‘If Something Looks Too Good To Be True, It Usually Is’
‘I honestly don’t think the situation in Africa has changed drastically since then,’ Mr. Hillen said. ‘But in Europe it did. First we had two years of standstill due to Covid-19, now the economy in Europe is coping with shortages and there is little focus on business ventures abroad. That changed our view on Africa. When I call people to tell them about a business opportunity there, they are often literally too busy to even come to the phone.’
While general companies may currently take it slowly in Africa, for Mr. Hillen the continent remains his sole focus. ‘Perhaps we were a bit overoptimistic in the 2010’s, he said, though you cannot deny that there is a natural need for cooperation. Europe is a small continent of rich, old people with huge shortages of labor. At the same time, the young African population is exploding and people are screaming for jobs. It is inevitable that this will come together.’
The business owner just returned from Rwanda. ‘I saw a lot of elderly tourists from the UK there. Much as it has been criticised, I could see with my own eyes that Rwanda’s Arsenal sponsor deal is paying off.’ Hillen is a (non-executive) board member of Rwanda Mountain Tea, the country’s largest exporter. He is also co-owner of Callaflex, growing cut flowers for the international market. A logical choice, he said. ‘Shortage of hard currency is a problem for all African countries. Therefore, the only way to make money in hard currency is to establish a business that is export-oriented
’The exports of coffee (another business of his) are growing – high food prices in Europa means the prices are good. The first export of cut flowers from Callaflex are expected next year. ‘My best business year?’ the EMSA founder said while leaving the interview room, ‘I am sure that is going to be 2023!’.
Find more information on EMSA Emerging Markets Africa by visiting www.emsa-africa.com.