Navigating the international business environment

Four international members share insights on how you can support SMEs interested in doing business in their regions

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All successful international businesses engage well-networked experienced professional accountants who speak a common language, the language of business. As part of the DIT International Trade Week where ACCA supported DIT, four global members of the ACCA community shared the nuances of and opportunities for doing business with their region.

The common themes that surfaced were the benefits of engaging with highly educated English-speaking ACCA professionals, ensuring you’re prepared and in a position to take advantage of global opportunities, and the value of the familiarity of connecting with the global ACCA community.

The business landscape of Greece, Singapore, Kenya and Australia

Known for its rich history, culture and delicious food, Greece – believes Anastasia Chalkidou FCCA, accounting director and co-founder at Quantum BITS – is in a development and growth mode. It has a booming start-up ecosystem and Covid accelerated the digitalisation of government services. This all makes Greece an attractive environment for investments and entrepreneurs.

Being a former British colony, Singapore is like an Asian twin of Britain, in terms of its laws, systems and processes. In many ways, doing business in Singapore mirrors doing business in Britain. Gabriel Low FCCA – MD (Asia)/ CFO (APAC) at Theben Asia Pte Ltd – believes southeast Asia is a magnet for investments but stresses each country is different, with its own complications.

With its fast reliable internet, high ‘mobile money’ penetration, easily accessible online e-commerce industry, and membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pilot programme, many global multinational companies have chosen Kenya as their African headquarters. Robert Belle FCCA – MD Smip Consultancy – believes this makes Kenya the gateway to trade with the wider African region.

Australia has a relaxed lifestyle, consistent economic growth, stability, world-class infrastructure, strong governments, and a legal system based on British common law, as well as access to grants such as the export market development grants schemes. Southeast Asia is also easily accessible from this diverse, multicultural country.

The importance of collaborating with locals: cultural and business insights

With its Mediterranean climate, Greeks prefer casual outside face-to-face meetings and strongly value family relationships and work-life balance.

Incorporating a company in Singapore is easy and can be done online in minutes. However, every Asian country has its own borders and its own laws, and you need to be mindful that there are restrictions on foreign ownership and what can be imported. A common trap is that people skimp up front and naively set up a subsidiary in India, which activates a special valuation branch of the customs authority that has the power to examine all intercompany transactions.

Kenya has attracted significant start-up venture capital funding, and 89% of start-ups that have received external funding have some degree of foreign involvement, which shows how welcoming Kenya is to foreign investors. To incorporate a company in Kenya, foreign investors need to partner with a local. It’s also common practice that successful Kenyan businesses are connected with an accountant, a lawyer and a priest or spiritual leader.

Starting a business in Australia is relatively easy though a non-Australian citizen requires a specific work visa to start and run a business in Australia. There’s high adoption of technology amongst small to medium enterprises.

Genuine relationships underpin all successful and fulfilling long-term business partnerships. Through social connections, face-to-face meetings, and on-the-ground networking, your local ACCA professionals are well-positioned to help expand your network and build important relationships.

In their final remarks about international expansion, Anastasia Chalkidou reminds us not to short-change ourselves. Reach out and take advantage of the ACCA network. ‘Start off right. Reduce the time and resources needed. Partner with a commercially oriented accountant or an accounting firm to get the foundations correct.’

Gabriel Low believes ACCA accountants play a pivotal role ‘not just in numbers, but in nonfinancial data as well, connecting you to the market and getting your footing right. If there's something I don't know, I can easily reach out to my ACCA contacts to ask about the differences.’

Robert Belle emphasises that as accountants, we’re able to provide information that relates to the whole of the business environment, how to reach the right people, and to the cultural characteristics of the business environment. ‘It's important to highlight the role accountants play in planning the next steps of creating sustainable businesses and assisting people in reaching informed decisions.’

One of the best things about the ACCA community is that there are members in virtually every country, and they strive to assist and support each other in their professional capacity. They are your secret weapon and can help position you to take advantage of international opportunities. Do take time to listen to the discussion and ideas.

Our Find an accountant directory is a great way to find firms you may wish to work with.