Network Partner Spotlight: Conducting Investigations in Africa

In our next Partner profile, we spoke with Eva in South Africa about her approach to diligence and investigations in Africa and the growing focus on ESG.

Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash
Photograph of brightly coloured and neatly folded African wax print fabrics.

The world of investigations and intelligence is never dull, and for many of us it soon becomes clear that we’ve found our passion. In our latest network partner spotlight interview with Eva,  we learn how she joined the industry straight after graduating and never looked back. She discusses the challenges of managing investigations in Africa - particularly in light of a lack of digitised information - as well as the growing interest in ESG investigations in sub-Saharan Africa.

What is your professional background? How did you get into this industry?

I stumbled across a newspaper article advertising a, at the time, new course of studies called risk and security management. A week later I was sitting in a class room and soon realised that I found my passion. After graduating university, I joined the business intelligence industry and have been working in this field ever since. I am originally from Europe but have spent most of my career on the African continent. Someone once told me: the more you understand Africa, the more complicated it gets, and I must say, that is probably true.

All the countries are so unique but complex and it can be daunting navigating all the actual and perceived risks. However, despite its reputation, the continent actually offers amazing economic opportunities for companies which in turn can have a positive impact on the economy of the countries. Being able to share my enthusiasm and understanding for the continent with clients and enable them as well as the countries we operate in to seize opportunities and minimise risks is what I absolutely love doing.

Besides my degree in risk and security management, I have since become a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) as well as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).

How did the pandemic affect your ability to gather information?

Operating predominantly in Sub-Saharan Africa, we get a lot of our information from local network sources. Many of the jurisdictions we cover, only have very limited digital databases, so a lot of our work still has to be sourced manually. Due to the pandemic, we often struggled with delays as registries were closed due to Covid exposure and lockdown restrictions impacting our contacts to physically get to the registries or conducting site visits.

What, if any, are the biggest challenges to accessing information in your region?

The lack of digitisation in the jurisdictions we cover is certainly one of our biggest challenges. Information is not as easily accessible and registries are often not very well organised, making it challenging and time-consuming to obtain the correct information from manual records.

Do you see this improving in the short/medium term?

Many countries have started implementing digital and online databases that can be searched. However, to date they often only reflect companies that have been registered since the inception of the database or limited information of historical companies. So we are seeing an improvement but hopefully in the medium term we will also see the details of older companies being more easily accessible on databases as well.

What is on the horizon for you and your work?

In the last year, we have put some focus on ESG issues, especially human rights, and are  increasingly seeing requests from clients to include ESG components in due diligence investigations. Until now, this was more of a CSR and ethical issue but is becoming a legal compliance issue in many jurisdictions around the world. A lot of the countries we cover are particularly vulnerable to ESG non-compliance, so an increase in enquiries regarding this, will definitely be on our horizon.

How have you found working with the Ground Truth Intelligence platform?

We have worked with Ground Truth before the platform came online and it was great to see it come to life. When working in intelligence, it is important for us to understand exactly what the client needs, what the background of the enquiry is and the ultimate goal, to better meet the expectations. The platform enables us to communicate directly with the client rather than speaking to a chain of other consultants, as often the case in our industry, assists in minimising the Chinese whisper effect.

A lot of times, we also need to manage expectations or explain processes before starting a project, as obtaining information on the African continent can be vastly different to what clients from Europe and the US expect or are used to. So having a direct line can clear up misunderstandings and manage expectations, ultimately resulting in satisfied customers.

Everyone at Ground Truth loves to talk about and eat great food - we talk about it a lot! What is your favourite dish?

I don’t think I can choose one dish that is my favourite. There are so many great ones to choose from. I love trying new things, different cuisines have different elements that make them great, and it can be dependent on what season we are in, etc.  I would probably say that it is something very special to me to share good food with people I care about, so any dish shared with my family and friends is my favourite dish…

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