Once referred to as ‘the dark continent’, Africa is now a shining beacon in the eyes of the developed world, as companies scramble to find new investment opportunities. However, moving into Africa is not without its hazards, and sensible CEOs are finding ways to manage their expansion that balances opportunity with risk.

Calling on local expertise in each country can mitigate risk significantly. This ensures business nuances have been accounted for and that partnerships are formed with the best vendors and suppliers.

The rapid improvement in infrastructure has made business easier for foreign companies. While Internet penetration remains exceptionally low in Africa (just 6.8% compared to 29% in the rest of the world), the growth in Internet users has been more than 1000% in the past decade. This has created an extended network of e-citizens and has smoothed the way for foreign direct investment.

It has not all been plain sailing though. Regional regulators could significantly assist foreign direct investment into the continent by applying common standards to laws, technical standards, and financial regulations.

As more companies move into Africa, regional harmonisation should be seen as a matter of urgency by African regulators. Just making sure that financial compliance is in place requires a team of experts. Dealing with multiple communications laws, varying technical standards, licensing requirements, and disparate spectrum allocation can be an operational nightmare.

There is no doubt that Africa holds immense opportunity for companies. However, by taking time, understanding the subtleties of each country, and most importantly, partnering with the right people, is imperative in delivering world-class service wherever we go.