It’s Saturday night; I am in Dar-es-Salaam en route to Lagos. Most of the week was spent working in Nairobi where JLL launched its East African hub at a small function attended by those whose valued advice and support helped us develop our entry model into this key African market.
The privilege of extensive time spent in African cities and markets serves as a constant reminder that Africa is a place in name only. It is in fact a constellation of hundreds of cities, large and small each with its own distinct business environment. My role is to determine how best to adapt our global services and operating model to ensure local relevance without compromising on standards and quality.
My time in Nairobi was spent between client meetings, interviewing top talent and further developing our local ambitions with the ever wise input of our Lucy Githinji. Ambitions of building locally resourced businesses in all of our hubs were well rewarded in my interviews with skilled and experienced people who are citizens of Kenya. Client meetings included a sizable global corporate looking at entry into the continent via Kenya. There was additional confirmation of JLL’s penetration and increasing activity in Sub-Saharan Africa with Anthony Lewis (JLL Capital Markets) and Xander Nijnens (JLL Hotels & Hospitality) co-incidentally working from our Nairobi office this week as well.
Flying over a snow-capped Kilimanjaro early yesterday morning en route to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, I realised the effects of a 7% GDP growth forecast for 2015 are evident in the increasing number of developments completed and under construction. Last night I presented at a function held by Pangani Real Estate, an in country association who we will collaborate with to build delivery capacity in this underestimated market. A wide range of corporate leaders and investors attended the gathering held on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Conversations were fascinating and much was learned.
Building a pan-African platform for our business has had its fair share of challenges, risks and frustrations. Many of these can be anticipated and planned for by listening to in country business leadership when strategizing for our market entry and activity. Becoming a market leader starts with the building of respect amongst local business, and needs to be earned here rather than assumed as an implication of JLL’s global impact and success.
Unless of course there is a piece of innovative thinking that cannot be ignored and which has an immediate impact on those to whom it is presented. JLL recently launched RED, (www.africa.jll.com) an innovative platform that I believe will have a significant impact on the way corporates across the continent will think about occupancy. The desire to drive efficiencies and reduce occupancy costs should be as pressing here as they are in the developed economies of the world. Those with whom I have shared RED to illustrate our innovative capabilities are captivated by its potential to add real value to their operations.
There is a growing conversation inspired by RED which has further ignited my belief in the potential of this unique collection of countries called Africa in which we have the privilege of working and calling home. All are aware of the global village and how with communications and IT platforms, corporates can drive efficiencies by separating functions across countries around the world. It could be argued that to house all activities of a business in one city, country or indeed region is inefficient in today’s environment.
It is time for our cities to identify and market areas of competitive advantage both regionally and internationally. It makes perfect sense for example to house finance and administrative functions in Mauritius, manufacturing in Nigeria and Kenya and call centers in South Africa. It’s time for us to start thinking regionally and in doing so to promote the broad scope of opportunity that our continent has to offer. My challenge to regional leadership is to identify core and differentiating competencies on offer by our cities. These need to be supported by government incentives to encourage FDI and then accurately communicated to the broader global business community. With these initiatives and investments will come job creation and real estate development, which if correctly planned and executed will result in our cities being on the radar of the international investor community. One can only imagine what impact this positive story will have on the future our economies. It’s time to Outsource to Africa!
Given JLL’s increasing activity across many of Africa’s cities, combined with our global reach we are perfectly placed to tell the pan-African story, and market centers of excellence across the world. Our 58 000 professionals operating from 230 offices across the globe are well placed to do so.
I leave Dar-es-Salaam for Lagos on Monday. Lagos is an invigorating place to work in, a city of significant opportunity and optimism and one where our business is growing in the capable hands of Chinwe Sagna.
Tomorrow will however be spent exploring the streets of Stone Town on the historic island of Zanzibar. It’s all in a weeks work!