The key to unlocking Sub-Saharan Africa

As a trade advisor focussing on Sub-Saharan Africa I am frequently asked two key questions. Which opportunity in Africa is best for me? And, how do I then access this opportunity?

It really shows the progress that has been made in recent times. While my predecessors main challenge was generating interest in these markets, mine is trying to match demand through the inundation of requests I receive regarding the region. How times have changed.

Over the past year or so this has focussed around Ghana, with a record breaking trade mission of 19 companies successfully visiting the market in April. With such strong demand from Scottish companies we have had to arrange a second trade mission, taking place in November later this year. This represents a first for any Sub-Saharan market and puts Ghana in an exclusive group, with Norway and the USA as the only three locations to have multiple SDI trade missions annually in recent years.

To get back to answering those original questions there is clearly no exact, one size fits all answer. Similarly, to the vast diversity of the African continent and its associated opportunities, no two companies will have the same approach to the region. Despite this there is some things that can generally be done to support success. Focus is essential, choosing one market and sticking to it makes a huge difference as spreading yourself too thinly will ultimately dillute your success. Africa can be resource intensive, at least initially. Learning from others is also key and something we can help with either in Scotland or out in market. Use your supply chain, our GlobalScots (expats based in the likes of Ghana, that provide advise and expertise to interested Scottish companies, more info can be found here, or SDI and our partner organisations such as the UK Department for International Trade and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce. We are also developing these partnerships in market through the likes of the UK Ghana Chamber of Commerce, providing additional local expertise.

What would I typically recommend for those with no experience of doing business in Sub-Saharan Africa? Seen by many as the gateway to the West African oil and gas sector due to its relative stability and ease of doing business, Ghana presents a great opportunity for Scottish companies looking to explore the region. What about those who already have some experience of the region? Only just over an hour away by air there is Nigeria, a market approximately twenty times bigger than Ghana. Perhaps not the best place to start for the inexperienced, but somewhere with the right understanding that has enormous potential. Going forward we will be placing more focus on Nigeria, maybe you should to? Expect to see more Nigerian activity in the future.

With the proposed trade mission to Ghana coming up in November, SDI is ready to assist Scottish companies able and willing to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. With the success of our previous trade mission in April, this visit with continue to develop the strong relationship that is already in place between Ghana and Scotland. Support is available all year round, with our office in Accra able to provide local expertise as required, helping to ease the entry process to any Sub-Saharan market.

Scottish Development International (SDI) works with both Scottish-based and overseas companies and organisations. Our objective is to benefit the Scottish economy both by encouraging inward investment into Scotland and by helping Scottish-based companies to develop international business opportunities.

For more information on the upcoming trade mission to Ghana, Sub-Saharan Africa, or SDI, please contact Cameron Douglas (