A number of SA companies are learning the hard way that the so-called untapped African markets aren’t always ripe for exploitation. Earlier this month, as the woes of Standard Bank and MTN in Nigeria deepened, SA’s third-biggest insurer, MMI, said it would complete its exit in seven African countries over the next 12 months. The reality in markets that include Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania turned out to be worlds apart from what MMI had envisaged. "Earnings have been volatile, we’ve had internal control problems and the leadership needs to be strengthened," CEO Hillie Meyer said when the company presented its financial results earlier this month. MMI’s experience in Africa is in stark contrast with those of rivals Sanlam and Old Mutual. The two insurers have a presence in 34 and 13 African countries respectively through greenfield investments, partnerships or acquisitions. They are also looking to expand to more markets in future.

"It’s hard to do business [elsewhere] in Afr...

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