Category: News

  • 30th September, 2021
  • < 1 min reading

We are excited to announce that Bolaji Sofoluwe, Managing Director at ETK Group will be joining BGEN in a non-executive role as Board Chair, in their new subsidiary, BGEN International.

BGEN’s new subsidiary will complement their existing International Department and has been specifically formed to expand and support their client base in Nigeria, and Africa in general. Vinnie Edge, who is responsible for BGEN’s International operations, will oversee the new entity.

To ensure its success, BGEN International has made two key appointments to form a dynamic team with a wealth of overseas experience. Bolaji Sofoluwe has been appointed in a non-executive chair role after impressing the BGEN board with her contribution to BGEN International’s entry strategy into the African market. Don Foy will serve as Managing Director.

We know that Bolaji will do a fantastic job whilst maintaining her Managing Director position at ETK Group, and ensuring the company goes from strength to strength.

Click HERE to read more

  • 12th July, 2021
  • < 1 min reading

ETK Group is extremely happy to announce that we have become members of The British Exporters Association (BExA), which is an independent national trade association representing the interests of the export community and exists as a lobbying, promoting, educating and networking organisation for UK exporters and associated services providers.

BEXA was established in 1940 as the National General Export Merchants Group, it became the British Export Houses Association and then in 1988 adopted the name of British Exporters Association when it recruited manufacturing companies as members.

Who is BExA?

BExA is a not-for-profit and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members.   Its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of organisations within the exporting community, including large corporates, MSBs, SMEs and micro-exporters and their bank, credit insurance, legal and other service providers.  BExA seeks to promote the interests of its members and all UK exporters, with a particular focus on trade finance and export credit insurance.

What does BExA do?

BExA is a valued contributor to, and is engaged with, many Government departments and committees to drive export policy forward.  These include the Department for International Trade, UK Export Finance, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and Houses of Parliament Select Committees.

First published in 2010, BExA also authors an UK Export Finance Benchmarking Paper which compares the performance of the UK’s export credit agency against others around the world. It has become the go-to guide to measure UK Export Finance’s product range, activities and quality of support to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance.

Click HERE to read more about BExA

  • 1st July, 2021
  • < 1 min reading

ETK Group are extremely proud and excited to announce that our Managing Director Bolaji Sofoluwe will be joining the oNetwork at the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford as an Entrepreneurship Expert.

Bolaji will be introducing fundamental and innovative concepts on globalisation and international trade, as a core component of entrepreneurship and business development. This is an amazing achievement for an outstanding person and professional.

The oNetwork announced the fabulous news this month as they welcome 17 new members to the oNetwork, which sees their community of experts reach gender parity and echoes the Centre’s commitment to building diverse communities and ensuring that they connect the best and brightest minds to the students and alumni that they serve.

Sorina Campean, Stakeholder Engagement Lead for the Entrepreneurship Centre and curator of the oNetwork, says, ‘Making space for diverse voices, and women in particular always translates into more creative ideas and solutions. The benefits of advancing women entrepreneurs and innovators are substantial. Experts estimate that closing the entrepreneurial gender gap could boost the global economy by up to $5 trillion. This is more important than ever now, as economies around the world strive to recover from the challenges posed by the pandemic. Therefore, as I am transitioning out of my role with the Entrepreneurship Centre, I am extremely proud to leave behind a truly gender-balanced community, which I know will continue to work hard alongside our staff, students and alumni to help advance the School’s entrepreneurial ambitions.’

Please click HERE to find out more.

  • 10th June, 2021
  • 2 min reading

Nigeria’s Twitter Ban was announced on Friday, June 4, 2021, by Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who confirmed the indefinite suspension of Twitter in the country.  He also disclosed the government’s directive to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to start licensing all over-the-top (OTT) and social media operations. Nigerians are naturally outraged by the action, which they regard as another government infringement on freedom of expression. While this has come as a shock to most people in and outside of Nigeria, we seem to forget that this is becoming a growing trend amongst African countries over the last eight years; for example, between 2007 and 2015, Uganda, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guinea, Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Mali, Sudan, Togo, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe all implemented full or partial shutdowns. However, with these actions free speech is not the only thing that is being harmed.

The unintended consequences of the Twitter ban – effects on trade

The ramifications of Nigeria’s Twitter ban have already spread beyond politics; for example, the gagging order has begun to wreak havoc on Nigeria’s beleaguered economy, resulting in a loss of N10 billion in the last four days. According to NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that monitors cyber-security and governance of the Internet, each hour of the social media gagging costs Nigeria about $250,000 (N102.5 million), bringing the daily loss to N2.5 billion.

The digital platform has always been the haven of Nigeria’s youth, who are renowned for their resourcefulness and have been able to utilize the platform in such a way that it has provided a channel for them to conduct business, find employment, and start their careers. Young people in Nigeria have benefited from Twitter’s ability to bypass the country’s extremely restricted and fragmented physical infrastructure.

Furthermore, twitter has been a vital connection in the operations of millions of small and medium-sized businesses; it enables for the type of commercial rivalry that provides consumers with choices, resulting in innovation and improved products and services.

Gbenga Sesan, executive director of the Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and rights, stated that the suspension of Twitter sends the wrong signal to foreign investors, adding those small businesses using Twitter as a source of livelihood in Nigeria will be affected.

The way forward?

For the sake of Nigerian domestic and international trade, which is crucial for post-pandemic recovery, it is critical that both parties find a solution to this issue. If the Nigerian government wishes to ‘regulate’ platforms, the core basis for that would need to be clearly defined – freedom of expression and national security are on very different ends of the spectrum, where one is a fundamental human right and the other is a core responsibility of government. From an economic perspective, lost productivity and commerce is at stake, as well as long-term reputational damage to the country’s ability to attract investment to its digital economy. In other words, the actions of the government need to reflect that the country is truly, open for business.

  • 18th December, 2020
  • 2 min reading

Strategic sessions concerning the UK post-Brexit have been organised across the country. Promoting and encouraging export for British businesses has been the top of the agenda for most of these meetings, highlighting the financial and technical support available for businesses wishing to export.

At a meeting of The Department of International Trade (DIT) Export Champions, attended by Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Exports, ETK Group‘s Managing Director, Bolaji Sofoluwe, asked a pertinent question. She noted that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was promoting investment on the continent and wanted more information on collaborative efforts between FCDO and DIT. Here is the response:

£10bn to be spent to tackle poverty in 2021

“DIT will continue to work closely with DFID’s successor organisation, FCDO, to keep international development and poverty reduction at the heart of the UK’s trade and investment policy. DIT was already working closely with the FCDO on shared objectives and the recent reduction in ODA does not mean we are stepping back from our global role in the world. The UK will spend more than £10bn next year to fight poverty, tackle climate change, improve global health and boost trade and investment. DIT and the FCDO will continue working together to maximise Britain’s influence around the world.

Trade is a key driver of economic growth which can trigger positive changes in a country’s economy, helping to raise incomes, create jobs and lift people out of poverty. This is particularly important as the world responds to the challenge and recovers from the economic impact of COVID-19.

We are delivering continuity in our trading arrangements with developing countries and exploring options to expand our relationships. In addition to FTAs, we pursue a mixture of informal and formal dialogues with key and emerging markets, for example JETCOs with Brazil and India, and the recent UK/Nigeria Economic Development Forum. These activities help secure better access for specific products or sectors and strengthened trading relationships which can lay the groundwork for future FTAs.

Managing Director, Enterprise Trade and Knowledge Group, Bolaji Sofoluwe, will be participating in the UK-Africa Investment Summit in 2021.

The UK’s ongoing investment commitment

The UK-Africa Investment Summit held on 20 January is an example of how DIT works with FCDO and its predecessors, each of us focusing on delivering our areas of expertise towards a shared goal of being Africa’s investment partner of choice. At that event, we saw the announcement of over £15bn of commercial deals and £1.5bn of development programmes directed towards supporting economic development in Africa, to create more opportunities for the private sector over the medium- to long-term.

Through these particularly challenging months, we have concentrated our efforts on supporting existing UK investors in Africa, through regular engagement in forums such as the Africa Investors Group (which was announced at the UK-AIS; has met four times this year; and is co-chaired by HMTC Africa and Andrew Skipper from Hogan Lovells). None of the deals announced at the Summit have fallen away despite the difficult period this year”.

There are ongoing funding opportunities for British businesses to develop projects and meaningful collaborations with African enterprises through FCDO. ETK Group’s MD will be participating in the UK-Africa Investment Summit in January 2021.

  • 1st April, 2020
  • 2 min reading
The coronavirus is significantly impacting with all businesses feeling the effects. Here Bolaji Sofoluwe explains how ETK Group has expanded its services in response to the pandemic. There is no question that the outbreak of Covid-19 has had a huge impact on services, supply chains and staff provision. The disruption affects new trade relationships between the UK and Africa, so it is important that, as a company, we respond to the new demands. To help our clients, and potential new business, we are adapting our services. We know that it is very uncertain around the world, and that in a lot of cases, systems as we knew them before, are on a temporary go slow. In response, ETK will be offering support with expediting payments, managing human resource relationships, in-country representation, supply chain interruption and resilience consulting.

Payments

Anyone experiencing delays in receiving payments from African suppliers or businesses can be helped by our finance and credit control experts. We have several trusted partners with whom we can work to ensure our clients experience the minimum possible hold-up. Our partners offer tailor-made, robust solutions to ensure that our clients receive their business-critical payments – vital in today’s climate.

In-country representation

This is handled by ETK’s global associates who work on the ground in Africa. The service is aimed at people who have been forced to cancel their trips to Africa due to travel restrictions. However, they still need to progress negotiations. Our team can represent our clients in many ways. ETK can provide help with crisis management in Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania and Angola.

Supply chain interruption

ETK can communicate with existing suppliers or source alternatives for businesses who require help with supply chain interruption and resilience consulting. This is the case for both internal interruption such as the breakdown of vital machinery, or external, for example the disruption to the flow of raw materials or parts to the business. We will work with companies to undertake a comprehensive business impact analysis to prepare their firms to address the impact of possible future supply chain disruption. This will strengthen the existing supply chain, identify alternative supply chain partners and look at ways to manage product demand, and as a result, will protect sales, revenue, cash flow and business reputation.
  • 23rd March, 2020
  • 2 min reading
London Stansted is set to open up the UK’s only direct service to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, from this summer. Here, Bolaji Sofoluwe explains why the move will help to bolster trade links for the East of England. Infrastructure is a key component for successful import and export relationships. This includes transport infrastructure (roads, railways, airports, seaports) and services as well as telecommunications networks – all of which play a part in physical infrastructure that is crucial for moving goods and services to and from different countries.
Aeroplane
In the past, emphasis has been placed on sea and land freight because it is less costly than air transport. However, in recent years the importance of air transport for trade has been increasing – especially when speed is of the essence.

Strengthening airports

A 2018 study by Steer for Airlines UK with support from Heathrow Airport Limited, Manchester Airports Group and the Freight Transport Association found that air freight services contribute £7.2 billion to the UK economy and support 151,000 jobs and that across all sectors of the economy, £87.3 billion of UK gross value added (GVA) is currently dependent on air freight exports. Air freight currently represents 49% of the UK’s non-EU exports by value (£91.5 billion) and 35% of non-EU imports (£89.9 billion) – over 40% of total trade by value but under 1% by volume of goods shipped. To expand on this, strengthening and expanding our airports is key. However, the quality of the UK’s air freight infrastructure is a major issue since they now cater to significantly more widebody freight capacity than the facilities were originally designed for. Many of our freight facilities at UK airports are often decades old and have suffered from continued under-investment. This means bellyhold cargo now accounts for more than 60% of total UK air freight volume, according to the Steer for Airline study, with forwarders and shippers utilising an extensive intercontinental passenger network.

Direct flights

This is why I welcome more direct flights to countries within Africa – which will provide more opportunities for trade as well as for forging new business relationships. And the news of the new service in Essex to Senegal is particularly interesting after the airline cherry-picked London Stansted for three flights a week starting on June 26. The reason for the choice could well be the fact that the East of England is already streets ahead in terms of developing relationships with Africa. After all, of all the businesses I work with, the majority come from Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk and this flight route will give them the chance to develop new trade and investment opportunities. The UK-Africa Summit held in January focused on sectors where our region has particular strengths, such as renewable energy, housing and technology and this extra boost to the infrastructure here will continue to boost our relationships between Africa and the East. It is also a great link for Africans in diaspora to the Western part of the continent.
  • 10th March, 2020
  • 2 min reading

Last week started with a great round table meeting with HM Trade Commissioner to Africa, Emma Wade-Smith. The event was organised by Exemplas Trade Services on behalf of the Department for International (DIT) Trade East of England. It was great to have a discussion on the measures that the government is taking to support local businesses in their export plans. And I was honoured to be invited along with five other businesses in the region.

HM Trade Commissioner for Africa, Emma Wade-Smith, at the meeting with Bolaji Sofoluwe. Credit: John Brook

It was inspiring to see that Mrs Wade-Smith has a passion for Africa that in nearly 10 years of business, I have not yet seen. This filled me with extreme confidence and I know this is going to be the golden era of trade to Africa. I didn’t sense the imperious attitude towards the business opportunities on the continent and neither did I feel that this was an economic grab. As a result, I believed it was a genuine effort to build mutually beneficial relationships on the continent.

Healthcare and life science

This was followed by the Selling to Africa: Life Sciences and Healthcare event. Also run by the DIT, this event attracted businesses in the sector from across the East of England. It was fantastic to have a representative from DIT in Egypt, Salma Amin, present a pragmatic and detailed market entry approach to the delegates. Ayuk Foma Mafomekong, from DLRC Ltd, the regulatory consultants, also gave a great presentation on navigating the regulatory environment for medicines across the continent.

Bolaji with Salma Amin of the Department for International Trade in Egypt. Credit: DIT Egypt

This was the first time that I had heard about efforts to harmonise compliance across the continent – you learn something new every day! Above all my clients will be pleased to hear that this is progressing and that the target is 2021.

We also heard from Phil Jennings, from Santander, who gave an impressive presentation on the South African market and the bank’s large network of partners across the continent.

Finally, I gave a presentation on Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Ethiopia and Kenya – covering research and development, budget allocations and some opportunities available to businesses in those countries.

Progress

It’s safe to say that this was one of the most practical, detailed events I have been to in a while. Africa as a whole is hard to cover, but focusing on these specific countries, clarifying regulatory requirements and being open and honest about timelines, opportunities and challenges, was a refreshing experience. Well done to Marguerite and her team for organising this event.

So, the motto is, we progress. And, we keep calm and carry on.

  • 7th March, 2020
  • 2 min reading

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It provides the opportunity to look at how far women have come in terms of equality. It’s fitting that this year’s theme is #EachforEqual and how ‘equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue’. Here, our managing director Bolaji Sofoluwe, discusses her passion for celebrating women in high-profile positions.

A lot of progress has been made in equality in recent times – I’m really excited to see women in politics and really excelling.

The prime example is Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand – a woman in a high-powered position who is continually showing the world what real leadership is.

In Africa, there is trailblazing work going on with women in government positions and on company boards. The Ethiopian cabinet is half women which is a massive step forward in gender parity.

The continent is seen as having strong patriarchal traditions. So, for Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to place women in his cabinet is just phenomenal.

And, in just this past month, three women have been appointed to the boards of companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

According to the African Development Bank Group, women hold close to one third of the seats in parliaments in 11 African countries – more than in Europe.

cof_vivi
The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual. Pictured is Bolaji Sofoluwe striking the #EachforEqual pose.

I am 100% behind the gender equality movement and I want young women to feel empowered and aspire to become business leaders or politicians.

Expertise

Although I am passionate about my African roots, I developed my career while living in the UK in my 20s. I worked first in insurance before moving into banking.

This knowledge – which includes understanding logistics, legislation, economics and business – helped form the ETK Group in 2012 and my understanding of both the African and the British culture has allowed the company to successfully work across both continents.

Some of our East of England clients have enjoyed successful work in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. The company also has clients in the north of England and London. And nearly half come from around the world including USA, Singapore, Sweden, Holland and Finland.

Businesses have been very receptive to trading with Africa, especially following Brexit. As a result, many SMEs have explored opportunities to trade elsewhere in the world – Africa in particular.

And the continent is home to six of the 15 fastest growing economies in the world. The time is right for the UK’s businesses to capitalise on the vast amount of growth predicted across Africa in sectors including agriculture, renewables, finance and technology.

The fact is that African women are highly entrepreneurial and own a third of all businesses across Africa. And I am proud to be part of that movement and celebrate this International Women’s Day.

  • 27th February, 2020
  • 2 min reading

Business is booming on the continent – so how should UK companies make the most of these markets? Here Bolaji Sofoluwe explains the difference between foreign trade and foreign investment.

Globalisation has changed the face of markets around the world as well as the way we do business at home and abroad.

The biggest shift has been how we buy and sell products and services and this has chiefly involved us either trading with – or investing in – our foreign neighbours.

Some business owners find it is easy to work out whether trade or investment will work best in terms of expanding their network. But others confuse the two.

In simple terms, foreign trade implies the trade of goods, services and capital between two countries of the world. 

Foreign investment however, refers to an investment made in a company from a source outside the country and this can be in the form of capital, technology and other resources.

In the last year UK Africa Trade last year was worth £36bn and investment was £2.4bn – demonstrating just how lucrative the opportunities are on the continent. So how do you pick between the two?

 

Gap in the market

 

Most of my work involves foreign trade – chiefly exporting and importing.

This involves offering a product or service to a country where there is a need, a gap in the market or room for competition.

It benefits businesses looking to expand into new markets and it also benefits countries looking to fulfil resource requirements. This might include meeting a requirement of natural or man-made resources for example, where one country may engage in trade with another country which possesses these resources in abundance.

Foreign trade also helps connect the markets of different countries of the world and creates a good opportunity for domestic producers to capture global markets and increase their overall reach.

In some cases, trade and investment go hand-in-hand of course and we or our partners can advise accordingly on both.

We have worked with clients who have combined the two to organise the supply of inputs, to expand in new markets, to access knowledge and to provide services to consumers.

We have also adapted our approach to the specific requirements of different sectors.

Some industries, such as food and banking for example, look to become engaged in foreign direct investment (FDI) activities – an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country – while others, such as automobiles – rely more heavily on trading goods and services.

Others deploy both trade and FDI with equal intensity – such as clothing and footwear.

There has also been an interest in clients exploring strategic partnerships such as licensing, contract manufacturing, services outsourcing, joint-ventures and strategic alliances.

Whatever the needs of a business looking to trade, invest or partner with another country, we can advise accordingly.

But understanding the differences between the three is the first crucial step to making the right decisions when it comes to cross-border business relationships.

For more information, give us a call today on 01206 563698.