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Doing business … just right to overcome stereotypes

By Jörg Kleis

A sales agent who worked for a German medtech company recently told me that the possibility of doing business in Africa had never occurred to him. Africa was not really a market they had been looking at. All they had been watching over the last years was Asia, something we hear often. He couldn’t even recall why. “Maybe it was a feeling of irrelevance or admittedly a feeling of mistrust. I really don’t know.” Until he flew to a fair that took place in Dubai.

International fairs attract a global audience. So why not take your chance?

At his booth he was approached by a business delegation from Sudan. The Sudanese offered their services as business partners to import their products from Germany to Sudan. The sales agent admitted to me he was curious while he was listening to their offer, but honestly didn’t expect this was going to turn into a real deal. So when he returned from Dubai, he pulled up a template and made them an offer, thinking it was not going to be accepted.

Two days later, he received an email back from the Sudanese in which they expressed that they would accept the offer from the German side. So the German fellow told his Sudanese contacts to send him the signed agreement, but again didn’t expect this was going to happen. Until they did. He then reminded them there was a considerable down payment of 30 %, thinking this would now kill the deal for sure.

Three days later they contacted him to say that there was no possibility of a direct money transfer between Sudan and Germany. Now he thought this was going to be the end for sure. Until they contacted him again two days after to tell him they had just ordered the money transfer to Germany through their branch office in Dubai. After he was done with his story, he openly admitted, “well, who would have thought? Certainly not me. Sales began and profits have been good. Obviously, they are on a relatively low level, but orders are steadily increasing and we have had no hiccups.”

Sometimes, what Paul says about Peter says more about Paul than about Peter

This anecdote may remind you of a quote by Spinoza: “Sometimes, what Paul says about Peter says more about Paul than about Peter.” It was all about the fictitious gap, the alleged drift between Europe and Africa. Evidently, doing business helps overcome that. Stories about doing business help overcome that. Eventually, they elevate our relationships to a new level, one that is not based on dependencies or aid but on entrepreneurial collaboration. We like hearing more of such stories and will also in the future keep spreading the word.

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