Ethics And Sketchy Activity When Doing Business In Africa

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Africa is in a league of its own, bulging with opportunity and diversity, but it refuses to be tamed. You must understand its rules, say the participants of a roundtable discussion mediated by ITWeb.

Participants in the roundtable included Matthew Blewett of Business Connexion; Larry Annetts of MTN; Douglas Craigie-Stevenson of Vodacom Business Africa; Gerhard Hartman of Sage Payroll & HR; Stefano Mattiello of Cisco, Mark McCallum of Orange Business Services; Kuda Mushambi of Nomanini; Andrew Owens of Teraco; Steven Sutherland of MiX Telematics and Réan Van Niekerk of Metacom.

Here’s what some of them had to say about ethics and sketchy activity when doing business in Africa.

From ITWeb. Story by James Francis

Africa has a reputation for doing things under the table, but that’s an unfair characterization, says Matthew Blewett from Business Connexion. “It’s not an Africa problem. It’s a world problem. You will encounter shady activity everywhere.”

Nonetheless, stepping into transactional gray areas to get things done is always a temptation, one the roundtable participants are careful to tiptoe around.

The main area of concern is whether local partners are on the up and up. MiX Telematics’ Steven Sutherland points out the importance of understanding where the buck stops: “Ethics don’t end at your partners and you’re still responsible for their conduct. What they do could end up with your CEO being arrested. So don’t pay lip service to this.”

Easier said than done: how can one expect to keep partners in toe, not to mention not violate global and territorial governance regulations?

Orange Business Services’ Mark McCallum says they avoid the issue by refusing to pay facilitation fees. Instead, Orange focuses on having local employees on the ground, only using partners for customer support scenarios.

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer from the group around this topic, other than to keep your nose clean and perform due diligence when checking out partners.

Réan Van Niekerk, MD, Metacom, recommends using business agreements to lay out an understanding around expectations and conduct.

But Stefano Mattiello, GM of Emerging Africa at Cisco, has a silver lining: “Corruption is usually at the edges of business transactions. Good partners see how mutually beneficial growth is. They have as little interest as you to ruin that.”

Read more at ITWeb.