Jason Duloquin, Regional Director at First Point Group has been with the company since 2009 and in this time he has specialised in supporting Telecommunications growth across Europe and Africa.
Having worked in 39 African countries in 2015, Jason and his team have visited some of the most politically volatile and war torn regions in the continent. Jason tells us of his experiences, the people and how to successfully work across the great African nations.
“It is impossible to talk about Africa as ‘one and unique’, nor would it be reflecting reality to say that what is true in Nigeria is also applicable to South Africa, for example. However, working with clients in Africa on a daily basis and being in constant communication with African engineers, you can definitely draw on similarities between general working practices compared to other locations around the world.
I have worked in Africa for the past 7 years, travelling to South Africa, Senegal, Niger, Libya and others. I spent time managing a pool of engineers working for several of our clients across the continent, finding local partners, deploying consultants on site, and working around visa issues and work compliance. It has been a truly gratifying journey.
While challenges are pretty much everywhere, they are overcome thanks to what makes Africa really different – the people living there!
I’ve made so many friends in Africa, through business or otherwise, and one thing that they have in common is a real sense of mutual respect and value for human relationships. The money is one thing, and in this booming region of the world it is everywhere, but that is not the only aspect of business and you better understand that fast if you want to last in Africa!
Nothing will replace a handshake in downtown Kinshasa with your local partner, or sharing a local dish in the crazy markets of Dakar with your staff, talking football for hours, complaining about everything and agreeing that it is not that bad in the end, replying “ca va un peu” when asked how you are, or crossing the road and buying stuff in local shops in difficult areas of Luanda in front of an intrigued crowd. What makes the difference is being yourself, and not an “expat” on a mission. You will gain respect, you will experience the real Africa, or at least part of it, and you will make friends for life.
Africa is full of difficulties and problems, and I am sure your TV reminds you of that all the time, but you have over 1 billion people living a normal life there, waking up early to go to work, laughing, crying, complaining about their leaders, the cost of living, watching the results of premier league action on their smartphones, spending money on things they don’t need. Just like you and me.
In a continent which has a totally different perspective on urgency and time, and still has great respect for their elders – long term is what matters. It is the path of building strong relationships and being successful in the wonder that is Africa.”