I was scrolling through my recent blog posts musing that there has certainly been a lot to complain about lately! But I try to remain positive so I’m very happy to move onto more positive things. And we have done just that with our recent BIG move into Africa. We have been keeping ourselves busy with new ventures and exciting properties in West Africa, particularly Nigeria.
I recall a Forbes Magazine cover many years ago referring to Africa as ‘the lost continent’. My, how that has changed! In our industry specifically, major hotel groups are clamouring to get a ‘slice of the African pie’ now. It amazes me that all of a sudden there’s a Scramble for Africa, when years ago, at a time when my father was making inroads into Africa, noses were turned up at the prospect of business in Africa. It was far more fashionable in the late nineties to be snapping up properties in the UK and Europe.
We’ve identified that the hotel management arena in Nigeria is desperate for hotel management expertise, yet it’s an absolute requirement to have a very strong understanding of the local landscape and knowledge of how things work there. There’s no doubt that we face challenges: the competition is fierce, travel is arduous, flights are expensive; corruption is rife; and there’s a dearth of technology. Fortunately we have been ‘schooled’ in South Africa, rendering us streetwise and accustomed to these and other challenges. We feel positive about what we have to offer. Our people on the ground have been conducting business in Nigeria for decades; they understand local business principles and have a clear sense of how things tick.
Opportunities in West Africa can be three of four times greater than those of South Africa. We fit the mould perfectly – with classic hotel management skills, local and regional knowledge, a team on the ground – so it’s no wonder we have piqued the interest from hotel owners and development banks.
As we establish our roots in Nigeria, we see so much potential in our continent. We have enjoyed learning from and working with the fantastic people of Nigeria. Perhaps horror stories have skewed perceptions of conducting business in Nigeria, but we can only report good things. Nigeria is a country of amazing, deeply spiritual, perceptive and intelligent people with strong family values. And as I recently remarked to a new partner, we look forward to growing old bones in Nigeria.