An interesting article by Andrew Baxter in the Financial Times draws attention to the increasing number of international consultants who are targeting Africa as the next source of growth in the global economy.
Baxter interviews a number of consultants who are setting up offices in Africa, including Nairobi, who highlight increased opportunities for management consultants in our growing economies, especially in the telecoms and financial services sectors.
One of the quotes that stands out for me is this one, from Jake Leslie Melville of Booz:
African clients are willing to pay for the best if they get the best. They understand quality and are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the consulting market.
Doesn’t that seem ever-so-slightly patronising? As though we have not been sending generations of people to study abroad and it’s only now that consultancies have deigned to open offices on the continent that we are “sophisticated” enough to need management consultants?
And that is part of the problem: Africa is seen as almost too big, too complicated, too varied for consultancies to make a sustained effort. Further down the article, a number of consultants are quoted as saying that perhaps North African countries can be served from Europe, while the Middle East can pick up some work from Africa. We are not seen as important enough, or lucrative enough to enjoy dedicated attention; we are a secondary concern.
I have nothing against consultants who serve their clients well. Management consultants could play an important role in providing advice and expertise to African firms as they expand and play a greater part in the global economy. But this will not happen until the international consultancies stop seeing Africa as something to dabble in and instead jump into African markets feet-first. Until then, all their efforts will seem half-hearted.
[Image by Cetaceo]