A question we get asked occasionally is why should we use your service, as opposed to someone that was born and raised in the area in question. It is a fair question, and of course, local knowledge from those that have been brought up in the specific community should not be discounted. Whilst we also rely upon knowledge from locals to make sure that we are on top of all current trends for our clients, we also believe that there is value to working with partners that have learnt society trends as “outsiders”.
Initially, we came into the market in a similar way to our clients and have spent nearly twenty years learning how to navigate through sometimes complex societal nuances. In the early days we spent time understanding how to behave in different situations to create the most rapport. That is a journey that is on-going and a continuous process. Whilst locals understand certain sectors of society, they often haven’t got experience in some important areas and capabilities.
For example, I was recently in a meeting in the traditional setting with a Paramount Chief and his entourage. This particular Chief has considerable political and economic power in his region, and was very important to a company regarding their local expansion; his influence could make or break the business locally. The CEO of the team was not entirely comfortable in the traditional setting, which can often be a strain on personal values.
On more than one occasions the CEO was ready to make his excuses and leave the evening early. Being aware of the dilemma, I realised immediately that it was likely that the Chief expected us to stay the night in the residence, and that we had to endure as much of the night as possible. This included the drinks, bonding, dinner for over 20 of us, and following that after dinner drinks and story telling. In this instance I managed to find ways to keep us at the evening for as long as possible before we pleaded for permission to leave. Whilst the Chief was indeed disappointed, we were not staying the night, he was pleased we had stayed as long as we had, no bridges were burnt and an excellent relationship was established.
We do put enormous value on local knowledge and have a big network across the community and economic sectors, which we rely on when and if the need arises. Network and connections are very important in Ghana and across the Continent, and whether you are new to the market, or have been on the ground for a while, it is vitally important to have access to a trusted network. Without support and guidance, it is very easy to end up with a network and/or people around you, who don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart.
When choosing a consultant, it is important to have someone that is not only thinking about what is best for you, but also able to speak on behalf of the society in question. Decisions that are made should build trust on both sides, and that means everyone should benefit. If a decision is likely to impact negatively on either side, it is important to be told of this. Long-term business arrangements are built on mutual trust and growth, both personal and business. Co-operation between Africa and the rest of the World is essential and possible.