What are your main focuses and priorities for 2015?
Nabaki Afrika is an independent company with a radically alternative approach to the market. Our broad focus is national growth and our priority is the Nabaki Afrika house—the business itself. The second focus is the family, my employees who run the business. And the third is the product range we import into Tanzania. Most important for us are our customers, whom we serve and support. Regarding the Nabaki house, we are expanding our branches over 2014 and 2015, and have recently signed a lease in Arusha for a 420-sqm showroom. We have three other branches in Dar es Salaam, and are also looking for local distributors in smaller towns around the country, such as Mwanza, Tanga, and Moshi. Yet where distributors do not prove to be successful, we establish a full branch given a viable market. In Mtwara, we have started franchising Nabaki Afrika. We do not charge for the franchise, but help entrepreneurs set up their business. We train their team, provide marketing assistance and know-how where needed, while they manage and develop their own, new business.
How receptive has the Tanzanian construction sector been to the newer “green" products that you have introduced onto the market?
It has been surprisingly receptive actually. Tanzania is a very cost-conscious society. However, people have realized that a cheap buy is often a bad buy as cheap products don't last. People are now taking the longer-term view, which has won us much support for the products, which in turn support our customers.
Could you elaborate on Nabaki Afrika's Mtaalam Program?
The Mtaalam Program is an interesting one. A “fundi" in the pure sense of the word is an “expert." In Tanzania the word fundi can, in some cases, be a derogatory word because everyone is a fundi. We realized this and took on the word 'mtaalam,' which is a Kiswahili word that means 'professional.' We decided on a free seminar to train fundis to become professionals. We do our practical training with the suppliers. We give the Mtaalams the tools to do the job properly, for free. To date, around 100 people have passed through the program. Of these, five have done exceptionally well and run very good businesses doing roof installations nationwide. We bought vehicles for those five businesses, and branded vehicles that they use as their own, which has allowed them to expand their business. Ours has become a relationship of mutual support and trust
What new trends are you witnessing in Tanzania's construction sector?
Tanzania is often ahead of other developed or developing countries. For example, Nabaki Afrika imports a Canadian product called Xypex—the most phenomenal waterproofing system available today. Xypex grows an insoluble crystal into the concrete making it waterproof for 30 years. Xypex is available as an admixture, a brush-on 'concentrate' and a 'patch n plug' repair mix. The trend is definitely to build better quality houses and buildings and more contractors have realized the hazards of cutting costs by using cheap products. Another important trend is building for the future, rather than for the moment. We are contacted daily by cheaper product manufacturers, but I don't want to increase my profits at the cost of reducing my standards. Tanzanians are not stuck on old trends; they are hungry for novelty.