Exporting to international markets is a powerful way for African tech startups to increase their company’s bottom line, smooth out seasonal dips, and increase competitiveness. The challenge is how to successfully navigate that process.
A critical part of the work by the International Trade Centre’s NTF V programme is to train African entrepreneurs on how best to conquer the complexities of global marketing and international sales.
In October, the Netherlands Trust Fund V Ghana Tech programme concluded and eight-month Export Marketing Plan training for 18 IT & Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) companies to sell their services across the world.
“We will be using the training to improve our marketing strategy and growth plan for 2023 and the years ahead,” said Nehemiah Yelu Attigah, founder and CEO of Hatua Tech Ltd. “We are looking to venture into the UK, the Netherlands, and Nigeria as primary markets, and Sierra Leone, Gambia, Kenya and Rwanda as secondary markets,” said Attigah.
Hatua Tech is a Ghanaian business process outsourcing business that helps companies in the service and manufacturing sectors streamline and digitize their processes and manage effectively. Attigah said his company has worked hard to get potential clients to see their value proposition.
Led by expert Fred Janssen and local trainers Paulina Adjei and Emmanuel Kpogo, the training included full day workshops, visits to the companies and online coaching sessions.
“The facilitators and coaches were brutally honest with their feedback,” said Attigah. “It was a refreshing approach. People are not used to being pushed to think deeper,” he said.
The EMP breaks down how companies should identify their internal strengths and weaknesses and determine which international markets they will be able to expand into. Participants were given Export Marketing handbooks to guide them through the training and develop their own tailor-made service offering and export plan.
“This was not a box-ticking exercise, this was hands-on: you were expected to deliver,” said Attigah, adding that his company has become far more strategic in how it looked at markets in terms of product and marketing combinations.
Partners from key institutions that ITC works with, such as Joyce Owusu-Kwarteng from the Ghana Export Promotion Authority, David Gowu from the Institute of ITC Professionals Ghana, and Akosua Annobil, the founder of the Tech in Ghana biannual event, were also brought in to interact directly with the companies.
“The presence of these government agency enablers at the meetings means they now are aware that organizations like ours exist in Ghana,” said Ernest Amartey Otu, Senior Manager, Marketing & Sales at e.Services Africa Ltd., (eSAL) who also took part in the training.
eSAL is a 24-hour business process outsourcing operation serving international and local Ghanaian and international clients in the financial, telecommunication, healthcare, utilities and aviation industries, as well as fast moving consumer goods, sales and marketing.
eSAL is working to reach additional international clients, but is up against established players in Africa in Kenya, South Africa, Morocco and Rwanda, and internationally in the Philippines and India.
“The competition is fierce and comes with a lot of finance muscle. We are a small company trying to survive in those waters,” Otu said. “The Marketing Mix Strategy, which looks at product, place, price, promotion and most importantly planet, was key in how we articulated our value proposition in our 5-year plan,” he said.
Otu is aware that giants like Amazon and Google entering African countries could poach many of the best tech experts, leaving local companies short of qualified workers. But, he notes, these larger corporations would benefit more by partnering with local companies.
While confident as his company was already on the right path to success, Otu said the ITC training helped eSAL better package its offerings.
“After critically analyzing our strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats (SWOT), we know we have what it takes to enter the European market, specifically the United Kingdom,” said Otu.
Attigah agreed that trainings like those provided by NTF V are important for tech companies who need to provide services at global-level standards in order to sustain and grow their businesses.
“This is something we are encouraging and should be repeated in the years to come, it will help a lot of African and Ghanaian businesses to become international in their outlook and delivery,” Attigah added.