How I Built Barmlo Group In Africa.

Run since 2005 by Banabasi Marambire the founder and Group CEO of Barmlo Group of Companies, a construction company headquarters in Harare.

Barmlo Group has many projects across Zimbabwe, and had expanded into Botswana and Zambia. It has a workforce of over 500 employees across all its companies. Barmlo construction has been recognised in Africa through participating in Jac Ma foundation under Africa Netpreneur Initiative Price and qualified to semi-finals. The company has been nominated in various platforms and won a first prise under 2016 Global Shapers initiative under construction category.

Banabasi Marambire attended his Primary school at Chasiya Primary School and Chongogwe Secondary School in Zimbabwe his home country. After completing his secondary school in 1999, Banabasi failed to further his studies due to lack of funds, he got his first job as a farm worker at the age 19. His duties were mainly to look after cattle and at age 22, he moved from farm worker and started working in a construction company as general labour. At the age of 25 years, Banabasi registered his company that was specializing in construction, brick moulding and building materials supply.

He gives Afripreneur Conference an in-depth and perceptive interview on doing business in Africa and how he built the business in the toughest environment in the world, Africa.

What was your journey like to get to where you are?

My journey was very tough, started with nothing and it was very difficult to convince people when they can’t recognize or acknowledge you. I started the business with a very little capital that I served from my earnings at the time I was working, an amount equivalent to $200.

I started with moulding blocks and I was using a hired truck to carry river sand for brick production and to deliver bricks. I saved until we bought our own truck within a period of 8 months.

I built gradually plugging back into the business profits and targeting a project each year which must be accomplished. I pushed each business until it was sustainable to run on it’s own.Today we have 4 companies within the group and looking back on our journey, I am proud of what we have achieved.

It has been 10 years of sacrifices, mistakes and hard work. I made some wrong decisions along the way on certain matters concerning running of the business and from all those mistakes, I learned, grew and improved.

Can you share a brief about Barmlo Group of Companies, what services does it render to its clientele?

Barmlo Group of Companies consist of Barmlo Investments (PVT) Ltd specialising in building materials supply and brick moulding, Barmlo Construction (PVT) Ltd specialising in erection of buildings, Maineck Holdings (PVT) Ltd which is also part of the group is into Food Processing, Solar Energy Supply and Great Dyke AB Academy, a private school which we operate. Finally, we have as part of the group, Barmlo Transport and Logistics (PVT) Ltd which offers commercial transportation.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences impacted the activity of Barmlo Group?

The Covid-19 pandemic affected our businesses negatively. We were not able to work as we asked all of our workers to remain at home because our government imposed a lockdown.The construction industry and hardware businesses were closed for 21 days and it was very difficult for us to go 21 days without any sources of income. The pandemic robbed us so much economically and socially. However, our food processing business brought us good returns since it falls under the essential businesses which were not affected by the lockdown imposed by the Zimbabwean government. That was an opportunity for us in the storm and we capitalised on it as food was in high demand.

SEE ALSO: AFRICA ENTREPRENEUR CONFERENCE 2020

So, yes, on one hand some of our businesses were closed because of the pandemic which affected our revenue but on the other hand, the other businesses in the group which fall under the essential services announced by the government were operating and bringing us money.

What is the biggest challenge facing African Entrepreneurs today?

Africa is the toughest environment in the world to do business. African entrepreneurs face challenges of poor policies from our governments as most of our governments in the continent do not provide a fair environment or playing field for businesses to thrive and grow. We also have a challenge of capital. Capital to start and expand in the continent is a big challenge compared to other continents like America where there are many venture capitalists and investors to raise money from and this has hugely affected the growth and expansion of businesses here.

We also lack good mind-set when approaching business in the continent, we don’t do proper research that leads us to invest in areas that we have no much knowledge and eventually failing and loosing money.

To me, among the challenges I enumerated above, the biggest faced by entrepreneurs in the continent is capital.

What major trends do you see in Africa’s constrction sector over the next year?

Construction has a very great potential in Africa. It’s actually one of the untapped sectors in the continent compared to mining and farming. I foresee construction having much business as African economy is growing and expanding and where there is growth of economy definitely the infrastructure will be developed through construction of various structures.

With the rapid urbanization across the continent and the rising middle class in many of Africa’s 54 nations, these definitely present great opportunities in the construction industry in Africa.The demand for housing will grow in the coming year and many businesses will also demand for office space rentals.

Can you tell us about your growth strategy over the next year?

We have plans to open more branches of our hardware shops outlets across Zimbabwe and also entering into other markets in the sub region. We are buying properties at prime locations in big cities across Zimbabwe to avoid renting. It is wise to own a building than to rent.

Are you looking to raise fresh capital?

Yes. We are looking to that but not by selling shares of my company. In the mean time, we will raise capital through other means like buying under developed properties and developing them for sell at a higher price.

This is our strategy for now to raise fresh capital to expand.

Are you considering expanding your construction projects into other African countries?

It is our desire to expand the construction company to other countries and market in Africa. We have already registered in Botswana and Namibia. We have plans to expand to Ghana. Ghana is on our radar and I have spotted a good potential growth in construction industry in Ghana and their economy is very stable.

How is it like doing business in Zimbabwe and Africa?

Doing business in Zimbabwe is very good considering that I am a citizen, it’s easy to access available business opportunities. However, our economy is going through inflation and it has become difficult to manage the business as we keep encountering different kinds of businesses every day.

Africa remains the toughest region to do business in with all 54 nations having different laws and regulations. The cost of registering a business across the continent is high. Right now I only know of Rwanda where is is free to register a business, and the process can be done online. Other countries charge a fee and the process is not even online and it takes days.

Tax on businesses in the continent is high. For example, in Uganda the tax rate for capital gains is 30% I believe. This is ridiculous. It does not encourage capital investment. So we must eliminate the capital gains tax, or at least bring it as close to zero as possible if businesses in Africa must compete favourably with others in other continents.

Do you think the coronavirus crisis will have a long-term impact on the construction sector in Africa?

Yes.The Covid-19 crisis has created a big challenge to construction industry because people have shifted their focus from construction and has focused on food and health issues.

Many businesses in the continent have already folded up because of the pandemic and hundreds of thousands if not millions of others have also lost their jobs. What this means is that, the purchasing power of people will decrease and this will have a toll on the construction industry in Africa at least for the next two to three years.

However, I expect the sector to recover from the crisis stronger as never before as it’s key to Africa’s infrastructure development.

Why is it important for entrepreneurs to attend Africa Entrepreneur Conference ?

A wise man said; “iron sharpens iron”. It is very important to attend the Africa Entrepreneur Conference as it is an event where business minded people gather and exchange ideas.

There is no any other place to be other than a place where business people gather and learn. It is an opportunity to networking and meet people from different places who have different experiences in business.

There are a number of young African Entrepreneur across the continent that are trying to start business. What advice would you give?

My advice to these young entrepreneurs all round the continent is; the time to start is now, just start with whatever you have. Don’t wait for a huge amount of capital because that might not come anytime soon. There is no one who can ever say I don’t have capital to start a business; sell that phone you are using to read this message and start a business, sell that favourite shirt/ dress of yours to start a business. Sell your goat or hen to start a business. Use your parents’ farm to start a business.Turn your house into an office to start your business. So, I say just start with whatever you have in your hand. “Just Start” the time is now.

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