Understanding the dynamics of Africa.

Position:SINGAPORE-AFRICA - Interview
 
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Singaporean group Tolaram has operated in Nigeria for the past 38 years, greatly diversifying its operations to now embrace a gamut of sectors, from manufacturing food stuffs to being involved in power distribution. African Business spoke to Harish Aswani (opposite right), the company's managing director in Nigeria, about the Group's approach to business on the continent.

African Business: Where do you now operate in Africa?

Since coming to Nigeria nearly 40 years ago, Tolaram is now in a number of countries, in Ghana, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire and Tanzania and we had an office in Ethiopia. We use them as launch pads to look at the markets, how we can do business there, to gauge the political climate, the economic climate.

We send someone there to stay perhaps for a year and then return to Singapore and tell us what they have learned about the country. But Nigeria is perhaps 80% of our business. We built the Lekki Port there, the first port in Nigeria to be privately built.

It is the country's largest port, and offers the biggest potential container footprint and accessibility facilities for larger shipping vessels, compared to any port in the region. The project is worth $1.5bn and is estimated to generate over 150,000 jobs in Nigeria.

In addition, we have diversified into road transport logistics, fast moving consumer goods such as the manufacture of noodles, infrastructure, power distribution and ICT. We have a team that manages each sector.

Do you see policy consistency when governments change, such as happened in Nigeria?

I think business carries on. As long as you have been doing clean business, no one comes to disturb you. Understanding the dynamics of the country you are working in is vital. We started of F in textiles, but have diversified greatly. Foodstuffs is a case in point. We introduced noodles to the Nigerian market and they were practically unknown. But they have been very successful, and...

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