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Different needs. Same desire

Two very interesting meetings with two very different firms this week, but both of which seek the same outcome – a deeper international reach.

The first firm is a global giant, but which is now taking a more structured approach to Africa. The firm has more than a dozen target jurisdictions and while a greenfield presence may be a realistic proposition in perhaps a handful of markets it is clearly not an option for the majority. Budgets and client demand do not run sufficiently or consistently deep.

Its challenge therefore is how to build strong ties with local firms, to offer the requisite local capability as and when required in specific markets.

The pool of (internationally) capable local firms in many African jurisdictions remains shallow, and allowing for conflicts and the possibility of one or two in each jurisdiction forming formal ties with competitor global firms means the choice may become even narrower. How then to meet and build ties with alternative local firms – how even to know who to build ties with?

The other firm comes from the very opposite position. A small African firm in an increasingly important jurisdiction, which is seeking to expand its reach and promote its proposition to potential referral firms. It’s all about winning new clients at the end of the day.

This firm’s challenge in part is how to approach the big firms – to know even who within them it should focus its efforts towards, and how best to demonstrate its capabilities. This is a firm lacking a widely known brand but that has bags of expertise in a market in which brands are competing to out-shout each other (but very few of which have genuine local expertise).

Both firms in effect need each other, but don’t know how to meet. Despite the sophistication of both sides, they’re not sure even how to find each other.

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