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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Marketing of Cape Verde to Investors

For me, one of the most curious issues regarding investing in Cape Verde is the lack of information that is available about specific investment opportunities in the country or about how and why foreign investors should go about the process of investing in Cape Verde.

There is a specific government agency responsible for promoting Cape Verde to foreign investors. It is called Cabo Verde Investimentos (CVI). The folks at CVI do an excellent job in welcoming investors and providing information if you were to visit their offices in Achada Santo Antonio on the island of Praia. There are also two satellite offices, one in São Vicente and the other in Sal.

For many years, there was little if any online information available regarding investing in Cape Verde. In fact, CVI itself never had its own website until very recently. You can find it here: http://www.cvtradeinvest.cv/. CVI is even on Facebook now, under the name Cape Verde Investments. CVI is certainly to be commended for keeping up with the times.

The real question is how well is CVI marketing to foreign investors via their online presence? In this article, I provide a review of what is working and what is not.

Mission of CVI
This is the mission of CVI as taken directly from its website:
CI – Cape Verde Investments is the government investment promotion agency and export, and whose purpose is the promotion of conditions conducive to the realization of projects of national and foreign investment, the promotion of the Cape Verde Islands as a tourist destination and the promotion of exports of goods and services of Cape Verdean origin.
First of all, that's quite a mouthful and barely understandable. There is perhaps a bit of a language issue here as it is written in English, but not well. Granted that Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde, and it is excellent that CVI has made an attempt to present the case for investing in Cape Verde in English. After all, English is more widely spoken than Portuguese across the globe and certainly among big potential investors. But if you are going to present the information in English, make sure it is proper English and that it is understandable. Hire a translator. Or don't include such a statement since the purpose of the site it is quite obvious to anyone visiting the site. It sounds more like an exercise in self-importance.

Second, it appears that CVI has three separate objectives: 1) promoting Cape Verde as an attractive country for foreign investors; 2) promoting Cape Verde as a tourist destination; and 3) promoting exports. Each one of these is a large undertaking (although foreign investments and exports are clearly linked in terms of the target audience). Now, how well could one agency serve all three roles? Would it not be much more effective to have three (or two) separate agencies deal with each of these objectives - one for foreign investments and exports and the other for tourism? But that may reflect government budgetary constraints.

Perhaps a more practical solution is to have three separate sub-domains on their website, one for each objective (for example investment.cvinvest.cv for Investments, tourism.cvinvest.cv for Tourism and export.cvinvest.cv for Exports). To be fair, there is a half-baked attempt to do something similar. On the right hand side of the home-page, there are three panels, Investment, Export and Tourism. Clicking on each of these, takes you to a separate area where there is indeed a focus on each objective (in fact, clicking on Tourism takes you to a completely separate website http://www.turismo.cv/).

If you do not realize that you must first click-through these panels to delve deeper into each area, or if you focus on the top menu, the site will be virtually useless to you. CVI should make it perfectly clear that the panels are the source of more useful information. Or simply remove the top menu which is a mixed bag of investments, tourism and exports. This top menu makes the site very confusing to use in the case of CVI. Frankly, the information accessible via the top menu is useless and does not reflect well on the agency. CVI should get rid of it (except of course the contact information and the home page icon).

The CVI Facebook Page
Creation of a Facebook page is an excellent way to reach and interact with a potential audience of millions of people and to establish a fan base. However, there are a couple of challenges with the approach that is used by CVI on Facebook:
  • The Facebook page is clearly slanted towards tourism. Lots of beautiful pictures about Cape Verde as a tourism destination but almost nothing about investing in the country. Even so, as a tourist, would you be looking for a page on Facebook called "Cape Verde Investments" to find out more about Cape Verde as a tourist destination? Would it make more sense to have a Facebook page called "Cape Verde - An African Treasure Island", or something like that?
  • The posts on the page are directed inward to Cape Verdeans rather than to foreigners! For example, many of the posts go something like this, "Hello Cape Verdeans!" Well, if your target audience is outside of Cape Verde, it might be more effective to direct the posts outwards. 
  • From a technical perspective, the page has not been named! This is how the link currently appears: "http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cape-Verde-Investments/171022639669682". On Facebook, once you have reached 25 fans, you can give your page a name so it is easier to promote, for example, "Facebook.com/CapeVerdeInvestments." Which of these two links is easier to promote, communicate and remember?
If the goal of the Facebook page is to promote tourism, perhaps CVI should take a look at other pages that have the same goal and look at some of the best-in-class approaches. Here is how it is done Bahamas style: http://www.facebook.com/TravelBahamas. Which of these two Facebook pages does a better job of marketing the respective countries as a tourist destination? 

But this simply points out the obvious - if you have 3 separate objectives, you will not perform any of them particularly well on one Facebook page. So the real solution is that CVI should create 3 separate pages on Facebook; one for each objective. Facebook pages are FREE.

Marketing Cape Verde as an Investment Destination
So let us turn our attention away from the Facebook page which is a useless source of information about investing in Cape Verde, and back to the CVI website. Ignore any information on the CVI site regarding tourism or exports, and focus only on the information provided regarding investing in Cape Verde, which you can only access by clicking on the "Investment" panel from the CVI Home Page. How effectively is this objective being met?

So, let us examine the content and how it is accessed. Once you click through the Investment panel from the home page, you are faced with a choice of subject areas via a rotating picture-card deck. This area is tough to navigate and some of the subject areas have no photographs to help distinguish the content. In fact, some users may not even realize that these rotating picture cards are where the information lurks! To access the information, you must first click on the card you want in order to bring it to the front, then once it is at the front of the deck, you click it a second time to access the information.

The content itself is organized as follows:
  • Business Opportunities: Clicking on this guides the user back to a linked page from the top menu. Tabs are presented for the sectors of Industry, Tourism, Fishing, Services and Agriculture. However, what is provided is sparse, and no information is given about why these sectors may be good areas for foreign investment. This is a missed opportunity to make a convincing pitch about particular investment opportunities.
  • Investors Guide: This is a basic Word document that presents a hodge-podge of information about investing in Cape Verde. It makes the exaggerated claim that you can register a business in Cape Verde in one hour. This is not correct, although it probably earns marks for marketing effort. The official promotion materials of the Casa da Cidadão (where you register a business in Cape Verde) is 24 hours or one day. The reality is that it takes about 48 hours to set up a business. But this is still excellent. There are other errors in the data provided in the Investor Guide (probably due to some items being out of date).
  • Application Form - Request for External Investment Authorization (no explanation is given about why you need this form or if the authorization is a mandatory requirement for investing in Cape Verde)
  • Request For Status Of Foreign Investor (no explanation is given about why might want to have this status, if it is mandatory, or whether it is in addition to or instead of the External Investment Authorization).
  • E-Brochure: This is a nicely designed brochure with content similar to the Investor Guide, so it seems somewhat redundant with the Investor Guide. It covers some of the same areas. Unfortunately, some of the information provided here is not consistent with the Investor Guide. In addition the Investor Guide provides some important details that are not in the E-Brochure, and vice versa.
Overall, there is some good basic information here. However, not enough information is provided to answer the important question on the minds of most investors: which areas should I invest in and why? Finally, you would think that someone at CVI could sit down with the E-Brochure and the Investor Guide and combine them into one consistent document. It's not clear why both would be needed.

Competitive Examples of Marketing to Foreign Investors 
We earlier saw one example of best practices of government agencies in island nations using Facebook for marketing that country as a tourism destination. Now, let us look at two examples of small island nations marketing themselves to foreign investors as a good place to do business.

Invest Barbados. Barbados is an island nation slightly smaller than Cape Verde. Several features stand out on their website for foreign investors. "Why Barbados?" is one of the first things that hits your eye in the top menu and is also summarized in 10 bullets on the Home page itself. The site is well organized using the top menu bar and side-menu. There is a focus on specific industries and sectors for investment. The data presented is quite extensive and comprehensive in making the case for investing there. The section on Useful Links actually provides useful links. They also give video-taped testimonials by successful foreign investors. The site is available in 4 languages, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. I particularly like the service touch with the link called "How We Can Help You". As for my point about focus, Invest Barbados is focused on two areas, Foreign Investments and Exports. However, even though they provide extensive information in the area of Export, they go on to say that the responsibility for this area has been moved to another government agency, and the website is clearly slanted overwhelmingly to Foreign Investment.

InvesTT. This link is about investing in the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, which is about twice the size of Cape Verde. You would hardly know it is a government agency because they do not trumpet the fact. This website is also well organized with access to key information driven by a top menu. The Homepage immediately draws investors to information that is most critical - Targeted Sectors - where foreign investors might want to further investigate (they also highlight 4 specific investment opportunities in a separate section called Investment Opportunities). There is also a blog and a newsletter for those who have continued interest. And you can hear video-taped testimonials directly from happy investors.  The News section provides information about investment projects that have appeared in the media. All of this is on the Home page. The information provided about investing and starting a business in T&T is rich and extensive with considerable explanations and data provided to make the case. There is only one apparent misstep and that is the Reasons to Invest are buried two layers deep under Reasons to Relocate in the Doing Business top menu. However, this is more than compensated for by a 160 page E-Brochure called Trinidad and Tobago Investment Guide which can be accessed directly from the Home page.

From a marketing perspective, the two above examples - Invest Barbados and InvesTT - do an exceptional job selling those countries as places to invest. However, both of these fail to make use of Social Media such as Facebook to promote their services.

I will not spend any time making specific comparisons to the Cape Verde Investments website on this blog. Readers of this article can do a fine job themselves by simply viewing the websites from the perspective of a prospective foreign investor and drawing their own conclusions.

Or even better, you can check out this 2012 World Bank report which shows how countries in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean rank in terms of the World Bank's Global Investment Promotion Index.

Overall Assessment
My assessment (my opinion only) of the CVI website is as follows:
  • Marketing Approach: Not focused (3 different subject areas) and somewhat confusing for investors. The key information such as "Why Cape Verde?" is buried under layers of menus. Finally, the format in which information is presented is inconsistent and ranges from information presented in the HTML pages of the site, to clinical, poorly formatted documents, to an E-brochure.
  • Language: Use of English is good for reaching a broader audience, but several improvements could be made. For example, use of an English translator so that the sentence structure and grammar appear more professional to readers of English. There is also no reason that the site and the information could not also be published in other languages online.
  • Website Design: Poorly organized due to mixed approach of headline menus, tabs, and card-decks making the information difficult to access and making it very hard to find what you want.
  • Content for Investors: Good basic information is available, but there is a need for more robust information than what is presented.
Overall, this is not the most effective way to engage investors. The online format makes it convenient and the information presented is basic. Yet, this is a dramatic improvement over the past situation where almost nothing was available online from CVI. CVI is to be commended for the work that has been done to date.

Clearly this is a work in progress. CVI must remember that Cape Verde is competing for capital against many other alternative destinations. Fine-tuning the marketing of Cape Verde as an investment destination is one important aspect of attracting investors. Marketing professionals, web designers and Social Media experts should be engaged to improve CVI's approach to marketing Cape Verde for investments, tourism and exports. The competition is not standing still as demonstrated in the examples above. Much remains to be done just to catch up marketing-wise to other investment destinations of the same size and potential!

Please Give CVI Your Input
Feel free to use this blog as a vehicle to provide CVI with your input and comments about their approach to marketing Cape Verde to foreign investors as a good place to invest. How effective is the marketing? What is missing on the website or the Facebook page? Would you invest in Cape Verde based on the information presented? What would you like to see changed?

20 comments:

Angelo said...

Hi Jordi,

This is not how it works my friend. You can't just come on here and advertise your blogs without reciprocally advertise my blogs on your own. If you are interested in doing so, please let me know. Otherwise, I am afraid I have to censor your advertisement.

Angelo

James Rich said...

Seriously very good article for investors. Thanks for sharing. Keep posting the good stuff!!

Hernani Trigueiros said...

Hi Angelo, this is a nice and very critical article on the CVI, but fundamentally about how it sought to promove CV as an attractive for investment and investors. I must confess that I'm now curious if there was positive developments in CVI's modo of action after the publication of this very piece. Regards!

Hernâni T.

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