Africa's youngest billionaire Mohammed Dewji, Amit Patel, others discuss way of growing family founded businesses into continental brands

On the final day of the Africa CEO Forum taking place in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, experts have shade a spotlight on Africa’s family businesses and discussed ways how they can be nurtured into continental brands to enhance their contribution towards economic growth and job creation.

Panel session on Family Business at the Africa CEO Forum 2019

The discussion moderated by Luc Rigouzzo, managing partner at Methis sought to pick insight from panelists on how owners of family businesses around the continent can find the right partners to take their ventures to the next growth-level.

At the centre of the conversation for the panelists to weigh-in was the question of how African family founded and managed businesses can raise equity by joining forces with strategic partnerships.

“Partnerships are crucial in the growth of family owned businesses but they should be centred around shared values of honesty, hard work and commitment,” said Amit Patel, the Chief Executive Officer of Ramco Group, a Kenyan based conglomerate with 40 companies under its roof.

Mohammed Dewji, a CEO of a family founded business also weighed in ; he is the owner of MeTL Group, a Tanzanian commodities trading business founded by his father in the 70s.

He said, “Planning Succession is crucial if the family business is to last more than 3 generations. Members of the family should be trained from a young age and not when they are ready to be employed, ” he said.

Dewji is a living testimony of how family founded businesses can be grown to become continental brands. In his case, he is famed for having increased MeTL's revenues from $30 million to over $1.5 billion between 1999 and 2018, according to Forbes Magazine.

Today, MeTL Group has investments in manufacturing, agriculture, trading, finance, mobile telephony, insurance, real estate, transport and logistics, and food and beverages and contributes 3.5 percent to Tanzania’s GDP, were its headquartered, on top of . employing over 28,000 people in eleven African countries.

Yohannes Mekbebe, Managing Director of Yeshi Group, another family businesses in Ivory Coast also weighed in, and reaffirmed the potential of family founded businesses to contribute significantly to Africa’s growth if given the right support and capacity building of founders.

Seeking partnerships should not only be limited to companies that will add more equity but also actively looking for partners who have expertise and the technical knowhow to grow a business,” he said.

Dr. Leila Bouamatou, Managing director of General Bank of Mauritania said male members usually take all the senior positions in family owned businesses to the detrimental of females, something she said negatively impacts sustainability.

As a solution to opening up space for women in family owned businesses, Rita Zniber, Chief Executive Officer of Diana Holding based in Morocco called upon family businesses in Africa to borrow a leaf from those in Asia which ensure females and males have an equal role in the management of family businesses.


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