With the passion for entrepreneurship and realizing the power it holds, Sibusiso Xaba, Co-founder and CEO of Africa Cannabis Advisory Group, is aiming to change Africa’s social and economic reality. Sibusiso grew up in rural Eswatini, a small land-locked country in Southern Africa. He witnessed how his family survived through entrepreneurship. He states, “We were farmers and sold produce to the surrounding communities. This appreciation regarding the power of entrepreneurship was entrenched in me from a young age.” In search of a better life, Sibusiso’s family moved back to South Africa after apartheid ended. He saw first-hand how entrepreneurship was building a young democracy with immense potential.
Behind the scenes
Sibusiso began his career working as an investment banker in London at Goldman Sachs, focused on covering African clients, including governments, central banks, financial institutions, and corporates. He was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to move to London right after university in South Africa.
He adds, “This opportunity to work and learn in a global, competitive, and high-pressure environment taught me a range of skills related to global commerce, investments, policy and risk management which has been invaluable on my entrepreneurial journey.”
After spending over eight years working in investment banking in London, he stumbled across the cannabis industry whilst researching agricultural businesses in India.
Initially, he was skeptical about the industry as he was not a user himself. However, after months of thorough research, he had a strong conviction that cannabis had the potential to transform multiple industries across the world and Africa. He expresses, “That was enough to make the decision to leave corporate and pursue an entrepreneurial journey specializing in the cannabis industry.”
Hurdles along the way
COVID lockdown disrupted everything around the world. Sibusiso and his team also faced a lot of hurdles as they experienced a decline in client activity across Africa for several months.
To overcome this, he adds, “We had to quickly analyze what the short and medium-term impact of Covid-19 was, and recalibrate our client strategy to remain relevant and supportive of current and future clients as they navigated through an exceptionally challenging period.”
They created an engagement model that was more agile in order to ensure their survival as a business and, more importantly, continue to support their clients through an unpredictable and volatile period.
Reshaping the industry with Africa Cannabis Advisory Group
ACA Group is a services provider specialized in the cannabis and industrial hemp industries. He states, “We work with a broad range of stakeholders including governments, corporates, financial institutions, communities and entrepreneurs to assist in the commercialization of their cannabis operations. In particular, we focus on strategy consulting, capital raising, investments, technology solutions, and product sales and distribution.”
He further adds, “We have also recently entered into a strategic partnership with Global Go, a US-based consulting firm specializing in the cannabis industry. Due to the global nature of the cannabis industry, this partnership will be invaluable as we look to facilitate the movement of capital, knowledge, products, and ideas between the North American market and Africa.”
Sibusiso expresses that the team has been privileged to work with some of the leading cannabis businesses in Africa, supporting their commercialization efforts, including raising capital, product distribution, strategy, and brand development.
With time, the cannabis industry has evolved a lot. The industry seems to be rewarding long-term, patient, agile and capital-efficient models.
He states, “It isn’t always obvious with some much news flow in the industry, it’s difficult to assess what businesses are on a good, long term trajectory and which are more short-term results oriented. Over time, it’s becoming quite clear that operators that are focused on the long term are beginning to emerge as the pioneers of the industry.”
The cannabis services industry has a complex, competitive nature. The industry remains fragmented, with very few firms being able to offer comprehensive support to the young and evolving industry.
He expresses, “We aim to differentiate ourselves by focusing on a comprehensive range of services that we see as addressing pain points for operators in the cannabis industry. Our range of services are much broader, and due to our decision to solely focus on cannabis, we tend to offer in-depth, quality services that address many of the key challenges in commercializing a cannabis business.”
Life as the Co-Founder and CEO of the company
Taking the onus of the CEO role in the company, his major focus is on building the company in a way that ensures its relevance in shaping the cannabis industry in Africa. This includes managing the company’s product offering, partnerships, client engagements, technology integration, and capital needs.
He expresses, “Our employees and partners are motivated by our vision. By continuously referring to this, our team is motivated to make an impact by doing everything we can to ensure our clients succeed. When we see jobs being created, funds being raised, products being developed, and goods being exported internationally, we see the tangible impact of our daily commitment towards our mission. This is the best source of motivation for anyone.”
Sibusiso works very hard to fuel the growth of the company. He burns the midnight oil to expand the horizons. At the current stage of the company, he has to indulge a lot of time in managing different aspects to pave the way to the top.
He states, “At present, my personal and professional life is one and the same thing. I spend almost every waking minute of the day focused on building ACA. Prayer, meditation and exercise help keep my mental health in check. I think as the business grows and matures; I’ll be in a position to live a more balanced life.”
Future roadmap for the company
Sibusiso and his team have the vision to see every one of their clients establish cannabis operations that can stand the test of time in an increasingly competitive and global landscape. As they succeed, the social and economic dividend will have a material impact on communities across the continent.
Regarding the future prospects, he states, “The major development for ACA Group is our recently established strategic alliance with Global Go. Alongside Global Go, ACA will be in a strong position to expand its coverage to other regions across the world including South America, Australia, Israel and Europe. ACA will also be concluding a capital raise in the next few months to support the expansion of the business both organically and through select investments.”