For all its experience in the game, the five-time African champions have yet to look like a country ready to meet the infrastructural demands of hosting a tournament of the magnitude of the Africa Cup, even after hosting the Women’s Africa Cup last year.
In order to meet the demands of what many view of the sporting event of the decade, Cameroon is working with a vast array of international banks, businesses, and foreign governments to put in place an ambitious infrastructure programme worth billions of dollars – including the construction of nine new football stadiums in just two years.
In order to get a view on the business perspective of AFCON 2019, we reached out to Mr. Edward Kostenski, the American chief executive of Nationwide Equipment, who is currently in Yaoundé working to position his firm to be the #1 supplier of construction equipment to the many vendors building the facilities for the tournament.
The firm is no stranger to the African landscape. Over the course of 33 year of business, they now boast 95% of its business portfolio on the continent. According to some government contacts – including a thriving business in Zambia – we are told that Kostenski’s Nationwide is regarded as a leader in delivering both dependable vehicles as well as the financing to close the deals – saving customers hundreds of thousands of dollars from the traditional leasing models from major manufacturers like Caterpillar.
In an interview with Zambia Reports, Kostenski says that his company has adapted to meet the particular needs of construction projects in Africa.
“We provide the financing to pay for the equipment so it’s kind of a one-stop shop. Instead of a normal equipment type agency, we actually provide our customers with a host of services necessary to close the deals. We don’t just sell equipment, we actually provide more services to the customers and give them quality machinery,” he says.
Kostenski says this approach saves clients money from purchasing brand new earth-moving machinery since they need machines to do projects and the firm refurbishes them in the United States before shipping them with a limited warranty, which is not known in the industry.
This is done through the help of local financial institutions in the host country of the transaction.
The transaction can be lined up from purchase, supply and eventually repair with a guarantee that eases the client’s anxieties.
In the event that the client cannot pay on the spot, a window is provided for the equipment to be supplied with a promise to meet the obligations once the equipment is put to use.
With a clientele of 60 spread across Africa where 30 stand out from the crowd, the Nationwide Equipment tale can only get bigger.
With growing business in Rwanda, Chad and Cameroon, the company is in line to leap to the next level during AFCON 2019 thanks to high-level support from African governments and the financial institutions they are able to bring to the table.
But football isn’t the only business opportunity Kostenski says the firm is chasing. Speaking with us from his hotel by phone, the Nationwide CEO says that capital is known to go back and forth in the continent depending on commodity prices and activities in the mining and agriculture economy. The firm follows wherever opportunities lie with Africans having been an interesting hunting ground.
Nationwide Equipment goes to places no other vendor dreams of going to and gets to meet their clients face to face. With the burdensome process of getting American visa, getting down to where the client is cuts the trouble of doing business.
“Our mentality is that we need to bring America to its clients, mainly through personal site visits which help our team develop rapport, explain the guarantees of warranties, and make pledges to honour the contract held in the jurisdiction of its respective partners,” Kostenski says. “Clients just love that kind of attention to detail, and the importance of showing respect by investing in personal relationships.”
In addition to their sales stream of revenue, Kostenski also says that their repairs services division is highly in demand, again because of their ability to facilitate the financing with local banks. Whenever such eventualities happen Nationwide Equipment gets actively involved to deal with the local bank and ensure a smooth transition through the process.
Before arriving to Cameroon, Mr. Kostenski had a stop in Chad, where he held meetings at the invitation of Prime Minsiter Albert Pahimi Padacké.
“In Chad, we had a meeting with the Prime Minister trying to explore some opportunities for mining, and also trying to explore new projects starting up. I was excited because it’s a nice challenge,” said Kostenski. “I like it what I saw – Chad’s economy is showing resilience and opportunity for the future.”
Back in Cameroon, Nationwide Equipment is continuing to look for new opportunities surrounding the Africa Cup. The firm has already secured a client with a government bond who is ready to relinquish it to the company to provide equipment. Part of the reason they’ve been successful is that Nationwide is working closely with top government officials and the US embassy staff, allowing them to feature a US insurance policy be included in their offerings.
But will the recent election of US President Donald Trump, who has expressed some isolationist tendencies, throw a wrench into Nationwide’s plans to expand in Africa? Not exactly.
According to Kostenski, business leaders in Africa are actually enthused about a return of capital to the region after years of being relatively ignored by President Barack Obama. He says that the election result actually will “enhance what we are already doing. To what level we don’t know. We think that it can only go up; it’s been down for so long, the last 8 years. And I think that change is good. Everybody in Africa is very excited about this change. I was actually shocked about how excited they were when I thought they thought we were a little bit down.”