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US-Africa Leaders Summit: Africapitalism at Full Speed
August 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

f04da2db11221557d15f1aAfter repeated calls to make Africa a priority, many hoped that the 2014 US-Africa Leaders Summit would bring the United States and the African continent together in an unprecedented partnership.

Indeed, the summit turned the page on a post-cold war type of diplomacy which had been dominated by derogative aid and a paternalistic approach. The summit helped to usher the two continents toward stronger economic cooperation and also created a platform fora win-win, mutually beneficial partnership aimed at reducing security threats.

The official agenda was focused on security, democracy and governance. However, for the first time, a trade and investment- focused theme dominated the week, with more than 60 ancillary events featuring African leaders who shared information on business opportunities in their respective countries.

As a result of these conversations, US President Barack Obama announced a $26 billion commitment to power development on the African continent to provide electricity to more than 60,000 Africans and entrepreneurs and to lay the foundation for an African economic boom. A total of $33 billion was pledged and $14 billion worth of private deals were created during the summit.

These investments are a far cry from China’s $200 billion investment in the African continent in 2013 which is more than double that of the United States. In fact, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that Africa presents enough opportunities to be seized by all players. China and the US have two different approaches to investing in Africa but they are complementary. Still, Africa’s bright future will not depend on the amount of investments made; it will depend on which investments have the ability to create jobs on the continent and secure long-term development.

African leaders came to Washington accompanied by more than 200 African executives. Mutually beneficial partnerships are now the new models of engagement such as the partnership between Dangote Industries, asset management firm Blackstoneand Black and Black Rhino, an African infrastructure development company, with a $5 billion investment in infrastructure development. Another partnership includes Heirs Holding, Symbion and General Electric. It’s a venture that contributed to tripling the power capability in Nigeria from 150 megawatts to 453 megawatts in just six months. These success stories were made possible by the strong implementation of local content laws in Nigeria which allows their private sector to grow and due to improved power and investment regulations.

Leaders called for the creation of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, in order to address the US employment challenge and Africa’s security threat posed by 54 million new jobs that need to be created in Africa by 2020. This can be duplicated in all sectors. This is Africapitalism at full speed.

Nevertheless, Africa’s future still depends on Africans, not on China, the European Union or even the United States. While speaking at the Believe in Africa Day High-Level Dialogue organized by African diaspora leaders, President of the African Development Bank M. Donald Kaberuka said: “A country that relies on others to finance development is ordained to fail.”

President Barack Obama greets leaders from Africa during a summit this week in Washington.

President Barack Obama greets leaders from Africa during a summit this week in Washington.

African leaders had expected to participate in the usual bilateral talks that they have attended summits held in France, the European Union and China. However, the lack of such talks did not undermine the outcome of the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Their participation in the summit sent a clear message to the rest of the world that Africa is ready to enter the big leagues and that the US summit was not just held to compete with the ones held by the Chinese or French.It is rather a loud proclamation of the strategic and economic importance the continent holds as stated in a resolution introduced by US Representative Gregory Meeks in the US Congress.

Nonetheless, the US still needs to contend with China, Europe and other emerging economies, including India and Turkey. The increase of positive south-south relations has already altered the traditional regional landscape.We are entering a new era for US-Africa relations. President Obama deserves an accolade for igniting the spark for these new relations. It is our hope that other summits will take place, and hopefully the next time it will be on African soil.

* Souce US-China Daily

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Walmart Sets Its Sights on Africa—With Uncle Sam's Help
August 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bill Clinton shakes hands with US and African business leaders at the African Business Forum in Washington, DC. Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, is on the far right. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Bill Clinton shakes hands with US and African business leaders at the African Business Forum in Washington, DC. Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, is on the far right. Jacquelyn Martin/AP[/caption] On Tuesday, the second day of this week’s three-day US-Africa Leaders Summit, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon shared the main stage with the CEOs of General Electric and Dow Chemical. Sitting on a panel moderated by Bill Clinton, he talked about how his company was working with farmers to grow food to sell in its stores, and even export back to the United States and United Kingdom. “As we look at what we’re trying to do in Africa, we are simply trying to provide customers access to fresh produce and other items at a great value,” McMillon said. “To do that, we got to have a great supply chain.” Yet Walmart isn’t building that supply chain alone—it’s getting a boost from the US government. At the close of the summit—which saw more than 50 African heads of state and government and 100-plus US and African businesses (and more than a few of their lobbyists) pack into a Washington, DC, hotel to plan the future of US-Africa relations—Walmart vice president Maggie Sans announced that the company and its foundation had pledged $3 million to train 135,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Zambia, including 80,000 women. The funds will expand existing projects organized by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the consultancy Agribusiness Systems International, and the nonprofit organizations Global Communities and the One Acre Fund to develop farm-to-market supply chains. Under the program, Kenyan farmers can expect to see their incomes double in a single growing season, Sans said. Walmart and USAID have worked together before. Beginning in 2007, the agency partnered with Walmart, TransFair (an independent certifier of fair-trade imports), and SEBRAE (a Brazilian nonprofit) to train 5,000 farmers in Brazil to improve the quality of their coffee crop to sell at Walmart stores. In 2011, USAIDjoined with a Guatemalan nonprofit and Walmart’s Mexican and Central American arm to connect farmers benefiting from a USAID program to boost production to the company’s supply chain. The agency helped train small farmers in Honduras and Guatemala to grow potatoes and onions that fit Walmart’s specifications, and Walmart provided a place to sell them. Produce is the central component of Walmart’s expansion into Africa, which began in 2011, when Walmart bought a majority share of the South African-based Massmart chain for $2.4 billion. At the time, Massmart had almost 300 stores in 14 African countries, according to Bloomberg. By August 2013, Massmart had almost 360 African stores, and Walmart announced plans to build 90 more, with a “focus on fresh food,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Three weeks later, Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, and USAID signed a memorandum of understanding with the aim of forming a voluntary partnership between the parties, focusing on climate change, farmer training, and agriculture, among other priorities. USAID administrator Rajiv Shah acknowledged in a 2012 interview with Foreign Policy that working with Walmart was necessary, even if the choice wasn’t universally embraced. “Over the last several decades, it’s been controversial to have companies like Walmart in the development solution,” he said. “I think it is the kind of long-term development program that is needed to succeed at scale over time.” [caption id="attachment_10940" align="alignright" width="300"]A Marko store in Johannesburg, South Africa, part of the Massmart brand, which was purchased by Walmart in 2011 Themba Hadebe/AP A Marko store in Johannesburg, South Africa, part of the Massmart brand, which was purchased by Walmart in 2011 Themba Hadebe/AP[/caption] Shah went further at a speech at the University of Arkansas, shortly after signing the memorandum at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville: “We want to bring Walmart’s core capabilities in philanthropy and business to every part of the world to transform the face of hunger and poverty,” he said. “To end poverty, childhood deaths, and hunger, we need to bring together businesses with supply chains for partnership to reach the farthest corners of the globe.” While supermarket chains in Africa may benefit the farmers who supply them, not everyone is convinced that expanding their customer base will end hunger. In 2013, World Bank researchers found that the richest fifth of the population of Zambia accounted for two-thirds of all the country’s supermarket sales; the bottom 60 percent accounted for only 12 percent. A year earlier, geographers Bill Moseley, Stephen Peyton, and Jane Battersby compiled a database of supermarkets and population distribution in the Cape Town, South Africa, area that showed that supermarket density was 16 times higher in upper-middle-income neighborhoods than in the poorest areas. Despite the disparity, poor and urban residents interviewed for the study said they preferred to shop at supermarkets when they could since they stocked higher-quality food. The problem was that the poorest customers had irregular incomes and often lacked refrigerators at home, meaning they could only purchase food in small quantities, which is easier at local shops than at supermarkets selling bulk and packaged goods. “Supermarket expansion is neither a solution to, nor a curse on, hunger alleviation efforts in urban South Africa and the region more broadly,” the researchers wrote in an Al Jazeera op-ed. “This market-oriented solution to improving urban food access is inherently limited because it just cannot meet the needs of the poorest of the poor.” Whoever its future customers will be in Africa, Walmart says it’s ready to meet them. “Everywhere we operate, we find our customers have so much in common,” McMillon said. “Our customers in Africa want to spend less on everyday needs so they can provide more for their families. We want to help.” *Source motherjones]]>

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Kenya downplays security risks as it courts U.S. investment
August 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

EDITH HONAN* [caption id="attachment_10911" align="alignleft" width="300"]Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta listens to opening remarks at the start of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Session One on 'Investing in Africa's Future', at the U.S. State Department in Washington August 6, 2014. Also pictured is Guinea-Bissau's President Jose Mario Vaz (R). CREDIT: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST L Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta listens to opening remarks at the start of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Session One on ‘Investing in Africa’s Future’, at the U.S. State Department in Washington August 6, 2014. Also pictured is Guinea-Bissau’s President Jose Mario Vaz (R).
CREDIT: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST L[/caption] Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, in Washington this week to court Western investors, has sought to downplay a spate of violent attacks tied to militants in neighboring Somalia and their impact on Kenya’s economy. “Yes, we may have pockets where we have problems – which we know and are focused on how to address. But the rest of the country is actually trouble-free,” Kenyatta told Reuters in an interview on Thursday from a hotel overlooking the White House. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founder who was elected last March to lead East Africa’s biggest economy, has been touting the country as a resource-rich hub of innovation, talking up the benefits of East African integration and detailing vast plans to improve the country’s shaky infrastructure. But he has also been plagued by questions about security. Last September, Somali-linked Islamist militants attacked Nairobi’s Westgate mall and left at least 67 people dead. This summer has seen a spate of killings, mostly along Kenya’s coast, prompting several Western nations to warn their citizens against travel to parts of Kenya. In June, after two attacks left 65 people dead on the coast, Kenyatta dismissed claims of responsibility by the al Shabaab militant group, instead pointing the finger at rivals he described as “hate-mongers,” though he did not name anybody. “Look, we know that al Shabaab played a part,” Kenyatta said on Thursday. But he again suggested that “local networks” in Kenya were also involved in an effort “to help achieve a petty political agenda.” Al Shabaab has said its attacks are intended to punish Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to confront its Islamist fighters. Kenyatta has repeatedly said he had no intention of removing Kenyan troops from Somalia, saying that would only be done when Kenya’s neighbor to the north, which has been without a functioning government for more than two decades, is stable and can secure its borders. Kenyatta has mostly kept a low-key profile at this week’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a three-day summit meant to showcase U.S. interest in improving trade and investment on the continent. But he said he believed the gathering had helped make American businesses aware of opportunities in Africa. Although Kenyatta said he hoped to attract investors in the power, resource extraction and technology sectors, he said Kenya was meanwhile working to make the country more hospitable to business, in part by making it easier to move goods. Asked to name his top three infrastructure priorities, Kenyatta said he aimed to double the country’s road network, expand its rail sector and complete a second container terminal at the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa – the biggest in east Africa and the region’s trade gateway. Kenyatta added he would like to see completion of a second port in Lamu, north of Mombasa – part of a $25.5 billion regional infrastructure project aiming to link landlocked east African nations to the sea – as well as a new passenger airline terminal in Nairobi. “It may not be complete within five years,” Kenyatta said of the five projects, “but if Kenyans give me an opportunity for a second term they should be complete by the end of my second term.” *Source Reuters ]]>

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Africa offers US firms a compelling trade and investment opportunity – Standard Bank
August 4, 2014 | 1 Comments

Mr Sim Tshabalala, Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank by assets and market valuation Mr Sim Tshabalala, Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank by assets and market valuation[/caption] Africa offers US multinationals a compelling trade and investment opportunity thanks to the rapid economic growth rates being experienced across the continent along with burgeoning population growth and increasing urbanisation, according to Standard Bank Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has exceeded 5% a year for more than a decade now giving the continent a 4.1% share of global gross domestic product (GDP), up from 3.4% in 2000. By 2050 one in four of the world’s population will reside in Africa with at least 60% of the continent’s people living in urban centres. “Trade with African economies and investment in Africa offer big rewards but it requires sound local knowledge, strong local partnerships, and a long term view,” said Mr Sim Tshabalala, Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank by assets and market valuation. “In that sense the US plan to revitalise its commercial and trade links with Africa couldn’t come at a more opportune time.” The renewed US interest in Africa is embodied by President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative which was launched last year and aims to double access to power in six partner countries in sub Saharan Africa: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania. The US government has committed more than $7 billion in financial support and loan guarantees to the project over the next five years. That commitment has been doubled by the almost 30 private sector partners who have pledged $14.7 billion in project finance through direct loans, guarantee facilities, and equity investments for Power Africa. Nevertheless, the US still has some catching up to do. While the US is a major investor in Africa – particularly in information technology, manufacturing, resources, power, and financial services – trade flows have advanced on a much gentler trajectory. Although US-Africa trade doubled from about $50bn in the early 2000s to $110bn in 2013 it still lags China whose trade with Africa exceeded $200 billion last year. Yet it is precisely China’s emergence as Africa’s largest trading partner which underscores the potential value on the continent for US firms. Foreign direct investment into Africa has increased dramatically in the last decade and a half, and continues to grow. In 2013, FDI to Africa increased by 9.6% to an estimated $56.6 billion, representing 5.7% of global FDI.  FDI is forecast to exceed $60 billion in 2014.  Total foreign inflows to the continent reached $186 billion in 2013, and are expected to top $200 billion in 2014. Emerging economies – and the BRICS in particular – are seizing the African opportunity. In 1992 China, India and Brazil accounted for just 3% of Africa’s global trade compared to 25% today. A wide range of firms from India, Brazil and South Africa are also expanding quickly in Africa, often with strong support from their governments. Yet, while the US may be arriving late to this party, the world’s biggest economy still offers unrivalled commercial and industrial excellence in many key fields. The vibrancy of US multinationals, with their proven track records, industrial processes, established retail networks and brands, are of immense attraction to the ongoing consumer revolution taking place across Africa. US firms are also increasingly interested in the commercial opportunities in Africa. Major private equity firms, including the Carlyle Group, have launched Africa-focused funds valued in the hundreds of millions. Leading US technology companies are investing in new ventures and start-ups across the continent.  IBM has invested at least $100 million, with new Innovation Centres in Lagos and Casablanca.  Microsoft and Intel Capital are embarking on partnerships with African tech companies, and Google is working on delivering broadband to remote communities. “Africa has come a very long way from its era of aid-dependence,” said Mr Tshabalala. “The rapidly emerging middle class in Africa is driving large-scale diversification of Africa’s economies which offers immense opportunities for companies willing to invest.” In Nigeria the middle class has swelled by 600% since 2000.  Today, Nigeria is home to 4.1 million middle-class households, containing 11% of the total population.  Other economies doing particularly well on this measure include Angola, where 21% of households are considered middle class followed by Sudan (14%) and Zambia (10%). The number of mobile phone users in Africa has multiplied 33 times since 2000 and in the next five years it is likely that almost every adult African will have a mobile phone. Over 50% of urban Africans are already online, a figure that is likely to grow rapidly over the next decade. “While there is still a lot to be done the overall direction that Africa is moving in is overwhelmingly positive,” said Mr Tshabalala. “US companies can do very well in Africa provided they put in the effort to understand the continent’s markets in detail, rather than looking at the continent as a single, homogenous entity.”]]>

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PayPal's Nigeria launch sees great uptake
July 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chijioke Ohuocha* paypalreutersPayPal has signed up “tens of thousand” of Nigerians in its first week of operating in Africa’s biggest economy, with consumers already purchasing items from Britain, China and the United States via its online platform. E-commerce remains in its infancy in most of Africa but is growing exponentially with the advent of online retailers such as Jumia, partly owned by South African phone operator MTN, and a growing middle class with money to spend. Citizens of Africa’s most populous nation could not buy goods directly from foreign merchants before the launch by PayPal, the payments unit of online auctioneer eBay Inc. “We have seen great uptake by Nigerians … in terms of coverage,” Malvina Goldfeld, PayPal’s head of business development for sub-Saharan Africa, said in Lagos on Tuesday. PayPal entered Nigeria and 10 other nations last month, providing online payment alternatives for consumers via mobile phones or PCs in markets often blighted by financial fraud. The new markets bring the number of countries PayPal serves to 203. Goldfeld said that Paypal secured a few deals with electronics suppliers in China and Dubai ahead of its launch and that it had partnered with Nigerian lender First Bank, which has more than 10.5 million customers. Electronics, fashion and security PayPal launched its platform in South Africa four years ago, Kenya last year and now Nigeria, Goldfeld said, giving the company access to shoppers across 40 sub-saharan African countries. Goldfeld said the biggest interest has been in products from the United States, Britain and China, adding: “People are buying everything … (but) there’s definitely a concentration in electronics and fashion.” Online retailer Jumia told Reuters in April it had 100,000 Nigerian customer accounts and sales were increasing by 15 percent a month. However, worries over internet security and online fraud have held back e-commerce growth in Nigeria, where 63 million people have active internet data subscriptions but only 1 percent of them make online transactions, First Bank said. The bank also noted that online purchases are expected to reach $1 billion this year. Though challenges remain – including abysmal infrastructure, port delays, other supply chain woes and the task of persuading shoppers to trust websites with their bank details – Goldfeld says PayPal’s reach will help to speed improvements. “A lot of the merchants that we work with … already ship to Nigeria. I think that the growth of e-commerce will push the logistics customers to up their game,” she said. *Source Reuters/theafricareport]]>

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July 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

bayo-ogunlesiA Nigerian, Adebayo Ogunlesi,  has acquired the London Gatwick Airport as the new owner. The Gatwick deal is a £1.455 billion agreement with BAA Airports Limited. Adebayo Ogunlesi, 56, is the chairman and managing partner, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), an independent investment fund based in New York City with worldwide stake in infrastructure assets,is  the new owner of the London Gatwick Airport.  Ogunlesi attended the prestigious King’s College, Lagos. He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association. He was a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Yale School. Ogunlesi, whose father was the first Nigerian-born medical professor, studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford and then earned law and business degrees from Harvard.  Ogunlesi has lived in New York for 20 years and is active in volunteer work. But he also cultivates his ties to Africa. He informally advises the Nigerian government on privatisation. And last summer Manute Bol, former NBA center, visited Ogunlesi in his Park Avenue office, seeking donations for a charitable foundation in former basketball star Manute Bol’s homeland, Sudan. Ogunlesi walked Bol around the hallways, introducing him to junior staff. It was just another day in the Bayosphere. Prior to his current role, he was executive vice chairman and chief client officer of Credit Suisse, based in New York. He previously served as a member of Credit Suisse’s Executive Board and Management Council and chaired the Chairman’s Board. Previously, he was the Global Head of Investment Banking at Credit Suisse. Since joining Credit Suisse in 1983, Ogunlesi has advised clients on strategic transactions and financings in a broad range of industries and has worked on transactions in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.   In the US, he is known as the Nigerian who clerked for late Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, who they say was unable to pronounce his name and quickly dubbed him Obeedoogee. Colleagues and friends call him Bayo. *africancelebs]]>

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Electrify Africa, Energize Africa and Power Africa: Partnering With Africa for the Long Run
July 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Tony O. Elumelu*

downloadMonday, 30 June, was the first year anniversary of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, the president’s signature initiative for the continent which seeks to expand electricity to address poverty alleviation and economic growth.

The shortage of energy in Africa obstructs progress in healthcare, education, food security, and all forms of industrial and commercial activity, impeding Africa’s economic development. By elevating the issue of energy poverty and launching a coordinated, strategic approach to tackling it, the US government has galvanized companies in-country and around the world to see the African power sector as a viable investment opportunity, and has brought private sector leadership and solutions to address Africa’s development needs. Already, Power Africa has succeeded in facilitating deals that will deliver nearly 3,000 megawatts of additional power in participating countries. Furthermore, its very existence has encouraged other African nations to initiate reforms within their power sectors, in anticipation of future opportunities to participate in power deals and partnerships.

To ensure continued momentum and expanded reach, legislation is needed to codify the expansion of access-to-electricity in Africa as a long-term development and foreign policy priority of the US government. In addition to the ‘Power Six,’ there are dozens more African countries eager to partner with the US to bring electricity to their citizens.

While there is much progress to celebrate, several challenges still exist. Insufficient infrastructure for power distribution not only threatens to waste valuable megawatts and slow the initiative’s progress, it endangers the existing power generation infrastructure.  Furthermore, inadequate national regulatory frameworks constrain the operations of producers utilizing gas for power. Between these two issues, the benefits of our collective cooperation cannot be fully translated to increased power access.

The Electrify Africa Act passed the U.S House of Representatives on May 8 with broad bipartisan support and the Energize Africa Act was reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 24. If Power Africa is enhanced and expanded through legislation, it can pay economic dividends to both the US and Africa, while delivering substantial development gains on the continent. One such gain would be a significant reduction in the operating costs of businesses. This legislation, along with the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), will help lay the foundations for a new US-Africa relationship; one based not on humanitarian assistance, but on partnership for mutual economic benefit – and one that allows entrepreneurship to be the engine of social development.

imagesIt is the hope of many of us in the African private sector, and those of us who have made commitments to support the ambitions of Power Africa, that Congress reconciles the bills before the August recess and passes legislation that gives US agencies the flexibility to partner with African countries to develop their own energy resource priorities.

This would enable President Obama to sign the law in the presence of the more than 40 African Heads of State who will convene at the White House for the African Heads of State Summit on 6 August. Such a historic event would be remembered as the moment when the White House, Congress, African leadership and the private sector stood together to initiate a new kind of partnership, one that seals our collective commitment to bring electricity and opportunity to 589 million African citizens who deserve a brighter future.

*Tony O. Elumelu is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and chairman of Heirs Holdings Limited, a pan-African proprietary investment company with interests in strategic sectors of Africa’s economy. Elumelu is also the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded philanthropic organization dedicated to the promotion of entrepreneurship on the continent. 

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#AFRICA – Inside the Continent’s New $14bn Social Media Industry
June 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

images (3)A decade ago, most Africans would never have thought that an individual could bring a corporation to its knees in just 140 characters. But in June 2012, Japheth Omojuwa, an economist by training who has become a prominent Nigerian political advocate and social media personality, went to battle over an iPad lost on a flight with Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest indigenous airline. Omojuwa won. Like David fighting Goliath, he used a simple and underestimated tool – launching the “#ArikWhereIsMyIpad” trend from oneof his social media platforms – a Twitter account with over 100,000 followers. Other Arik Air passengers sympathetic to his plight used the same hashtag (#) to narrate their own experiences losing valuables onboard Arik Air flights. The resulting social media campaign damaged the airline’s reputation and ultimately led the company to suspend its Twitter account. “It eventually became popular offline but it was because it became such a dominant campaign on social media,” said Omojuwa of his efforts. Social media – a set of internet-based applications and websites that allow users to communicate directly with friends and strangers alike – are increasingly changing the way business is conducted in Africa. Social media is modifying the way businesses relate to each other and their customers in areas from customer relations to entrepreneurship, content development and marketing. Their impact on the African economic resurgence narrative has been nothing short of exponential. “Lions go digital: The Internet’s transformative potential in Africa,” a 2013 report by McKinsey & Company, places the continent’s iGDP – or internet contribution to GDP – at $18 billion. According to the 2014 “Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology” report by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, approximately 78 percent of internet usage in Africa is for social media. This lays the foundation for Africa’s estimated $14-billion social media industry. With the internet expected to contribute a minimum of $300 billion to Africa’s GDP by 2025, social media could contribute almost $230 billion to Africa’s remarkable growth by that time. The internet has witnessed a sustained increase in adoption rates in Africa, with penetration currently pegged at 16 percent and more than 167 million active users across the continent. “Broadband capacity has probably quadrupled, in the last five years,” said Obi Asika, founder of Dragon Africa, and CEO of Storm 360, a Nigerian entertainment company. He attributed most of the increase in internet access to an influx of new and better mobile technologies. “Mobile internet access is now really what’s the key driver,” he said. But Asika considers the inflection point for the adoption of social media in Africa difficult to pinpoint. “You have to go back to Nairaland, back to the early chat rooms,” he said, naming a Reddit-like online community founded by Nigerian Seun Osewa in 2005. For a continent that has experienced its fair share of censorship and surveillance during long periods of rule by dictatorships and military regimes, social media is a refreshing and important tool. Said Tolu Ogunlesi, a renowned Nigerian political commentator and journalist with over 61,000 followers on Twitter: “In the early 90s, the government took control of almost everything, but now social media has changed everything. People have been able to speak up and pursue causes against governments.”   #Reshaping Engagements That social media has become a powerful tool for political and social causes became obvious in Egypt and Tunisia during the Arab Spring and during the 2012 Occupy Nigeria protests. But African businesses and brands have also taken note of the communicative power and increased reach social media can give them. “I think social media is simply new forms of engagement by individuals and brands and organisations creating and utilising technology to create new platforms for engagement and to share,” explained Asika. Michelle Atagana, the editor of Memeburn, one of South Africa’s leading tech blogs, believes that social media in Africa grew in influence alongside blogging. “For Africans, in terms of getting online, I would say maybe in early 2004 and 2006, that was the emergence of blogging,” she said. “If you want a magic period, I’ll say 2008 to 2009.” Jumia is the leading e-commerce business in Africa, with operations in Nigeria (Africa’s largest economy), Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, and Cote d’Ivoire. Social media networks generate 20 percent of Jumia’s daily traffic. “Because e-commerce was a new idea, we needed a platform that would spread the word quickly, where people would hear and learn about it quickly, so we used social media to do that,” Opeyemi Adetomiwa, one of the online retailer’s social media representatives, explained. “At the beginning, people did not really know about e-commerce but through social media, we were able to increase traffic and awareness about the brand, thereby increasing sales too.” Other e-commerce start-ups such as Konga and Kaymu have also used the strategy. Despite Africa’s relatively low internet penetration, these online operators are now competing with brick-and-mortar retailers. Even financial institutions such as First National Bank (FNB) – one of South Africa’s largest banks – and Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank are also rolling out technology- driven services on social media. Guaranty Trust Bank, arguably one of the best-known brands in Africa and one of Nigeria’s larger banks, has leveraged social media networks to reach out to potential customers. In 2013, the bank launched its social banking platform, which enables access to services like opening and managing an account via Facebook. In the same vein, South Africa’s FNB has exploited the widespread usage of Mxit, a South-Africa-based instant messaging network with over seven million active users. The bank partnered with Mxit to push FNB Moola+, a fusion of its eWallet solution and Mxit’s mobile-money offering, to South Africans. In the world of traditional retail, South African firm, Urban Hilton Weiner, created one of the world’s top social media campaigns of 2013. The retailer gave visitors to their store a $10 coupon if they tweeted a selfie of themselves trying on clothes and used the hashtag #urbanselfie. The campaign helped the retailer get more people into its stores and increased visibility for its merchandise across social media platforms. The massive consumer response and reaction to social media campaigns has made organisations more careful about using these media to efficiently manage their brands. “It is creating a new wave of change in the advertising industry,” said Abasiama Idaresit, managing director and founder of Wild Fusion, a digital agency with operations in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. In marketing, active engagement via social media channels is winning out over static, unidirectional advertising. “Social media is a technology-driven platform that enables two-way interactions between two people. It could be between one person and another, and it could be between a brand and a group of people,” he said. Abasiama noted that the web used to be a one-way channel where content producers put things out there for the consumers without getting feedback on the quality and timeliness of the content, though times have since changed. “The user now has a voice. The consumer has a voice, and they can talk back to the people talking to them. That’s the very essence of social media; being able to connect, interact and being able to have that two-way communication with people,” he added. Allan Kamau, an associate director in the Kenya office of Portland Communications, a global consulting firm specializing in brand and image management, agrees that companies now see social media as an important channel for communicating with customers. “Consumers are also using the social media as a way of finding out more information about brands. For example, here in Kenya, the power goes out – I’m sure the same thing happens in Lagos – [and] everybody jumps onto Twitter to complain. It is a direct way of speaking to companies, finding out more about brands, but also for companies to communicate with their customers,” he said. “It is becoming a mainstream way for corporations to talk to consumers but also for them to listen in to conversations so that they know what consumers are thinking about and what some of the concerns they have around different brand issues are.” Customers often use social media to express loyalty to their favourite brands and distaste for their least-liked ones. Indeed, many social media users will only follow brands they love or that they want to criticise. Brand experiences are shared on social networks, with 41 percent of those who do so admitting they hope to receive discounts in exchange, according to Nielsen’s 2012 “State of the Media: Social Media Report”. The report also noted that 25 percent of social media users take to social networks to punish companies for poor services. Negative comments can have a more damaging impact than brands realise. While positive news can spread quickly across social networks, increasing a company’s recognition and presence, negative talk can spread 10 times faster. “Customers are talking about you online, whether you like it or not,” said Adi Bittan, co-founder and CEO of, a firm that manages customer-brand relationships. Listening to what these customers say can help businesses avoid blowback from unsatisfied patrons in the future. “If no one is listening or acknowledging customer posts, customers assume you don’t care,” Bittan said. Jumia’s Adetomiwa shares this sentiment: “Social media forces service excellence among corporate bodies and drives innovation. It helps corporate entities to be creative about their product and that way creates customised products for the customers.”   #Content, Jobs, Cash The abundance of social media platforms and their round-the-clock nature has also forced businesses to constantly push out content to their consumers. In return, content has proven to be one of the major drivers of growth for businesses that use social media. “If you have something of value to add to a market, to an industry or to consumers and you share that value with people, you can become very influential with people,” said Mike Saunders, CEO of South African digital marketing company, Digitlab. Stressing the importance of content in Africa, Saunders added: “If content is king, then mobile is your messenger and mobile is the way by which the content gets into the hands of people.” Asika agrees, asking: “If you build all the networks and platforms in the world, what are you going to put on them?” The quest for content creators and managers to help companies navigate this new environment has given rise to a fresh breed of entrepreneurs and corporate employees whose job is to enhance the brand image of companies on social media. Large corporates and small startups are all investing in social media executives who combine an understanding of content creation and cultural trends with a knowledge of ever-advancing technology. In South Africa, a social media executive can expect a salary of around $16,000 a year – almost 40 percent higher than the country’s average per capita income. In Nigeria the figures are similar. Social media is not just creating jobs; it is also making it easier for job seekers to find positions through online networks. Before the introduction of LinkedIn, job-service networks were largely limited to basic recruitment services. Ken Okolo of the African recruitment firm Regus notes that the sector is now facing an evolution sparked by social media. “Even speaking at NigeriaCom last year, which is a big telecom conference globally – how was I invited to be a speaker? Someone checked my profile on LinkedIn from England and gave me a call,” he recounts. “I have no clue who this person is, but they are calling me for a conference that [they] would hold in Nigeria, that was organized from England.” But the real winners of the future are likely to be the social media entrepreneurs who have managed to turn their profiles and platforms into money-making machines. Nigerian model, blogger and social media personality Linda Ikeji said in a 2012 radio interview for The Beat FM that she charges $3,800 for a monthly banner advertisement on her blog. To have an advertisement as a background on the blog costs $9,100 per month. Her blog’s 1.56 million monthly visitors are an attractive target for multiple brands. Furthermore, Ikeji actively engages over 300,000 followers on Twitter, a platform that only helps to increase her sway with businesses looking to advertise. Google’s video-sharing site, YouTube, has a monetisation scheme that has also birthed a new group of entrepreneurs. “nktvkenya” the YouTube channel of Kenya’s publically traded Nation Media Group, has the highest number of views of any You-Tube channel in Kenya, according to Social Blade, a website that monitors YouTube activity. As of Monday, 31 March 2014, ntvkenya had over 155 million views, raking in $15,300 to $127,100 in annual earnings. On that same day, South Africa’s deedlebag had over 145 million views, with estimated earnings of $8,300 to $68,800. Egypt’s Melody Music makes between $127,700 and $1.1 million annually from its “MelodyTvgroup” YouTube channel, with over 650 million views. The company’s second channel boasts over 597 million views and makes between $726,600 and $6.1 million for the company. For the new entrepreneurs, the kind of content they produce and distribute matters greatly. As an increasing number of Africans across the continent gain access to social media, the demand for original African content increases. “Africa needs to create its own content because Africa needs to grow itself,” said Saunders. A forward-looking Asika, who noted that everything in the world, from business to movies, mythology, history, culture, music and arts, is a potential source of content, echoed his words: “You have to go local to go global. What is the difference between Sango (a deity representing thunder in traditional Yoruba religion) and Thor? The difference is $3.5 to $4 billion! It’s not just packaging. The god Thor was celebrated and idolised, made an icon by people who extracted the mythology and brought it to popular culture and then flipped it to the TV and then to the movies and merchandise. And that’s the difference.”   #Not There Yet? The widespread adoption of social media is not simply an issue of creating more local content. “The world is a stage where with the internet, people can do whatever they want because it gives them power, opportunity and space to be creative and free,” said Atagana. “The challenge, however, is that as much as we are growing very fast and getting into this tech phase very intensively, there aresome basic [issues] and education issues that we face and this can hinder us from reaching the path to what is next.” For instance, Okolo believes Africa’s poor information communications technology infrastructure is a main impediment to the wider adoption of social media on the continent. “We are working on an interview technology platform in Nigeria. As a recruiter, I have a set of prepared questions I have imprinted into a platform and I send you a link. At your own time, you answer these questions,” he explains. “Unfortunately, we literally have to babysit some people on how to answer these questions because everyone kept complaining, ‘I couldn’t open the link!’ or ‘I couldn’t open the site!’ Everything came down to one thing: the state of internet infrastructure in Nigeria hasn’t gotten to the point where it can reasonably support this kind of technology.” This infrastructural gap will only close with significant, and continuous, investment. “You can never have too much infrastructure,” said Wild Fusion’s Abasiama. “The infrastructure you need to deliver on internet penetration will always be required.” He thinks that though there are certain spots of fair internet connectivity near the coasts, the most important step is laying fibre-optic cables to extend internet accessibility further inland.   #The Next Trend Africa is poised for a mobile explosion. “In a couple of years, I see penetration spike,” Wild Fusion’s Idaresit said. “I see that devices are going to get smarter and prices are going to drop. We’re going to have more bandwidth and more people are going to get connected and online.” The resulting effect will be a massive disruption of conventional business models and interactivity. “People barely watch TV anymore in Europe, America. They watch YouTube,” added Obi Asika. With increased mobile penetration expected to lay a foundation for a social media revolution in Africa, usage will skyrocket, and local platforms and content will also blossom. “Let me paint a picture for you,” Obi Asika said with an almost palpable excitement. “Facebook has about a billion people on it, and they just acquired Whatsapp, which adds about 500 million people with phones. Let’s presume that in another year Whatsapp will have about a billion subscribers. I don’t think it’s an outrageous assumption if we just integrate the two.” He continued: “You’re a filmmaker. The big objective is for your movie to be released [at] the US box office because it’s the biggest market. Do you think it’s possible that in the next three to five years, the biggest objective for filmmakers will be to release on Facebook?” To put his words in context, Africa is projected to have the largest working population of any continent by 2020 according to a 2012 report by Euromonitor International. With the steady rise of its middle class and increasing income levels, internet usage across the region will only increase, making it potentially the largest social media growth market in the world. Businesses ought to take note: Africa is trending, and they should definitely follow. *Source Ventures Africa]]>

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Rwanda, Uganda sign Rwf5.8bn railway deal
June 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Gashegu Muramira* [caption id="attachment_10125" align="alignleft" width="300"]Michel Fest, the director of Gauff Ingenieure consultants (L), Uganda’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport Okello Bwangamoi (C) and Guy Kalisa, the director-general of Rwanda Transport Development Agency, after signing the contract in Kampala yesterday. Gashegu Muramira. Michel Fest, the director of Gauff Ingenieure consultants (L), Uganda’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport Okello Bwangamoi (C) and Guy Kalisa, the director-general of Rwanda Transport Development Agency, after signing the contract in Kampala yesterday. Gashegu Muramira.[/caption] Rwanda and Uganda have  signed a consultancy services contract for the preliminary engineering design of the Kigali-Kampala standard gauge railway. The deal is a step forward following a decision by three East African  Community partner states–Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda–to enter a tripartite arrangement to fast-track integration projects. The proposed standard gauge railway, to be completed by March 2018, will stretch from Mombasa through Nairobi to Kampala, Kigali and Juba. Following a bidding process, a German consulting firm, Gauff Ingenieure, was awarded the contract that will see the electronic railway line linked from Bihanga in western Uganda to Kagitumba and Kigali. “This is another demonstration of the strong commitment of our leaders to carrying out joint regional integration projects aimed at easing trade in the region,” Guy Kalisa, the director-general of Rwanda Transport Development Agency, said after signing the contract in Kampala yesterday. Kalisa said Rwanda and Uganda will share the Euro6.3 million (about Rwf5.8 billion) cost of the designs of the railway. Rwanda will pay Euro1.4 million, while Uganda will cater for the rest. “We are still at the level of the designs. We will know the total cost of engineering and procurement after the consultants have given their advice on the routes and alignment from Kagitumba to Kigali,” Kalisa said. Call for diligent work The consultants will majorly work on reducing sharp corners from Kagitumba and focus on straight alignments to enable an efficient and faster system. Uganda’s State Minister for Transport John Byabagambi called on the consultants to work diligently so that their services are completed in 12 months. “The improved railway services will invariably occasion a drastic freight model shift from road to rail,” he said. Michel Fest, the director of Gauff Ingenieure, said their biggest challenge is on completing the services on time. The railway will replace the existing 100–year old metre gauge railway (Kenya-Uganda) and will enable the operation of longer, heavier and faster trains. The Nairobi-Kigali standard gauge railway is estimated to cost about $13.5 billion and the financing will be done jointly among the three countries. Experts say the railway line will have the capacity to ferry cargo at speed of up 80 kilometres per hour, which will trim down transportation costs–considered one of the leading challenges to doing business within the region. Most traders depend on trucks for ferrying their goods, which presents challenges, especially with the trade barriers such as roadblocks, axle load bridges, corruption as well as delays at borders in clearing processes. Kenya commissioned the construction of a railway network from Mombasa to Nairobi last year. *newtimes]]>

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PayPal coming to Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe
June 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

indexPayPal is entering 10 new countries this week, including Nigeria, providing online payment alternatives for consumers via mobile phones or PCs in markets often blighted by financial fraud. Rupert Keeley, the executive in charge of the EMEA region of PayPal, the payments unit of eBay Inc, said in an interview on Monday the expansion would bring the number of countries it serves to 203. Starting on Tuesday, consumers in Nigeria, which has 60 million users and has Africa’s largest population, along with nine other markets in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America will be able to make payments through PayPal. “PayPal has been going through a period of reinvention, refreshing many of its services to make them easier to use on mobile (phones), allowing us to expand into fast-developing markets,” Keeley said. Once the services go live, customers in the 10 countries with access to the Web and a bank card authorized for Internet transactions will be able to register for a PayPal account and make payments to millions of sites worldwide. Initially, PayPal is only offering “send money” services for consumers to pay for goods and services at PayPal-enabled merchant sites while safeguarding their financial details. This is free to consumers and covered by fees it charges merchants. “We think we can give our sellers selling into this market a great deal of reassurance,” said Keeley, a former regional banking executive with Standard Chartered Plc and senior executive with payment card company Visa Inc. PayPal does not yet cover peer-to-peer transactions, which allow consumers to send money to other consumers. It has not yet enabled local merchants in the new markets to receive payments, nor is it offering other forms of banking services, he said. A 2013 survey of 200 UK ecommerce sites by Visa’s CyberSource unit estimated that 1.26 percent of online orders are fraudulent and that 85 percent of merchants expected fraud to increase or remain static last year. CyberSource also estimated that suspicion of fraudulent transactions result in 8.2 percent of online orders in Latin America being rejected by merchants, compared with 5.5 percent in Europe and 2.7 percent in the United States and Canada. Such fraud can include ID theft, social engineering, phishing and automated harvesting of customer financial data via botnets, or networks of computers controlled by hackers. A total of 80 million Internet users stand to gain access to PayPal global services this week, including those in five European markets – Belarus, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco and Montenegro, four in the African nations of Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Zimbabwe, as well as Paraguay. Internet usage figures are based on research by Euromonitor International. PayPal counts 148 million active accounts worldwide. Last week, MasterCard Inc, the world’s second-largest debit and credit card company, and a PayPal rival in payment processing, said it was working with the Nigerian government on a pilot to overlay payment technology on a new national identity card. PayPal has operated in 190 markets since 2007 and added three countries – Egypt, Georgia and Serbia last year. Roughly a quarter of the $52 billion in payment volumes PayPal reported in the first quarter of 2014 were for cross-border transactions. PayPal reported $1.8 billion in revenue during the period. *Reuters]]>

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Africa’s Time is now and American Investors Must Not Miss Out
June 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

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-Patrick Griswold, Honorary Counsel of Tanzania to USA

By Ajong Mbapndah L

[caption id="attachment_10005" align="alignleft" width="300"]Griswold with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete Griswold with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete[/caption]

Patrick Griswold is a man with a mission: A mission to make Americans realize that Africa is the next big thing and with abundant investment opportunities. Though American, Patrick says there is a strong part of Africa in him. He lived in Africa for over a decade, speaks Swahili perfectly and was even crowned as a Masai Chief. Patrick has visited scores of Countries and understands the region and its realities to the fullest. His message to American businessmen? Africa is a continent with 54 countries and do not use isolated cases of violence or bad leadership in some countries to label the entire continent.

Patrick, who serves as Honorary Consul of Tanzania to the USA, is at ease talking for hours about Africa, its enormous potentials and easily smoothing out what many will consider as complex obstacles. More than ever before, Africa is ready for business and Patrick is sparing no efforts to share his knowledge of the continent with others interested in doing business with in Africa. At the helm of a network called Why Africa Now, Griswold is putting his vast knowledge of the continent at the service of interested investors. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Patrick Griswold talks about Africa Now, his upcoming book, work as Honorary Consul for Tanzania in the USA and more.

Mr Griswold, how will you sum up economic ties between the USA and Africa today?

That is an easy one.  The USA is underperforming.  If you take out energy and transportation, the likes of GE, Boeing, Exxon etc. the USA only has a small single digit percentage of the $400 billion in global trade with Africa.  Even with those blue chips the USA till has less than 10% of trade with Africa.  Now, that is just trade.  With regard to the business and investment opportunities on the continent, the USA is also well behind the Chinese and others. 

What in your opinion took the USA so long to prioritize or go for business opportunities in Africa?

With the exception of Cocoa Cola and a very few others the rest of the USA companies have not thought of Africa as having realistic markets.  The Obama administration did bring prominence to the energy sector opportunities last year, rightly so, but that has been about it.  The key reasons Americans are behind is:

They think of “Africa” only.  Most don’t realize Africa is made up of fifty-four countries that are all different and most of them are stable, safe and have not experienced any of the conflict or terrorism the press highlights about the few, isolated, hotspots.  Also, very few Americans don’t realize seven of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa and Africa was the only continent not to be in a recession over the past one decade or more.

Also, they have not been informed or educated to Africa’s development.  Most of the media American’s see about Africa are Breaking News of bad things done by a few people in isolated places or requests by donor organizations for aid that include destitute looking people that need food, medicine etc.  I think if you check there are people like that all over the world, including millions in the USA.

American companies are not encouraged enough to look at Africa and they have no level of comfort there.  The British and other Europeans have been there a long time.  The Chinese have been almost pushed there by the government.  So they have plenty of their own countrymen and women on the continent to connect with both business wise and social wise.  Americans have been few and far between.  Therefore, they almost polarize from there since they have no connections or contacts.  It is more of a natural reaction than a business decision, which is wrong.  The number of Americans in Africa is now growing, albeit very slowly, but many more need to go there, check things out and get their business going.

How does the USA bridge the gap that exists with a country like China which is literally everyway in Africa?

I guess that is my job in a way!  I literally got tired of African country leaders and business people asking me, when I was in meetings with them in Africa, where all the Americans are.  So I realized there may not be another American with the passion, work experience and vast network in all sectors (government, business, NGO, finance etc.) that could educate USA companies to the opportunities they are missing and then help fast-track them to their goals.

The press needs to cover Africa business more.  CNBC-Africa does a great job but it cannot be viewed in the USA.  There are other great conduits for Africa business information but few are known to Americans.

In two terms of Office, Africa is the least Region that President Obama has visited, does this send the right signal that the USA is serious about doing business in Africa?

[caption id="attachment_10006" align="alignright" width="300"] been crowned as a Masai Chief ,Griswold is fluent in Swahili been crowned as a Masai Chief ,Griswold is fluent in Swahili[/caption]

I’m not sure it is the President’s responsibility to be the Director of Business Development for USA companies.  Certainly the US Trade Department and other organizations can play a part to solicit business abroad but in the end the C-Suites, especially the publicly held ones, are compensated to find new markets.  You’d have to be a very closed minded, or uninformed, executive to not yet realize Africa is booming and America is well behind in capturing their market share.  Instead of over pressuring sales people in soft markets, like the USA and Europe, I often tell executives to simply spend some of their budget traveling to Africa to see the opportunities first hand.  That will do more than any seminar, policy manual or sales consultant. 

As someone who has travelled extensively across Africa, what are some of the perceptible changes you have seen over the years that could facilitate partnership or the integration of US businesses in Africa?

The biggest change is leadership.  Africa’s leaders don’t want to make the mistakes of the past.  They don’t want aid – they want foreign direct investment.  All the tax holidays and incentive programs are in place and it is much easier today to start a business there today.  Also, the infrastructure has improved tremendously and that will continue.  The biggest change going forward will be the middle class which will top out at one-billion strong in the next couple of decades.  That is monumental. 

Keep in mind that one third of Africa’s fifty-four countries are leading the way in terms of economic growth, one-third are next in line to experience such growth and one-third are well behind and have more serious challenges.

With regards to investment opportunities, may we know some sectors that you consider as promising?


Construction – especially affordable housing

Health and Medical





I can go on and on – the opportunities are enormous. 


The opportunities are there but what about challenges? What should investors going to Africa expect and how do there navigate the challenges?

This is one of the most common questions I answer.  It is almost like executives are looking for reasons NOT to go to Africa only because they are uncomfortable with the idea as I mentioned earlier.  A better way to answer your question is to explain why some foreign companies fail in Africa. 

The first thing is they try to implement a business plan from their home place, or other market, in Africa.  That just doesn’t work.  African countries are (all) different and adjustments must be made to business plans.

Also, foreign companies have a tendency to be impatient and not commit for the long run.  They get frustrated and retreat without giving an honest effort.  This is normally due to not having the right local partner, or advisor with Africa experience, before going into the market.  Sometimes companies go into the wrong countries to start with!

Lastly, not understanding and respecting the cultural differences.  Forget about the difference between Africa and the rest of the world, two African countries can be so different that there is no way you can expect to operate the same in each country.    

Can you tell us more about Why Africa Now, its mission and what it has done to change perceptions in USA about doing business in Africa?

Why Africa Now! was created to fill the need for expert knowledge and advice for companies and investors prepared to participate on the continent with the largest economic growth on the planet . . . Africa.  Our mission is to educate and update the outdated mindsets of Africa and present the exciting business and investment opportunities there.  Africa is a huge continent made up of fifty-four countries and you simply cannot paint the entire continent with the same brush.  Certainly problems exist in a few isolated areas on the continent but in today’s Africa the rewards are high in many countries, including seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world.

The first step is we update companies and investors about today’s Africa including where the best opportunities are among the fifty-four countries, what areas to avoid and how to minimize risks and maximize profits. Then we listen to clients goals for Africa and recommend the best, easiest and quickest path to success.  We also broker deals on our clients’ behalf with Governments, potential partners and other organizations.

 You are also an Honorary Consul of Tanzania to the USA, what do your duties entail and in terms of investment opportunities what does Tanzania offer?

a1896c1c-8c07-411b-bee6-81857f1a8bf6My duties are primarily promoting Africa, East Africa and specifically Tanzania.  As former Tanzania Ambassador to the USA, Mwanaidi Majaar suggested, I am much better at explaining what the opportunities are, and what it is like to run a business in East Africa, than Tanzania bureaucrats are.      

As far as opportunities, I’ll pass on what Tanzania President Jakaye Kikwete mentioned in the most recent meeting I had with him.  He simply stated that when he attends meetings of the Africa Union, he is regularly told that his fellow leaders are very envious as Tanzania is blessed with so many resources.  Tanzania is rich in minerals, including gold and other precious metals, a leader in tourism due to the best game parks in the world, it is a coastal country who’s port serves a dozen countries and is a huge trade center, it has vast areas to develop agriculture, large bodies of water and last, but maybe most importantly, Tanzania is known as the most politically stable country on the continent with very kind and hospitable people. 


We also also understand you are at the verge of completing a book on Africa title It’s Africa, Stupid! What is the book about and why that title?

First of all, I am not calling anyone stupid. I’m simply using that title to get people’s attention to inform them of the business opportunities they are missing out on – while the USA and Europe continue to sputter.  The book covers my very first trip to East Africa in 1985, what I’ve learned over the past three decades from living and doing business in Africa, including for a Fortune 500 company, and the proven path to business success there.  It will also update readers on today’s Africa and how the USA can play catch-up to China, and other countries, and gain some of the very lucrative business and investment opportunities on the continent.

On your personal relationship with Africa, a continent you have done business in since 1985, how many countries have you visited, how many languages do you speak and what fascinates about the continent?

I lost count on the number of countries.  I’ve driven from Ethiopia in the north all the way down to South Africa so there is quite a few right there.  I pretty much know every corner of East Africa having lived and worked out of there for over a decade.  The only African language I use regularly is Swahili.  Needless to say French is common in Africa as well and I still remember some Mandarin to use on the wave of Chinese there.

Explaining what fascinates one about Africa is impossible.  I would liken it to a lady trying to explain to a man what it is like to give birth.  Unless you have lived in Africa and experienced all it has to offer you will never understand.  My wife often, jokingly, tells people about a movie called I Dreamed of Africa.  She claims the first few years of our newlywed life there was just like the movie.  The husband constantly goes on business trips and leaves the young wife home in a foreign place to fend for herself!  Without a doubt, Africa has given us the best years of our lives and we built relationships that that will last forever.

What makes you hopeful for the continent and what makes you nervous?

Africa’s time is now.  I often tell people I spent some very difficult times there in the past but I have never regretted it.  I was hands on involved in the liberalization of economies, the related policy decisions and watching economies change from socialism to capitalism.  It literally watched it go from being lucky to have water, let alone hot water, at hotels in the 1980s and 1990s in places, to now having the highest rated hotel in the world there.  Watching, and being involved in that transformation, has been an education more valuable than any business school.  I am very confident Africa will continue its growth and be a dominant force in the world economy in the next decades.

The biggest concern is management of resources.  From minerals to water to enormous foreign direct investments.  All of these things have to be managed in a way that they benefit all of the people in each country. 

In the end, many African leaders have told me they are very fortunate to be able to study the USA and the EU and others, to not only understand free market economies but to also recognize, in some ways, how not to do things.   

*Learn More about Patricks Work at Why Africa Now


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Nigeria set to lead Africa’s $1tr agribusiness
June 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Photo: Akinwunmi Adesina (Hon. Minister of Agriculture)
Photo: Akinwunmi Adesina (Hon. Minister of Agriculture)[/caption]

As African countries strive to key into the agricultural sub-sector identified as crucial for the continent’s future, Nigeria is poised to take the lead in the ongoing Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) initiatives.

With estimation that Foreign Direct Investment in agriculture in Africa will increase from $10 billion in 2005 to $45 billion by 2020, the size of the agriculture and agribusiness sector in Africa is expected to grow to $1 trillion by 2030. Nigeria is the first country to develop the electronic wallet system for reaching farmers with subsidised farm inputs on mobile phones. Today, several African countries, India, Brazil and China have expressed interest in adopting the electronic wallet system. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, in an opening remarks at the just concluded Agric Expo disclosed that the Growth Enhancement Scheme introduced in Nigeria was one of the initiatives that indicated the country’s seriousness at tapping into this agric growth projection in Africa. According to him, within two years, the e-wallet system reached over 8 million genuine farmers as high quality fertilisers and improved seeds reached millions of farmers, food production rose dramatically, and food security of 40 million persons in rural households was improved. The minister noted the initiative has opened up the sector to new investors with $5 billion combined investments in fertiliser manufacturing by Dangote, Indorama and Notore. With the investments brought by GES, Nigeria expects to become a net exporter of fertilisers within three years. He said: “We must let the light shine on African agriculture. Like diamonds in the rough, we must buff up agriculture and focus on agriculture as a business. Only then will its impact shine.” Adesina stated that was so much to exhibit in agriculture with abundance of potentials to take lead, adding: “Think of our agricultural potential first. With over 84 million ha, abundant water and cheap labour, Nigeria is poised to become a major player in global food and agricultural markets. At the forefront of our effort was reforming the corrupt government-dominated fertiliser procurement and distribution system *Source Daily Trust]]>

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