In the West, Africa is often still looked upon as a poor nation, dependent on aid, crippled by war and corrupt governments, and unable to help itself out of what can seem like never-ending struggles.
While some might persist in seeing the continent that way, others see opportunity across the vast region. Rather than sinking under itself, Africa is booming with business.
While Europe and the US were stagnating in deep crises as part of the 2008 recession, many African nations saw GDP growth rates of more than five per cent, making it the resilient party in a world that would so often paint it as the very opposite. Even sub-Saharan Africa sustained strong growth, in a trend that some commentators claim goes back over two decades, making it a top business centre when it comes to weathering global economic storms.
In his article for global company PwC (formerly known as PriceWaterhouseCoopers), Africa authority and market expert Harry G. Broadman called the continent a “vast, untapped market” and highlighted that the African Development bank has forecast growth rates to remain at or higher than five per cent in the next 50 years.
Africa’s continued growth throughout the recent global economic turmoil has marked it out as a reliable business partner, especially for companies looking to develop their offerings throughout other emerging markets, such as China and India. This means the continent is becoming a genuine part of the wider picture when it comes to commerce, helping to effect growth elsewhere as well as benefit itself.
It also helps that African nations are young, both in the age of their people (studies put over half of the billion-strong population under age 34) and in the resources on offer, with KPMG’s website page on Africa stating that the amount of untapped mineral wealth, oil, gas and uncultivated land was “staggering.”
Much of this growth has been fostered by the “trade, not aid” approach, which has seen even charitable organisations seek to invest in African nations across the sectors of housing, health, communications and agriculture, rather than simply giving away money without a strategy.
Other boom industries with potential to grow even further include telecoms, energy, and the vast rail network. Businesses are working with other businesses (known as “B2B”) to create as-yet unparalleled levels of industry development.
There is no question that trade has become a significant driver for growth, with ports and airports across the continent opening up for business on a previously unprecedented scale. The exchange of goods between nations is now moving rapidly further south, thanks in large part to shipping agencies on the African continent, such as Bolloré, who are proving that successful partnerships within the container and freight operations sector are not only possible, but thriving.
Investing in Africa does require a consideration of the issues African nations face, particularly with regard to poor infrastructure and underdeveloped education, but this offers many chances to implement helpful, local solutions that will offer businesses ample chance to grow.
Savvy companies are no longer dismissing Africa’s emerging market, with trade replacing aid in the continent’s ongoing and booming growth.