Tve got Africa UNDER MY SKIN...' 16 talking heads WHAT'S NewS Issue 9 Octobei 1997 Asked why he loves Africa, Paco den Doop answers promptly:'Because it's a tough place to do business. Because every day brings a different challenge. Because every day is a new day here. As a person, I need diversity. Africa has it all.' Rabobank International's very outspoken man in Johannesburg takes the hot seat. In fact, the hot seat was a pleasantly cool terrace in the centre of Amsterdam - Den Doop was on a brief trip to Utrecht and took time out for a talk. A commercial and marketing animal since childhood - 'my parents had their own business. They ate, slept and dreamed it. That kind of dedicated focus also gets under your skin', at least one of these characteristics is massaged by the southern African experience. 'The beauty of this market is that there is a demand for everything. It's a commercial person's dream. You have to see South Africa especially as an emerging market but with some of the sophistication and underlying assets you'd find in a more mature market. As I said, it's a commercial dream.' Den Doop talks about an emerging market here because of the very specific position of South Africa until the early 1990s. 'This is a country with huge natural resources and a trading tradition. Through its apartheid policies, international sanctions had isolated it from the rest of the world. Now, you see an influx of goods and service providers, including banks. South Africa and its corporates are highly desirable these days. That makes this a fascinating market to work in.' Although our rep office has only been open since early 1996, Den Doop has been working Sub-Saharan Africa for over 12 years. 'By accident,' he says with his big laugh and in-your-face frankness - a personal attribute which probably goes down extremely well in South African culture. 'I was with the international department of another bank in Holland then. One day, the boss asked who spoke French fluently.' His positive response would result in an appointment as regional manager for French-speaking countries in Africa. Td been used to markets like Monaco, parts of Switzerland, Luxembourg, that kind of thing. Suddenly, I'm in Africa.' Not long afterwards, the colleague handling the English- speaking African nations left and Paco picked up a new work load. 'It's like much of what has happened in my life - I discover things that fascinate me almost by chance.' His love of researching markets is a case in point. After spending quite some time 'not studying law' and doing his military service, Den Doop took to travel. 'It was the late 1960s, early 1970s - the hippy time,' he recalls. 'I went all over Europe and the Middle East until I ran out of money. When I came home, I looked through the paper and saw an advertisement for a job as head of production at a market research company. It turned out they wanted an office boy. I was somewhat overqualified, so they offered me a research assistant's job.' From there, Den Doop went on to head up the industrial marketing department. And this is where his inherent commercialism came into play. 'It turned out I was quite successful in selling our research products,' he says - almost modestly. What is it about studying markets that is so attractive? 'It's probably the digging,' he says thoughtfully. 'Even before the IT revolution, there was a heil of a lot of information out there - if you knew how to look. But often it wasn't easily accessible. Finding it anyway and building a really good picture of an industry, that was the kick. You'd start on a particular subject with nothing. In the end, you could really add value for the customer because sound research can help you generate a real SWOT analysis, giving you real direction and insight. Asked if he did a similar indepth study of the South African market, he shakes his head. 'You do different types of research for different types of markets or sectors,' he says. 'It depends on how big the industry is and the number of players - the less there are, the more information you need. For example,' he says, waving an indicative arm at the surrounding cafés, 'if you want to open a bar, you would go about it in a very different way. You'd have to study location, demand locally, that kind of thing. It's unlike industrial research, although the basic principles are the same. Other factors are structure and infrastructure in a particular market. Whether you're dealing with a saturated or completely new market.' In that respect, Den Doop was able to just dive into South Africa. 'We didn't need a sophisticated picture,' he says, 'this is a new market opening up and what we can offer there is what the customer wants - at present. In fact, it is more a matter of speed, being able to respond rapidly. With all the competition, you have to be fast to get the customers we love to have.' Our representative office in Southern Africa seems to be doing just that. And in the flurry of activity and deal- making it is almost easy to forget that until very recently this country was spurned by the world community. Paco den Doop hopes to continue pushing Rabobank as a real alternative in food and agribusiness to the whole South African nation and its northern neighbours. Having dived into this challenging, diverse and potentially lucrative market, he reckons the Southern African team is doing quite nicely. 'W certainly jumped into the deep end,' he laughs, 'and I think the 1 team would agree we're certainly waving, not drowning f out there.' Paco den Doop on Africa a fascinating market to work in.

Rabobank Bronnenarchief

blad 'What's news' (EN) | 1997 | | pagina 16