GlenQ on building business and supporting growth in entrepreneurial Africa
There’s a long-established paradox when it comes to Africa. Despite its immense size and extraordinary diversity, many outside view the continent in firmly narrow and dimly uniform terms.
Vivid international reports on historic and unfolding events undoubtedly helped shape and constrain this outlook. Brutal dictators, biblical-scale famines, telephone and email scams, pitiful waves of migrants – all the stock of lurid media stories.
While not fabrications, of course, such characters and events are equally not representative either. The real African story is manifestly less dramatic, far more complex and constantly changing.
Africa, for all its considerable challenges, is a rising continent. There are great opportunities for its people, and for those outside able to see the promise too.
‘We’ve successfully been doing business in Nigeria for over five years,’ confirms Paul Glennon, Principal at Jersey-based trust company GlenQ, ‘providing succession and asset structuring solutions to a growing number of clients there. What an extraordinary country, undergoing extraordinary change as economic growth drives development. There’s admittedly time needed for this change to reach the whole population. But in cities like the capital Lagos, you get a real picture of Africa’s remarkable progress and potential.’
Nigeria’s underlying economic figures and outlook flag the latent opportunities presented by a growing number of African countries.
[Image] Lagos, Nigeria
The IMF recently placed Nigeria 27th on its global GDP index, higher than the UAE, Israel and Singapore. Its capital alone, Lagos, is the fifth largest economy in Africa. Moreover, a 2017 PWC report forecasts the country’s GDP to be among the world’s fastest growing over the next 30 years, taking it to 14th largest overall – outstripping South Korea, Canada and Australia.
The same report stresses the importance of Nigeria’s entrepreneurial population in helping realise this potential growth.
‘The determination to drive forwards towards a better future is something striking when visiting the country,’ elaborates Paul. ‘Rich and poor want something better for themselves, their families and organisations. Often, it’s the availability of capital that’s holding them back – something GlenQ can pleasingly help overcome. Through relationships with investors and intermediaries we can explore and establish connections to appropriate investment funds. This in turn helps enable the type of projects really improving local lives for the better. There’s a strong emphasis on social impact investing – developing sanitation or transport services for example – which supports the development of grass roots communities while radically improving the country’s infrastructure.’
Nigeria may be the eye-catching story when it comes to African growth, but other countries are venturing along the same path.
While smaller in size and population, fellow West African state of Ghana boasts rising GDP with stable, single-digit inflation. And a well-established local private banking sector alongside a steady flow of foreign investment is helping fund development.
Based on this positive outlook, and a solid Nigerian experience, GlenQ is one of the private wealth management organisations aiming to establish a presence there.
‘Our business in Nigeria has provided great insight on international opportunities,’ elaborates Iain Quenault, who along with Paul founded GlenQ in 2014. ‘We’re actively exploring other markets, including the Middle East and India. Based on our relationships in Nigeria, however, it’s possible, and logical, to consider other African markets too. Ghana presents just such an opportunity. Easy to reach, an active and open finance industry, a well-established network of intermediaries – and a similar entrepreneurial outlook. We’ll start by attending trade conferences and look to develop business from there.’
It’s an exciting time for GlenQ and Africa. Sizeable challenges remain for the continent. And it’s going to take a lot of willingness and no shortage of wherewithal to overcome these. Yet if found and nurtured, these two vital ingredients could help brighten everyone’s African outlook.