps to assure the quality and production rate. Exporters tend to stay in their offices and do not get involved with the locals. You cannot expect things to always work out perfectly without an understanding of the place from which you are sourcing your product. Exporters need to roll-up their sleeves and get involved.
Not only do operations need to be transparent, but so do the final logistics. Particularly in the first shipment to a new buyer, it’s wise to be overly transparent to promote trust. Due to rampant fraud, buyers can be skeptical that a supplier is out to short-change them. For this reason, when loading containers with produce, you should not just send them pictures of the filled container, but a picture of your company ID posing against the numbered container. Exporters should update information that can potentially affect them such as pricing, grade of produce required, and ensure that specifications are met. Suppliers must always remain in pursuit of more information. Buyers should know that you have full-knowledge end-to-end of assuring the quality and timeliness of the products and trust that they are getting the full amount they are owed.
The age of technology can sometimes cloud us from seeing how the world actually works. Export deals are rarely formed by a website matching a seller to a buyer. So a buyer, listing a product online with all the credentials and attractive prices, may still struggle to hear any feedback. When buyers enter business with sellers they are making a significant financial and reputational commitment.
Having many credible people vouch on your behalf is important, but for buyers, a trusted referral from a friend matters more than 100 reviews from people they don’t know. If your friend trusts their driver, you would probably trust them too. Face-to-face relationships triumph, even in marketplaces of scale.
It may seem like a tall task to do this when buyers live on different continents. The best way to build relationships is by finding and working with people who already have contracts with international buyers. For this, you can go to trade shows, conventions, seminars, and conferences within your industry. Additionally, within your local communities and registered companies, you can find people who are working with international buyers or even family members based overseas who can facilitate connections. Building real relationships and demonstrating your track record of execution can lead to this new connection giving you a trusting introduction to a buyer abroad. Even if this buyer is not your customer, you can continue this cycle in order to reach more connections that may have interest in your products.