Jan. 25, 2022


Bolaji Sofoluwe

Nigeria

Bolaji Sofoluwe

Co-founder & Managing Director, ETK Group

ETK is one of the largest market-entry support mechanisms in the UK for companies looking to enter Africa, with a footprint in 16 countries and experience in 32.

BIO

As Co-founder & Managing Director of UK-based ETK Group Ltd, Bolaji Sofoluwe has led ETK's consultants to help global companies make connections in 32 African countries to date. In her professional career, she has advised various business sizes across diverse sectors. Her previous jobs include working for the Central Bank of Nigeria, Halifax Bank of Scotland UK, and various contract roles, rising to executive leadership. She is an export champion for the Department for International Trade, a coach on the Mandela Mile, mentor for Innovate UK Edge and an angel investor to a small portfolio of female-led African businesses. She is a conference speaker, guest lecturer and trade policy analyst. Sofoluwe holds a BA in languages and linguistics and is concluding an MSc in international business leadership and management at the York School of Management.


How do you help your clients do business in Africa?

ETK is likely the only organization in the UK that offers local support to companies trying to enter the African market. They may want to establish operations, find partnerships, develop a presence, or execute a project. We provide support at all these levels. In some cases, we can find partners that complement what they do. With starting a presence, if clients are looking at setting up a subsidiary, we help them with everything from licensing and registrations to finding the right real estate and setting up their offices according to their branding guidelines. Those boots on the ground distinguish us. With projects, a company may have an infrastructure project in the market, so we support them by setting up temporary project offices and so on. ETK is perhaps the only organization that offers this level of support to its clients in various African markets. We are also the largest in terms of footprint, with a foot on the ground in 16 countries and experience with projects in 32 countries overall. We are one of the largest market-entry support mechanisms in the UK. We are fortunate to have been able to attract clients from other parts of the world as well. We are an export champion for the Department of International Trade (DIT), with whom we are partners.

Do you offer any services to clients that are already in Africa?

Many clients find it difficult to expand, for instance, from South Africa to Morocco, despite the fact they are both in Africa. We also help clients in Africa that are looking to expand to other markets and trade blocs. Africa is divided into trade blocs, and we have one of them in the free continental trade area. However, typically companies keep to their “native" trade bloc, such as ECOWAS, SADC, COMESA, and so on. When it is time to enter a new trade bloc, companies find it difficult, so ETK can support them here.

What is the core of your business?

About 60% of our work is helping businesses enter the African market, and 40% comprises helping the ones in Africa expand. We are getting a few more African companies that are feeling adventurous about their expansion plans coming through. We started with African companies expanding across the continent before we started working with foreign companies. Our relationship with DIT and the Essex Chamber of Commerce kickstarted a pipeline of British businesses interested in entering the market. We are excited about this particular trend, although there is a slight crossover with investment in African businesses trying to expand, since they often need the resources and funding. We can introduce them to UK partners that make investments into the continent to support them in that area. Our main area is market expansion. That element has to be present in their business in order for us to feel confident to introduce them to our partners.

How would you assess the attractiveness of Nigeria as an investment destination?

Everyone knows how difficult and complex Nigeria is, though everyone still wants to enter the country. We have been getting so many requests for Nigeria to the point where we have become the ones discouraging people slightly and advising them to hold on if they have extremely elaborate plans. We need to gauge the economic headwinds and identify their direction before we recommend executing elaborate plans. We also tell them not to ignore Nigeria, mainly because it is the largest in terms of population and because of the government's aggressive economic strategies. People should take a serious look at Africa and Nigeria as a contender when it comes to investment and expansion.

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