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Andreas Giallourakis

Spending most of his career abroad and now helping Swedish businesses enter the African markets, Market Area Director Africa at Business Sweden and BSc in Business and Economics alum Andreas Giallourakis speaks about why the African continent is such an exciting place to do business right now.

Describe your role and what it is that you do overall and on a day-to-day basis.

I’m heading up the African Market Area at Business Sweden, based out of Nairobi, Kenya and with colleagues in Johannesburg and Casablanca. My days are filled with contacts with Swedish companies that are venturing into the African markets for sales, investments and business model innovation. A lot of my time also goes to building and developing my 20+ heads strong team in the three locations. As my organization bridges the private and the public sectors, I also dedicate a lot of time to the Swedish government agencies that catalyze and support business.

 

What interested you about the field/company/role you are currently in? Have you always been interested in working internationally?

Business Sweden offers an incredible exposure to companies of all sizes in all possible different industries, and at the same time to public sector representatives from technical level up to the most senior leadership of both Sweden and the host countries. It’s the ultimate combination of business and diplomacy in a truly international organization. I didn’t hesitate a second when I was offered to join Business Sweden back in 2014 as a manager of the office we had back then in St Petersburg, Russia.

I’m turning 40 later this year and have spent 15 years working outside Sweden, so I guess I am drawn to international contexts by default. In fact, my time at SSE is the longest stretch I’ve spent in Sweden in grown up age.

 

What are the differences of working in Kenya compared to Sweden, if any?

What I find most exciting about emerging markets is that the society is changing at a jaw-dropping speed. The city landscape changes in front of your eyes. The retail chains, the restaurants, the business landscape, even the major infrastructure is developing in a pace you won’t see in mature markets like Sweden. Things sometimes appear slow on the surface, but the underlying speed of change is incredible.

 

What is exciting about business on the African continent right now? What does the future of Sweden-Africa business relations look like from your perspective?

The remarkable pace of change brings a lot of attention from startups and fast growing companies and the inflow of Venture Capital is really picking up pace. Where the traditional companies are moving in slowly and looking at the top tier segments of the markets, there is a whole range of companies experimenting with new business models to become relevant for the vast majority of the 1,5 billion strong population in Africa. The opportunity to scale in Africa is immense and the journey is only getting started.

 

How did your time/education at SSE help guide you to the career journey you have embarked on?

My biggest takeaway from the time at SSE was to be constantly surrounded by high performing individuals. It’s an environment where ideas are bubbling, where your world view is challenged, where you have to find the best arguments to support your case. I have continued looking for such environments ever since, and thrive in the interaction with brilliant people.

 

Following your time studying, do you have any words of wisdom or advice you would like to share with our current students?

Make an effort to constantly build your network and follow up with your friends, family, acquaintances and contacts as much as you possibly can. Never hesitate to be generous and share your network.

 

What are three words that sum up your time at SSE?

Fun, networking, tentastress.