How To Make Your African Business Eco-Friendly

Being eco-friendly is not only good for the planet – it can also save your business big money. Follow these ten easy steps by our expert to join the green revolution.

10. Be bright about light

You’ll be amazed by how many buildings leave their lights on all night, wasting an incredible amount of electricity. Make a habit of turning lights off when you leave a room, and only fit Energy Star-Rated lightbulbs and fixtures – say ‘bye-bye’ to incandescent bulbs!

9. Be the drivers of change

When driving, use your handbrake to stop on an incline; relying on clutch control is a waste of fuel. Carpooling is another great way of cutting your fuel costs drastically, and of course cycling to work is best of all!

8. Don’t go, use video!

The transport sector accounts for a massive 13 percent of South Africa’s carbon emissions. Play your part in lowering emissions by using video-conferencing and conference calls as an alternative to local and international travel.

7. Turn off electrical equipment

Many appliances, like computer screens and televisions, can be left in ‘standby’ mode and seem to be off, but are still drawing electricity. It is always best to turn appliances off completely, and don’t leave computers ‘sleeping’ overnight.

6. Print on both sides

By simply printing on both sides of the paper, a company can cut down its paper use by up to 50 percent. Go one step further by using paper with a high quantity of recycled content, or try not to print at all.

5. Choose suppliers who recycle

Empty printer cartridges, old computers and many other office appliances can be recycled or refurbished. So make it company policy to purchase office supplies and equipment from companies who take back and recycle products at the end of their life spans.

4. Cleaning should not cost the earth.

Make sure your office is cleaned using green products that are not full of toxic chemicals which damage precious ecosystems.

3. Install a solar geyser

South Africa has some of the best renewable energy sources in the world. Take advantage of them – and slash your monthly electricity bills – by installing a solar-powered geyser system. Also make sure your geysers are all well-insulated to better retain their heat.

2. Set a goal and stick to it

Give your office the challenge of reducing its electricity bill by 10 percent a month and come up with incentives for achieving the target each month. It will give co-workers a way to take ownership of the issue and create some good camaraderie, too.

1. Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Recycling is definitely one of the easiest and most immediate ways a business can become a little greener. South Africa creates almost 67 million cubic meters of waste a year. Luckily between 50 and 80 percent is fully recyclable and many municipalities already have recycling programmes in place.

A good recycling programme starts with a little education: a short note to people on why recycling is important for the planet and what it involves.

Old habits are not easy to change, so the simpler your office recycling project is, the more likely it is to succeed. It is best to start out small, perhaps focusing on paper recycling initially, expanding the programme with time.

In the long-run, aim to create a recycling station in your office, with different bins for paper, plastics, organic waste, glass and tins. It also helps to have a number of paper-only bins littered around the building. Be sure to provide regular updates on how the project is running; they will keep people motivated and interested in how the programme is progressing.

Daily Deal Sites: Holy Grail or Poisoned Chalice?

Since Groupon, the big daddy of daily deal sites, launched in 2008, group buying has been heralded as either a revolutionary new way for small businesses to gain exposure or as a sales and marketing disaster.

WRITTEN BY VANESSA CLARK, Mobiflock co-founder

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There is no doubt that small businesses around the world are very successfully using daily deal sites to market their offerings. However, there are enough horror stories out there – most notably the UK bakery that had to bake 102,000 cupcakes at a £12,500 ($20,000) loss after offering a Groupon deal – for businesses to tread carefully when figuring out whether this type of promotion is for them.

Daily deal sites negotiate huge discounts for consumers based on the principles of collective buying: deals are only activated when a minimum number of people agree to buy. In return for massively discounting their products and services, usually between 50-75 percent as well as giving the daily deal site a cut (around 50 percent of the price paid by the customer), businesses are marketed to the hundreds of thousands of local consumers who have opted in to receive the deals.

On the one hand, the concept is fairly risk-free: businesses only pay if the deal tips and they get business out of it. On the other, there have been a number of reports of businesses brought to their knees by overwhelming demand or thanks to making an irrecoverable loss on the deal.

In Africa, South Africa is probably the most developed daily deal market on the continent, although a number of sites have already closed down, including Naspers’ Dealify and Avusa’s Zappon. Groupon, currently boasting a market cap of $12 million, added South Africa to the list of the 46 countries it has expanded to at the end of 2011 when it bought local Twangoo in January 2011.

African Business Review got in touch with Daniel Guasco, Head of Groupon (www.groupon.co.za) in South Africa, to get his views on when it makes most sense for a business to use its services.

In response to concerns over daily deals being too successful he said: “We work hard to collaborate with businesses to structure a deal that makes sense and achieves their business objective of generating new customers and creating incredible levels of local exposure. Vendors should communicate their concerns with us. From time to time we will impose a limit if the vendor’s establishment has limited capacity.”

When it comes to what sort of businesses are better suited to running daily deals, Guasco said: “There could be an argument that less labour intensive deals such as virtual service or purely product would be better suited for a daily deal site like ours. However the premise globally is to experience the best of their city for less; this will always be a focus as it allows vendors to have a one on one interaction with the customer. Regardless of the service/deal Groupon is still the most cost effective way for these vendors to gain new customers in a matter of hours – the time well spent with customers equals repeat customers and retained loyal customers.”

ADVICE FOR BUSINESSES

So how do businesses decide whether daily deal sites are for them or not?

Firstly, they need to do the maths. Not only on whether the initial deal works out for them, but also on the potential to up-sell the customers once they are through the door, as well as converting these new customers to repeat customers.

Secondly they need to work out how many new customers they can manage at any one time both logistically and bearing in mind that their regular customers need to be looked after as well.

Speaking of regular customers, businesses need to decide what impact dramatic discounts will have on the perception of their brand. How will loyal, full-price-paying regulars feel about the discount, especially if they, for instance, can’t get a table at their favourite restaurant because it’s fully booked? As a business are you also looking after your regulars with offers to say thank you for their loyalty?

Thirdly, know what you want to get out of the deal and have a plan that extends beyond the initial offer. Just wanting to get bums on seats for a performance that would go ahead anyway is one thing. But as Guasco points out, the aim for businesses should be to get repeat business and loyal customers out of the deal. At the very least, businesses need to be capturing customer details and starting an ongoing engagement with them. Inevitably there are going to be serial daily deal buyers who never return, but the proportion that does needs to be nurtured.

Looking beyond South Africa’s borders, there is a growing daily deal market specifically in Kenya, with Rupu (www.rupu.co.ke) and Zetu (www.zetu.co.ke) looking like they could be positioning themselves as attractive to Groupon, and Mocality Deals (deals.mocality.co.ke) spun out of the local listings site. A daily deal site play across Africa will necessarily have to be a mobile one to reach the critical mass needed for the model to work.

So how do you decide whether daily deal sites are right for your business or not? Do the maths. Understand that at the outset you need to think about how the daily deal fits into your overall strategy and take responsibility for ensuring you get the most out of the deal as a business.

Orange Money Users to Get Visa Mobile Prepaid Accounts

Orange Money customers will have access to Visa prepaid accounts on mobile handsets as part of service.

Orange and Visa have announced that Orange Money customers will soon have access to Visa prepaid account features inside their Orange Money accounts – a significant step in bringing Visa-quality payments to consumers in developing markets.

Orange Money is the mobile phone-based payment service designed by Orange to meet the needs of customers in Africa and the Middle East. It offers Orange subscribers applications such as person to person transfers, bill payments, and agent-based cash-in and cash-out services for loading or withdrawing funds.

Launched in cooperation with local bank partners, the service was first introduced in 2008 and is presently available in eight countries across Africa and the Middle East. Orange plans to introduce Visa payment capability to Orange Money subscribers in select markets by the end of 2012.

“We already provide secure and convenient payment capability to 3.5 million unbanked or financially under-served African citizens,” said Jean- Paul Cottet, Orange’s Executive Director for Marketing and Innovation.

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“By combining the convenience of Orange Money with the reach of Visa’s global payment network, we can offer new payment capability to Orange Money customers in their home country and abroad.”

Visa Mobile Prepaid, a new Visa product introduced in October 2011, enhances the security, scale and interoperability of mobile money programs, such as Orange Money, by enabling account holders to make person-to-person payments, retail and e-commerce purchases at merchants where Visa is accepted, or withdraw funds at Visa ATMs.

“Mobile technology has become one of the most important enablers of financial inclusion and its ubiquity is allowing mobile network operators, financial institutions, and Visa to connect financially under-served consumers to each other and the global economy,” said John Partridge, President, Visa Inc.

“The convergence of mobile and financial services networks helps to remove service barriers, accelerates the pace of change and is transforming the lives of consumers in developing countries.”

African Entrepreneurs in the Spotlight

The Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship took place in December – we look at the winners.

This year’s Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship saw a record 3,300 companies from 48 African nations submit entries to compete for the Grand Prize of US$100,000.

The awards, founded by private investment group Legatum, were designed to promote the value of entrepreneurship in Africa, encourage small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs and attract more venture capital inflows towards good businesses across Africa.

The winner of the big prize was SECURICO, Zimbabwe’s service-focused security company. Director and Founder Divine Ndhlukula said: “I hope that my story of creating SECURICO, and those of my fellow finalists will help to inspire other African entrepreneurs to seek opportunity, embrace risk, and above all, believe in themselves.”

THE SECURICO STORY

So what is Ndhlukula’s story? By all accounts, it’s quite a remarkable one.

The idea of SECURICO was created in her home in the country’s capital, Harare. The company first started working out of Ndhlukula’s cottage with just four employees. Her determination was tested when her supportive husband passed away, but nevertheless she continued to pursue her dream using savings.

At that time, security giants such as Midsec and Fawcett dominated the industry – which may not have been quite ready for a female-led company. “The market was not convinced on my capacity to deliver in a hitherto male dominated industry,” said Ndhlukula. “The way to manage that was being the best…and the market was sure going to recognise a good thing coming out of our company. I had to work five times harder than the average man in my industry to get noticed. That won the day.”

Ndhlukula was clear in the principles she wanted to enforce from day one. The highest quality service and a shorter turnaround time than SECURICO’s competitors were two such values.

SECURICO provides guarding services and electronic security solutions and became the first security company to be ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certified and now employs more than 3,400 staff – 900 of which are women.

“I started the business to create financial security for my family and myself and also to be in a position where I would make a huge impact on other people in particular, women,” said Ndhlukula, making sure that employees are provided with medical aid, help with education, housing and life insurance.

VISION

SECURICO has been rewarded with a number of achievements outlining its success. It won the inaugural National Quality Awards (NAQA) Company of the Year Award (Large Enterprises) hosted by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and was also voted Zimbabwe’s 7th Best Employer for 2010 in a national survey conducted by Industrial Psychology Consultants.

Ndhlukula said she was not willing to compromise employee welfare for profit. “While competing on price is healthy there should be a balance between the business’ concern for growth and the welfare of employees,” she explained on her website.

“The tendency to charge unrealistic prices compromises employees’ welfare and in the end the quality of the service provided by these companies is seriously compromised. They inevitably end up losing business rather than growing their businesses.

“Our vision as SECURICO is we become a leading security organisation in the Southern African Development Community region and continue to grow at the targeted rates and make our company a truly international business.”

FINALISTS

There were five other finalists, including Chocolate City Group. Based in Nigeria, the entertainment group of companies, consisting of Chocolate City Music, Chocolate City Media and Chocolate City Distribution, is home to some of Africa’s biggest hip-hop stars such as M.I and Jesse Jagz.

Ethiopia’s soleRebels also made it into the final six companies. Founded by locals to create jobs for the poor community in Addis Ababa, the shoe company has become a global success. Using recycled material and Ethiopian artisan crafts, the footwear company has gone from strength to strength and is the only World Fair Trade Organisation certified footwear company.

Other finalists included Expand Technologies, based in Mauritius, Unique Solutions of the Gambia and Pepperoni Foods of Nigeria.

Josephine A. Okot, founder of Ugandan agricultural company Victoria Seeds, won Coca-Cola’s Most Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur, taking home a prize of $100,000.

Top 10 Best Companies To Work For in South Africa

The Corporate Research Foundation (CRF) Institute comprehensively reviews pay and benefits, training and development, career opportunities, working conditions and company culture. ABR has selected just 10 of the 57 South African companies that made the grade as a BEST Employer™ for 2010-2011.

10. Cell C

South Africa’s third cellular provider is also the smallest in terms of workforce. However, this can act in its favour says the CRF Institute because it can act swiftly. “It also enjoys excellent relationships with stakeholders, while its flat structure adds to its nimble approach,” it said.

9. Coca-Cola South Africa

It could be easy to assume the world’s largest beverage company may treat their staff more like numbers than people – but this is far from the case. Black economic empowerment (BEE) is a priority for the company, extending to bottlers as well as initiative es in the local community.

8. Group Five Construction (Pty) Ltd

One of South Africa’s most established construction and engineering companies, Group Five has Level 3 accreditation for BEE. Built on proud traditions dating back to its early days in 1974, it has a strong diversification strategy, supported by its commitment to its shareholders, customers, employees and communities.

7. Nestlé (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd

One of the most famous brands on the globe, the CRF Institute said Nestlé’s presence in South Africa is underlined by trust, quality, honesty and diversity.“This is an informal environment based on our values of openness, trust and transparency,” says David Moloto, Training and Development Manager.

6. MTN South Africa

Recently named Africa’s biggest brand, MTNuses a proactive model to identify high performers within the company, called ‘Leadership Talent Management’ to ensure achievement is recognised. It also offers MyMTN Emergency – home medical and roadside emergency assistance for workers.

5. SAS Institute (Pty) Ltd

The business software giants have a worldwide reputation for being great employers, with SAS International having recently been named the number one company in the US for Fortune’s 100 best Companies To Work For list for the second year running. Each individual employee has a Bonus Plan that recognises both performance and achievement.

4. JSE Ltd

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange was launched in 1887 and has since became the most respected market on the continent. According to the CRF Institution, “JSE’s greatest asset is its enthusiastic, passionate team; people who are inspired by an exciting workplace characterised by constant change, and who are forever looking forward to the next big development.”

3. South African National Roads Agency Ltd

The South African National Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL) is a government formed company and is wholly owned by the Department of Transport. It has a distinct mandate to finance, improve, manage and maintain the national road network. Due to this, it does not have an official BEE rating however a recent exercise carried out in the company suggests they would achieve the second highest rating and be a Level 2 contributor.

2. Vodacom Group Ltd

Having undergone a massive re-branding exercise to change company colours from blue to red (that of parent company, Vodafone), Vodacom has been in the spotlight this month. The leading telecommunications provider in South Africa has a corporate wellness programme that includes an Employee Assistance Programme, HIV and Executive Health Management Programmes.

1. Unilever South Africa (Pty) Ltd

The South African subsidiary of the UK-Dutch fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) giant has never been short of success. It is currently the leader in seven of the nine categories in which it operates and is renowned for its training and skills development.

The company has adopted a graduate programme to ensure talented employees are carefully nurtured. Up to 60 top graduates in key areas are employed each year including IT, marketing and human resources.

Unilever SA also places a great deal of emphasis on performance based bonuses that are paid annually and payout cash prizes known as Oscars that reward exceptional competency and delivery.

“People are our greatest asset,” says Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gail Klintworth – and this statement is backed up by the 24-hour Vitality Assist funded by the company. The helpline enables staff and their families with counselling, financial assistance and legal advice.