4G Capital CEO Wayne Hennessy-Barrett, whose company is recognised as one of Africa’s most inspiring in 2019, shares 5 ways to get it right while doing business in Africa

4G Capital Founder and CEO, Wayne Hennessy-Barrett. (George Tubei)
  • On Tuesday, London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) unveiled its much-awaited Companies to Inspire Africa 2019 report in a colourful ceremony held at PwC tower in Nairobi.
  • In the African financial sector, 4G Capital, a capacity building microcredit company, was nominated and listed as one of the companies to inspire Africa in 2019.
  • Business insider Sub-Saharan Africa had a chat with Wayne Hennessy-Barrett to know what’s the secret behind 4G Capital impressive run in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On Tuesday, London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) unveiled its much-awaited Companies to Inspire Africa 2019 report in a colourful ceremony held at PwC tower in Nairobi.

Collated companies were nominated by LSEG partners, development finance institutions, venture capitalists, private equity firms, impact investors and Asoko Insight.

To make the cut, companies must have demonstrated growth over the past three years with growth being evaluated in terms of revenues, number of employees, operational output or geographic expansion.

Companies too must be active and privately held, with headquarters or their primary operations in Africa.

Independent company or consolidated group annual revenue must not exceed $1 billion for the years 2015-2017 and companies were also required to provide details on the auditors for their financial accounts against which checks were carried out.

In the African financial sector, which currently has the second fastest growing banking market in the world (taking retail and wholesale banking together), 4G Capital, a capacity building microcredit company, was nominated and listed as one of the companies to inspire Africa in 2019.

“We were very lucky to be nominated as one of the companies to inspire Africa by the London Stock Exchange, 2019 as a fintech credit company. This is very exciting for us because we are still in a new space and we are doing things in an innovative way. We blend working capital loans with enterprise training to help micro and small businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa to grow and succeed,” 4G Capital Founder and CEO, Wayne Hennessy-Barrett tells Business insider Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We use Artificial Intelligence, smart data and proprietorial machine learning technology to get the right blend and balance to deliver that customer success so for us this morning was a wonderful honour.”

Since 2013, the company has supported micro-enterprises in Africa by providing enterprise training with working capital loans to improve financial literacy and help small businesses grow sustainably.

During that period, 4G Capital has enjoyed a 94% collection rate without refinancing clients and has a Net Promoter Score of 72.

The company currently has more than 70 locations in Kenya, Uganda and beyond and has disbursed $40 million worth of loans to date.

Competition in Africa’s challenging and competitive financial services landscape is increasingly fierce and London Stock Exchange Group reckon Africa’s tomorrow’s leaders need to be able to demonstrate innovation and technological know-how going forward.

So, what’s the secret behind 4G Capital impressive run in Sub-Saharan Africa? How about you hear it directly from the horse’s mouth.

1.   Look after your customer

The customer is always the king but sadly whenever western multinational companies open shop in Africa, for some strange reason some think that the African customer deserves less and that is their greatest undoing.

Wayne says at the core of every business should be value for both parties.

“Businesses should be about creating value for everyone and if you come here to solve a problem in a way that benefits the customer, they will come to trust you and come back for more. They will thank you by becoming your best asset, our customers are our best asset.”

4G Capital knows this and their clients receive a bespoke programme of business training to help them use micro-loans to achieve much higher take-home earnings. 4G Capital’s proprietorial machine learning technology, which designs scalable credit products and services optimised for clients’ business risks, timescales, and affordability, delivers high fidelity insights from traditionally thin-file customers.

And to show their appreciation, 4G Capital has enjoyed a massive 82% repeat customers.

2.   Execute with the customer in mind

Africa boasts the world’s youngest population with about 77% of Africans younger than 35. Businesses, therefore, need to find a way of not only selling products and services to the African population but also empower them to ensure market sustainability.

4G Capital draws its wisdom from the age-old saying ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’ and prides itself with its enterprise training combined with working capital loans to improve financial literacy and help small businesses grow sustainably.

This ensures that their clients grow with them by becoming financially prudent and therefore safeguarding the company’s future.

Since the company rolled out its 'blended programme' there has seen a 94% increased financial literacy in their clients.

82% of 4G Capital customers are female business owners, with the majority residing in rural areas, and about 40% of their customers are in the youth demographic.

Africa is more diverse than anywhere else in the world. It's constantly changing and evolving. There is no single solution and business models must be resilient and must be able to weather multiple factors and variables,” says Wayne.

4G Capital is on target to positively impact over 1 million people by 2020.

3.   Operate with integrity and excellence

It is easy to dump all your corporate ethics and moral code while doing business in Africa. After all, you may convince yourself that so many others are also doing it so why don’t you just jump in the mud and have a go.

While you may enjoy small winning in the short run, in the long run, you will be a loser.

First and foremost plan and execute with integrity whether in the standards and the results that you leave with your clients, levels of the corporate governance that you exercise upon yourselves, the way that you respond to problems and indeed the mindset at which you approach enterprise in the first place,” cautions Wayne.

Wayne also adds that it is also helpful to preach what you drink and be ready to make Africa a better place than you found it by creating synergies with the government of the day.

“Help governments in their fight against poverty, help them in the fight against corruption don’t be part of the problem. It takes two to tango.”

4.   Don’t take shortcuts

Wayne cautions against being too greedy while doing business in Africa. Having a firm foundation first is the way to go.

“Understand and solve the problem and make money doing this, then scale. If you scale first and then try to make money then you are in a lot more risk. I am afraid that is a very fashionable Silicon Valley approach which may well work in another environment but not here in Africa. Start with the customer, end with the customer because if you screw up, they are going to suffer,” warns Wayne.

5.   Don’t take second best

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to hack it in Africa, just have the right mindset.

“This is an amazing environment but you cannot see Africa as one country. It's hugely diverse and so you have to focus on execution fundamentals and delivering value. If you come with that mindset, you will do great things. But if you want to come in and be a seven-year tourist, make some money and clear off, well good luck to you,” says Wayne.

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