June 16, 2021
World Market

Africa, Most Desirable Market for Indian Companies' Growth

Stephen Vaz, founder & CEO of Indo-African Business Consulting, has deep understanding of the opportunities that the fast growing African countries offer and the complex challenges they pose. As the head of IABC, he has been providing his clients unique insights that benefit their business strategies. In an exclusive interview Vaz, a technocrat with vast experience in varied business areas, shares his thoughts with Indo-African Business. Excerpts.

Why was the "Indo-Africa Business Consulting" set up and what is its primary role?

INDO-AFRICAN BUSINESS CONSULTING (IABC) is a multi-service development consulting firm that provides advice and services to international programs, projects, multilateral organizations and companies that wish to conduct business, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and other emerging economies.

Our focus primarily rests on high-potential sectors like agriculture, education, healthcare, information technology, mining, project management, power, telecommunication and manufacturing

For the most part, it is the large Indian business houses like the Tata, Bharti, Reliance, Vedanta and few others that are actively engaged in Africa. They have their internal expertise to gain access to market opportunities in Africa and establish business linkages with local firms there. Small firms don't…

This is the gap that IABC bridges and thus came into existence.

How do you describe the rapid expansion of Indian companies in Africa?

Indian interest and investment in Africa have become very visible and are on the rise. So it is timely to reflect on how experience in India may be relevant and helpful to progress in Africa.

In the past five years more than 85 Acquisitions & Equity Investments were made by Indian companies in Africa for an investment of over USD16 billion plus in highly varied sectors ranging from telecom, agriculture, energy, consumer goods, cement, textiles, etc. How important is Africa to Indian companies?

Africa is known as the land of untapped potential. It has incredible natural resources – oil, gas, gold, iron ore, manganese, uranium, diamonds, etc – apart from many other things like wildlife etc. It also has countless opportunities for infrastructural development.

For the fastest developing nation like India, which is eying an almost 9.0 percent growth rate, all this makes Africa a much desirable market for the growth of the Indian companies.

Hence large, medium and SMEs which need a presence in Africa are on a war footing basis strategizing an aggressive marketing and business plans for additional revenue as part of their linear business growth overseas

Hence Indian Investors need a vibrant Africa.

How do you see future trends?

The emerging trends are:

  • Surging foreign investments
  • Mergers, acquisition and partnerships on the rise
  • Mounting Telecom & ICT infrastructure investments
  • New race for Telecom spectrum ownership
  • Latest need for ICT training
  • Flourishing Banking and Retailing
  • Booming Construction
  • Blooming Agriculture
  • Attractive Tourist destination

Africa is certainly much bigger and richer than you can think of.

What are your key recommendations for conducting successful business in African countries?

  • Support the Indo-Africa Bilateral Partnership Engagement
  • Developing Project Financing Architecture in Africa
  • Promoting affordable Healthcare in Africa
  • Finalise successfully Investment & Technology Partnership
  • Mining and Beneficiation Investment

How many Indian companies operate in African continent today and what is the area of greatest concentration and why?

Large Indian business houses like the Tatas, Bharti, Reliance, Vedanta, Mahindra & Mahindra, Essar are actively engaged and have their strong footprints in Africa Their focus primarily rests on high-potential sectors like agriculture, education, healthcare, information technology, mining, project management, power, telecommunication and manufacturing due to its superior technology know-how, ample resources and entrepreneurial wherewithal to boost Africa's economy In comparison to China, very little has been made of India's foray into Africa to date, though an important constituent of BRICS. What are the reasons you believe behind this? Traditionally Indian investments in Africa in the past have been small to medium scale. But of late a number of large Indian companies are investing big sums of money in Africa. Investments are mostly made in extractive sectors like oil, gas, mining, infrastructure and real estate.

The new found Indian interest in the African economy seems to have certain similarities with the recent Chinese experience with Africa. Since the mid-1990s Beijing has taken an active interest in the African economy. Both economic and strategic factors are responsible for this.

There has been a massive increase in outward FDI from India in the last 10 years. According to data released by the Ministry of Finance, GOI approved OFDI increased from USD 556 million in 1996-97 to USD 15,060 million in 2006-07. Actual OFDI growth figures are equally impressive; it increased from USD 205 million in 1996-97 to reach more than USD 11,001 in 2006-07.

But unlike China, whose investments are always negotiated on the state level, Indian industrialists will negotiate directly with their African counterparts.

Nevertheless India-Africa trade stands at USD 53 Billion, a pittance compared to China's (USD 166 Billion in 2012) and most of it limited to the big established players India is determined to change that, and this transformational phase is the right time to invest in the African economy. In what ways you can facilitate business opportunities between India and Africa? The modern India and Africa have always had a special relationship. From political affiliations to cultural ones, Africans feel special affinities towards the Indian way. This makes it easier for the Indian businessman to start up and strike it big in the continent. Also India and the African countries are unique on economic as well as cultural grounds. IABC brings intimate knowledge of both aspects to the table, making business relationships develop smoothly. We help our clients through every step of setting up a business in an emerging economy – from helping them identify the right business opportunities in the right places to establishing a company, finding the right office locations, recruitment, familiarizing with the tax and legal system, and more. Our expert understanding of the differing opportunities and challenges in these countries gives our clients rare insights that benefit their business strategies. IABC helps Indian businessmen as well as African entrepreneurs take up viable business ventures in the continent. Established on the cornerstone of experienced, dedicated and concerned experts in Indian and African business networks, the firm provides a broad array of services to create and develop commercial, industrial and professional relationships between the Africa countries and India. In IABC you have a trusted business partner, committed to making Africa one of the most powerful emerging markets of the next century, and helping India reap the rich dividends of investing early in this market.

What strategy do you adopt to do this?

Following are the important strategies:

  • Creating an ongoing awareness platform for decision makers from African countries and funding agencies to interact with Indian companies involved in engineering, consultancy, turnkey projects, construction and supply of project goods.
  • Marketing the proven state-of-the-art technologies in identified potential sectors for better understanding and adaption in Africa
  • Working closely with the Ministry and Government officials to identify projects and co-ordinate with respective Indian counterparts of similar business interest for technology transfer and either funding or investments
  • Explore non-conventional channels for promoting investment and technology transfer with African countries
  • Develop a multi-pronged strategy to further improve linkages between the two countries
  • For maximum utilization of the Lines of Credit by EXIM Bank for approved projects that have been announced for Africa
  • Provide soft landing for Indian industry looking to invest and create a sustainable partnership with the African countries Facilitate interaction and focused individualized business discussion on possibilities for Indian participation in specific African Projects
  • Formulate a strategy for facilitating a quantum jump in Indian participation in projects in the African countries with suggestions on appropriate co-financing schemes, lines of credit, etc.
  • Enable Indian Project Exporters to enter niche markets & create a brand image in appropriate, affordable & adaptable technologies from India
  • Facilitate and catalyse large-scale participation of Indian Project Exports from SME segment in project opportunities in the private sector.
  • CEOs interaction with key policy decision makers
  • Conferences, Exhibition, Networking Lunches and Dinners
  • Eyeing a broad array of industries in Africa

Thereby to take a larger pie of the potential market in Africa

Medical tourism is the new focus area for Africa. Your comment.

Affordable healthcare still remains a big challenge in Africa and thus remain the highest priority in every country in the continent With the India funded Tele-Medicine project (brain child of our Ex-President Dr Abdul Kallam) up and running successfully in the 53 countries of Africa local doctors in the continent are already using the expertise of Indian doctors and surgeons to treat their patient's for minor diseases which has increased trust of many a African in Indian Medical fraternity. This project will further help the medical tourism business opportunity for Indian healthcare stakeholders and at the same time delivering affordability to the common African. Treating one patient in Europe/South Africa with heart surgery is equivalent to treating five such patients in India. Hence especially East African countries rank the highest in medical tourism with hundreds of thousand patients travelling to India to seek medical treatment every year which mainly attributes to lower costs as opposed to other countries like Europe and the West.

Hence leading Institutes and hospitals are now contemplating while a few have now entered into the Medical Tourism business.
Stephen Vaz
Founder & CEO | Indo-African Business Consulting
Mobile +91 99209 55586 / Office +91 22 2648 0497
Email: stephenvaz@indo-african.com


Stephen Vaz

Stephen Vaz brings over 35 years of broad-based leadership experience in building companies in the telecommunication and information technology industries in India and other countries to Indo-African Business Consulting (IABC). An engineer from the Manipal Institute of Technology, India, Vaz has worked with companies such as Specialised Systems Ltd (Formerly Philips Electrical Zambia Ltd) in Zambia; and Eftia OSS Solutions (Asia Pacific) Ltd, Global Tele-systems Ltd, Microwave Communications Ltd and Tata Telecom Ltd in India. His career has also taken him to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, giving him a deep understanding of the markets in the Middle East too. Throughout the three decades of his career, Vaz has stayed updated through training programs, presentations, conventions, conferences, seminars, trade shows, fairs, festivals, events, workshops, webinars in marketing, sales, technology and knowledge management both in India and internationally.

Vaz has also built an impressive network of business contacts over his long career. This includes following memberships:

  • Christian Chambers of Commerce (CCCI)
  • Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)
  • Dimensions – Global Christian Chambers of Commerce
  • Indo Canadian Business Chambers (ICBC)
  • Indo Zambia Business Association (IZBA)
  • Institute of Directors (IOD)
  • National Association of Software & Services Companies (NASSCOM)
  • Rotary International Club (RI)
  • Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI)
  • Zambia Information & Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA)
  • Zambia International Trade & Investment Centre (ZITIC)
  • Zambia China Business Association (ZCBA)
Combined with his experience in top management positions and in delivering an impressive bottom-line for different business formats, these make him a consultant whose concepts and strategies are well recognized in India, Africa, the APAC and the Middle East.