Landlocked Burkina Faso needs hotels, struggles to find skilled workers in key areas, and has so far escaped advances by major Chinese trade interests, according to an African manager there.
Côte d’Ivoire native Nawa Yeo manages DHL in Burkina Faso and shared his insights on the West African country’s business environment with HowWeMadeItInAfrica.
With a population of 16.46 million according to World Bank, this French-speaking African country occupies 274,200 square kilometers and shares borders with Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Togo.
Many of its citizens are returning from abroad, widening the talent pool in service companies such as banking, logistics and hospitality, Yeo said. It is relatively easy to find employees in those industries.
However, mining, engineering and telecoms companies, which require highly specialized skills, are struggling to find talent locally. “When I talk to our customers in the mining sector, all of them are complaining. They often have to bring in expats from abroad,” Yeo told HowWeMadeItInAfrica.
In contrast to many other parts of Africa, Chinese companies are not particularly active in Burkina Faso. This is partly due to Burkina Faso not having diplomatic relations with China, Yeo said. It does however, have a good relationship with Taiwan and there are some Taiwanese traders operating in the country.
Companies serious about doing business in Burkina Faso should consider having a presence in the second largest city of Bobo-Dioulasso. According to Yeo, the city is the hub of the important cotton industry. There are a number of businesses involved in agri-processing.
Burkina Faso is experiencing an increase in the number of foreign investors, especially in mining. According to Yeo, the country does not have enough top-end hotels and restaurants to meet the demand from foreign business people.
“If you want a hotel room in Ouagadougou (capital of Burkina Faso) you need to book well in advance. We need many more facilities catering for business people,” Yeo said.
Burkina Faso is a major producer and exporter of cotton. The country was one of the first African countries to approve genetically modified cotton. However, Yeo is also seeing growth in agri-processing, an area which holds potential in a continent that has traditionally exported most of its raw materials. According to Yeo, many companies are currently involved in value-adding activities such as producing fruit juice.
Burkina Faso is landlocked and most of its imports travel through ports of its neighbors. Yeo says it is important to remember that any issues in neighboring countries that cause delays at ports can negatively impact business in Burkina Faso, especially companies that depend on imports.
“If there is an issue at the ports in Côte d’Ivoire or Ghana, your business is stuck. Companies in Burkina Faso face these issues on a daily basis. This is one of the issues you need to keep in mind if you are considering doing business in Burkina Faso,” he said.
One of the best things about living in Burkina Faso is the accommodating nature of the people, Yeo said. “It doesn’t matter if you are Asian, African or American, anyone can easily integrate themselves into Burkina Faso’s society because the people are really warm and welcoming.”
However, one aspect of living in Burkina Faso that Yeo struggles with is the heat. “During certain times in the year – from April to about June – the temperature can reach up to 45°C (113 degrees Farenheit).”
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