With a scarcity of research being done on Africa, Julien Garcier, a former Principal at the Boston Consulting Group, co-founded Sagaci Research, a research firm focused on the African continent. Below is the transcript of the interview with Al Qarra’s Delano D’Souza.
Al Qarra- Hello and Welcome, today we meet Julien Garcier, co-founder and managing director of Sagaci research, a market research firm focused on Africa. Julien, thank you for being with us.
Al Qarra- Before you started Sagaci Research, you were working with the Boston Consulting Group, what motivated you to start this market research firm dedicated solely to Africa?
Julien Garcier- Well during my time at BCG I spent 2 years working in Egypt, I was in charge of opening an office in Cairo and then I spent some time in Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa for BCG and during all these years I came across the lack of data for all these countries, and so I wanted to set up my own company and decided to pick that topic in order to launch Sagaci Research.
Al Qarra- What sort of clients come to you? Any specific sectors?
Julien Garcier- My company was created early January, so we are a new start-up. The clients we have today are two types. The first are MNC consumer goods companies and the reason for that is we mostly cover consumer goods and retail topics, the second type of clients are consulting firms, mainly again dealing with consumer goods/ retail topics so I believe the consulting firms are supporting consumer goods/ retail clients.
Al Qarra- Are specific global regions more interested in Africa than others? We obviously see a lot of interest from BRIC countries, but besides those?
Julien Garcier- I work mainly for European clients, and a few African clients. So today I help companies to enter, develop or invest in Africa. And I also help African companies, mainly from North Africa develop in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Al Qarra- But you have an office in Hong Kong?
Julien Garcier- Yes, this is more to test and see whether we can help Asian clients come to Africa
Al Qarra- How informed on Africa are clients typically? Do they have an idea about the landscape of the continent before seeking out your services?
Julien Garcier- So it depends, you have different types of clients, you have clients who do not know anything about Africa, so my role is to tell them this is Africa, it’s not a single country but 54 countries, with different languages and cultures but some of my clients know Africa as well as I do, they are sophisticated, the only thing they lack is data, credible information on those markets, so my role is to provide them with the credible information in order for them to do their analysis, their business plan etc…
Al Qarra- What are some of the hesitations your clients have when deciding to venture into Africa? And is there one country in Africa that you view as investor friendly?
Julien Garcier- The main issue for investors, at least in the sector I cover is finding the right partner. Often the consumer goods companies want to deal with a local distributer or local partner, so the question is okay how to find that person or these persons…so that is the main issue they are facing, it’s true for consumer goods companies, it’s maybe less in other sectors. Then in terms of countries, I’ve been recently to Ghana, Ghana is a good example, it’s fairly easy to do business I met Europeans, and Americans creating businesses in Ghana. It’s a small country in terms of an African scale. With my clients I don’t help them to go to a specific country; I help them to go to many countries and to look at Africa as a whole. But if I had to pick a country at this point, I would say Ghana.
Al Qarra- If a client wants to enter the African market do you advise them on a jumping off point from which they can penetrate the entire continent?
Julien Garcier- Yes, we help them first select the key priority countries, which countries to start with, where and why, we then provide the data; we are not a consulting firm per se, we are a data/ information provider and provide them the data in order for them to take the right decision in order of where’s the best port, where to get my shipment to, how to get my products to the other countries around, so I help them find the right entry point in Africa
Al Qarra- And with that we have come to the end of this interview, you can watch the entire interview on our website www.alqarra.tv. Thanks for watching.