Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Tarek Sultan Al Essa Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman, Board of Agility, Kuwai # Investment in Africa
1. Africa needs ‘connectors’ Missing across much of sub-Saharan Africa are the roads, rails, ports, airports, power grids and IT backbone needed to lift African economies. This lack of infrastructure hinders the growth of imports, exports, and regional business. Companies that can connect Africans and markets can prosper. Sub-Saharan Africa is plagued by power outages – almost 700 hours a year on average – sapping productivity, adding cost and leaving businesses captive to back-up and alternative power options. Massive investment is leading to major upgrades and expansion at African ports and airports, but much of Africa’s growth potential depends on in-country and intra-African road, rail and air connections. Roads and rail lines are sparse, decrepit and over-burdened. A lack of aviation agreements has limited intra-African air connections. Africa’s lack of efficient storage and distribution infrastructure hinders businesses, entrepreneurs and farmers. Up to 50% of African fruit and vegetables spoil before reaching markets. There’s a soft infrastructure deficit, as well. Outside of South Africa, the data and information critical to decision-making by businesses is missing or hard to obtain – credit and risk information, market data, consumption patterns, you name it. Lessons from Dubai and Singapore tell us that once an infrastructure race is on in a rapidly expanding market, being the first-mover is a significant advantage for investors. 2. African trade barriers are falling and intra-African trade holds enormous potential With the 54-nation Continental Free Trade Area – Africa’s own mega-trade deal – even the smallest African economies could see a lift. If duties are lowered and incentives introduced, manufacturers could see benefit from setting up production and assembly operations in multiple African countries. That could lead to development in electronics, machinery, chemicals, textile production and processed foods. As a first step, free trade between and within the African economic blocs would make a huge difference. Africa’s share of global trade – a meager 3% – can only increase if the continent’s commodity and consumption-led economies begin to produce a broad array of goods for home markets and export. And an increase in local beneficiation in the commodities sector could be a driver of growth – processing local commodities (such as minerals, coffee, cotton) in country rather than exporting them in raw form. That said, it will continue to be a challenge for regions with poor power and infrastructure to compete as global manufacturers...Read more...
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