ICPS :What were your criteria for entering the Ivorian market?
We had been planning to open a centre in Ivory Coast for a while but the difficult political context in the last year had forced us to delay the actual opening. We believe now is a good time in helping local and international companies seize business opportunities in Abidjan as the country’s economy comeback begins.
A gradual recovery is expected in 2012 (+5.9%) based on the hypothesis of the security situation returning to normal in the second half of 2011, the sanctions being lifted and international co-operation being resumed.
Regus’s own research in West Africa backs this bullish forecast. The Regus Business Confidence Index released earlier this month sees more West African businesses also report increasing revenue (65%) and healthy profit (53%) growth. 59% of West African businesses believe that recovery is advancing strongly in their country with confidence levels were twenty-six points above the global average.
Also, the commitment of development partners to support the Ivorian authorities in their efforts for reconciliation and reconstruction will enable trust to be restored, thus fostering private-sector development.
ICPS: What is your view on the local office space supplying market?
OL:As the utilization of an office today is typically only 45 percent, empty desks no longer make sense in a world where mobility and agility will become accepted by people as the most effective and sustainable way of working.
The IDC predicts that Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMA), will see its mobile worker population grow to 153.2 million by 2013 (International Data Corporation). The low penetration of mobile workers in the region (13.5%) signals significant growth potential in this market.
There is already a flexible revolution happening amongst the innovative classes in Sub Saharan Africa, the increasing demand we’ve got for our flexible working solutions is a patent illustration of this. We have opened our first centre in Abidjan, as a response to this considerable demand in the city and will expand accordingly.
ICPS:What are the solutions you offer to this particular market? What are the specific needs you identified?
OL:As a flexible work platform, in Ivory Coast like everywhere else, we provide our clients a new way of working, highly efficient and cost-effective.
In Ivory Coast as more generally in Africa, the biggest challenge for SMEs is to become medium sized and large enterprises, thereby addressing the issue of “the missing middle”. Indeed, a distinction has to be drawn between business owners whose sole objective is to secure subsistence income from their activities (mostly micro/very small enterprises) and entrepreneurs who wish to grow their businesses and extend their financial base (mostly SMEs). Still fewer in number, the latter are playing a key role in any sustainable development strategy.
The “missing middle” is one of the greatest constraints to private sector development in Africa. Addressing their needs to do business more effectively by allowing them to find flexible workspace and, therefore, reduce the costs, is where Regus can best help SMEs to grow in Africa.