30 of family-owned companies survive to the 2nd generation, according to the Family Firm Institute 109 THEAFRICAREPORT / N° 108 / JULY-AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2019 strong distribution network that reaches right into the hinterland and lets us focus on the bottom-of-the-pyramid customer.” But the right partners are needed, if speed is of the essence. For example, Eclosia took 25 years to get to know the market and set up its operation in nearby Madagascar. “And it is not even that big,” says De Spéville. This would take too long for the small investments on Eclosia’s radar in Kenya and Rwanda, he says. More haste, less speed Ultimately, the biggest obstacle a family business can face is succession planning. “My father took me to China to trade fairs when I was 12 years old,” says Dewji. “That was in 1987. You can imagine China in 1987? […] In hindsight, he was trying to train me to get where I am today. And so I am a father of three children, and you have to give them freedom. But you also have to try to influence, to give them that mentality: ‘I have built this. I really need your help to take it to another level.’” Choosing the right moment to step down is key. At 73, Jean Kacou Diagou (JKD), Côte d’ivoire’s second-richest man, might have been planning to put his feet up as chairman of NSIA Participations (#334), the banking and insurance group he founded in 1995. His daughter Janine, already group CEO, is credited with bringing in National Bank of Canada as an investor in 2015, Swiss Re in 2017, and the acquisition of Diamond Bank’s assets in francophone West Africa. Everything looked set for NSAI to carry on its impressive trajectory. But in 2018 the banking arm of the business lost a third of its value on the regional bourse due to the collapse of SAF Cacao and a bad case of payment-card fraud. At this point JKD was at pains to show investors that the succession is a gradual process. “This group was built brick by brick. I want to make sure that the torch is passed well. One fine morning, you will be surprised,” he told our sister magazine Jeune Afrique. Successions can go less smoothly. Search the annals of legal cases in most countries, and there is one constant: epic battles involving one side of a family in dispute with another. No one fights quite like a family, especially when there is a great deal of money involved. There is no MBA programme to teach how to deal with this. Here, the strategies have to be very human. For De Spéville of Eclosia Group, it is all about investing time in communication. “I have two sisters who don’t live in Mauritius. I could quite easily say, ‘I am the CEO. I am driving the group’ and leave them to one side. But I don’t. I explain what is going on, and I try to get their opinions,” he says. “And this will help, not only as a sounding board, but to help get through bad times, which inevitably there will be as a business. No one grows in linear fashion.”
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