Written by Staff Writer

Professor Matthew Egu has spent much of the last decade researching what makes businesses successful in Africa. He shared his story exclusively with CFOClub.


A curious mind 

When Professor Matthew Egu started his career in 2008, he kept noting the same patterns. 

His first job was working at an Apple store in Abuja, Nigeria. Like anywhere else, there was a massive demand for Apple products. However, customers struggled to obtain the latest merchandise. During Matthew’s next job, selling cars, he noticed that people couldn’t easily access premier international car brands. 

When Matthew moved to the banking sector, he noticed that people were constrained when trying to borrow despite having enough collateral. 

“So because of my curiosity, I decided to go into research.”

Matthew, or rather Doctor Mattew Egu, a Professor at the Faculty of Business Administration and Finance at the Global Humanistic University, Anguilla, has spent much of the last decade and a half trying to understand the whys of the African business environment. 

His research includes how South African multinationals perform in SADC countries and the challenges smaller firms have accessing finance in Africa. He recently shared some of his insights with CFOClub Africa. 

Why South African companies succeed (and fail) in Africa

“South African businesses have outcompeted both Chinese and US businesses operating in Africa.” Matthew points to MTN, Shoprite and Standard Bank as examples of successes on the continent.

“They have good corporate images. One of the things that fascinated me was how Nigerians have a strong affinity with these brands – even more than with their own companies. There is quality assurance, unlike some of the local companies.”

Matthew points to the example of MTN. 

Before their arrival, customers of the local cell phone provider would experience outages due to malfunctioning generators, for instance. Customers would also need to pay bribes in excess of their phones’ value to connect to the grid.

“When MTN came, they built masts all across the country. They put in stand-by generators and solar panels along with them. That’s why they’ve been a huge success.”

Accountability, a culture of excellence, good customer service and supply chain management are all factors that make South African multinationals successful, says Matthew. 

When South African companies fail to consider local conditions, step away from quality adherence and ignore social issues and ESG, Matthew points out that this sets up firms for failure. 

How academia makes you a better CFO 

“I’ve become a better person after my research, both career-wise and financially,” says Matthew. “I’ve also learned business lessons through my research. 

“Firstly, if you’re going into business, you don’t copy existing models without innovation. Try to add value. 

“Secondly, there needs to be an emphasis on customer support. Don’t automate all your client interactions, there is often a need for human connection.”

“Thirdly, there needs to be controls and good corporate governance frameworks in place. The main issue is prevention rather than remedying mismanagement.”

Matthew has acquired many other lessons during his academic studies, which he freely shares with CFOClub members. To find out more about membership, follow this link


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