Greg Davis, Standard Bank: 4 principles for Africa - infrastructure

In January Greg Davis, CFO Africa at the Standard Bank Group, introduced his key principles for doing business in Africa and elaborated on being in control. In the following months he also wrote about interacting and influencing. In this Expert Insight he talks about the fourth and final principle: getting the most out of infrastructure.

Just to reiterate, with our team that is covering 19 African countries, with finance staff situated in all of them, we follow our 4i principles, ensuring we are:

  • in control
  • interacting
  • influencing
  • and getting the most out of our infrastructure

In this Expert Insight, I am focusing on the fourth i: infrastructure?

To be able to effectively and efficiently deliver the first 3i's it is imperative that we harness technology. This is my CFO's ABC of African infrastructure:

Something is better than perfection - you can't fly blind but you also can't wait for perfection. The business needs to be run from day 1 which means an iterative, incremental approach to reporting is vital.

A long term strategy is critical - this is not undoing what is said above, but it is also important you understand what great looks like so you can move towards it over time.

Affordability - solutions have to be affordable from Day 1 and therefore fit for purpose.

One version of the truth - with diverse systems you need to ensure financial performance is trusted and speaks to the performance of the business.

Bandwidth - this has been the pitfall of many a great idea. People are not slow in Africa, but bandwidth is. This can be an inhibiting factor if not considered in everything IT.

Notwithstanding the bandwidth issue having access to technology anytime and anywhere allows the business to be managed even when not in the office.

Finally, a key current issue and on the horizon is data privacy and what can and can't be shared cross border. Get close to your regulations and compliance to ensure you don't have any undue risks.

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The final word on delivering as a CFO in Africa or any emerging markets is a different i... iKnow. That means that you have to be flexible to change. Changes can range from oil price falls, interest rate changes, ebola outbreaks or political changes. These external factors impacting the economy and society are real and when they happen the risks and opportunities need to be managed. They don't necessarily change long term business plans but if not managed effectively they can derail strategy.