This entrepreneur is taking his advertising agency across Africa

Luyanda Peter always wanted to start his own business and be his own boss, but was uncertain about which sector would best suit him

After spending almost two decades in the corporate sector, this entrepreneur founded an advertising agency and is planning to expand it throughout Africa.

Established in 2015 and already operating in Botswana and South Africa, Harambee Communications is a 100% black-owned and managed integrated communications agency, with a special focus on activations, events, promotions and sponsorships.

“I only worked in the corporate sector for 17 years,” he said.

Peter started his career at SAB (Now AB-InBev) in 1999 as a marketing trainee and spent seven years working on various brands. He then moved to Nike South Africa and Nedbank, filling senior marketing management roles.

“I then spent seven years at MultiChoice as Head of Marketing for SuperSport across the African continent,” he said.

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This is where he recognised an opportunity to launch a pan-African advertising agency. He found that most of the companies doing pan-African work were based in South Africa or using an agency based in the country.

Most of these agencies operating on the continent didn’t have an insight into how the work is done. He saw this as an opportunity not to be missed. “I’ve been dealing with these countries and it made sense to create an agency that would do more work across Africa,” he said.

In the first six months, the business didn’t generate any income, but Peter didn’t give up on his dream. He recalled that it wasn’t easy to secure clients with all the red tape in his way. He had invested some of his savings in the business.

Determined to succeed, he kept going and convincing more clients to take up his services. “The fact that most clients loved my work and what I was presenting to them kept me going, although the process was taking too long,” he said. “I knew that something would come along – it was just a matter of overcoming administration and procurement challenges.”

He said that entrepreneurship is not as easy as people make it out to be. When he was an employee, it was all about him, but now it’s about his employees and the business’s reputation.

The agency focuses more on marketing insight and understanding target audiences in order to stand out from rivals.

“A lot of our competitors in this space are better at executing. We start before that, we try to understand what the client wants, then understand the client target audiences and then execute.”

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He said the challenges of operating businesses in Africa differ from country to country and that it was easier to set up shop in Botswana than in other Southern African Development Community countries.

Cash flow has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in his business operations. “I have clients who pay me in 30 days, but my suppliers want to be paid upfront. That means I’m bankrolling the clients.

“I’ve started investing money back into the business to overcome that challenge,” he said.

Harambee opened an office in Botswana to service its ever-growing clients from the region, as well as pan-African clients. The business supports 12 employees in its Joburg office and five in its Gaborone office.