Africa Entrepreneurship Pro Tip From Zambeef CEO with a $300M+ Business Empire in Africa
Irish-born, Francis Grogan, a co-founder and CEO of Zambeef Products Plc: a business empire worth more than $300m with operations in Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia, is perhaps the best tutor on “Things you should know before launching your business in Africa.”
Many foreign entrepreneurs have taken the leap of faith and invested in various ventures in Africa, but only a handful who have good results to show for it.
The Irish entrepreneur arrived in Zambia in 1991 as an expatriate manager for a meat factory; that was struggling to stay on its feet. 3-years later, he teamed up with a Zambian business partner, Carl Irwin and started Zambeef.
20 years later, Zambeef is now a market leader in production, processing, distribution and retailing of a variety of meat and agri-products. Zambeef also has more than 110 independent retail outlets across Zambia, three wholesale depots and a Zambchick Inn.
Grogan, in an interview with How we made it in Africa, gives pro tips to entrepreneurs who are planning to set up their businesses in Africa. The following is a snippet of the Pro Tips from Grogan:
Establishing a good working relationship with the local governments
Grogan says, “If you don’t have a good working relationship with the ministries that are particular to your business. I think you are going to have serious problems. If you are going to butt heads with the policy makers, you are asking for trouble. It’s the same with every country. That’s normal.”
Employ the locals and set up a training program that will promote them
Grogan expresses the importance of hiring a local partner. It comes with the extra benefit of helping your business integrate better with the local community and an extra bonus of learning directly from the local community.
Grogan says, “The people we have at Zambeef are the reason we are successful. It’s not me in particular; it’s the fact that we have, over the last 20 years, managed to hire and train really good, passionate, hardworking, devoted staff.”
Don’t overlook the informal sector
Most African countries have a bigger informal sector compared to the formal sector. Grogan understands this and uses this to his advantage. He says, “The informal section in Zambia is massive, it probably about 75-80% of business.”
Establish a Supply Chain business
Zambeef has established itself as a supply chain in Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana; from production to feeding of a chick, processing and packaging of the poultry product to the end consumer. The company also has a logistics arm that owns one of the biggest transport and trucking fleets in Zambia that also has a maintenance workshop that services them.
Grogan was quoted: “We were buying chickens originally from chicken farmers but they couldn’t give us the amount we wanted, when we wanted, so we set up our own chicken houses and chicken abattoir processing plant.”
Diversification and Value Addition
Grogan explains that having a diversified business has the security advantage of protecting the company from market shocks. Zambeef has grown from the meat (beef) business, but now its biggest division is in the edible oil and cropping businesses. Novatek, the company’s animal feed division which started off as a source of feed supply to meet the company’s shortage, is now one of Zambia’s biggest supplier of livestock feed.
Finding the Right Business Partner
On this, Grogan says, “You need to have complementary skills. I was very lucky with Carl. He is a chartered accountant and very good administrator, whereas my skills are on the meat production and operations side.”
For more information on Things you should know before launching your business in Africa, from the perspective of Francis Grogan, a co-founder and CEO of Zambeef. Check out his interview on How we made it in Africa by following this link.