Africa, country or continent?
April 4, 2017

Choosing a partner

Two African businesswomen sitting in cafe using digital tablet. Young Nigerian colleagues working remotely, Nigeria, Africa.

A quick guide to choosing a reseller, distributor or agent in Africa

By Sylvain Fey-Ronc

The first question to ask oneself is, ‘Do I really need to a partner?’ Your next question should be around the modus operandi of this potential partner.

Contrary to popular (and potentially time wasting) belief, having a partner is not an automatic requirement. After all, having a partner at all must first and foremost make business sense.

Simply not knowing enough about a country, or not wishing to go into a foreign country, are not reasons enough to justify a partner.

However, the greater the distance between yourself and the end customer, the harder it is to understand the market, which will inevitably jeopardise your activity in the short and long term. It’s also likely that a partner will need your support to bring in a deal.

Only through close collaboration between yourself and your partner will you be able to ensure motivation, follow through, and therefore an effective partnership. It’s also important to agree on a set of actions before your next trip to the destination at hand to maintain a sense of business urgency. Remember, though, a good partnership takes time to grow and bear fruit, so as much as business urgency is necessary, impatience is damaging. It should also be noted that you can’t expect to build a lasting business relationship without going to the country yourself and demonstrating your commitment.

Here are some of the questions that you need to address when selecting a partner/partners:

  • What’s your market? How complex is your solution/product? 

The more complex the solution, the more time it may take for you to find a local partner you can rely on realistically. In other words, complex solutions require specific expertise and knowledge, making it more difficult to find the right partner. Note, however, that the more local support you need for your product/solution, the more the need for a partner will become justifiable.

  • What are your sales cycles?

The longer your sales cycles, the less likely a partner will be able to manage without your support. This mirrors the relationship explained above between complexity and competence.

  • What is the reality of your potential partner’s network? 

You need to quickly identify this so you don’t waste time and money. A solid network begins with identifying and understanding what identifiable business has been performed within a specific market. A solid network is more than just “name dropping” – it entails being able to outline the structure, the dynamics and the needs within prospects and customers.