Waking Up the World Up to Business in the New Africa
While Africa is on the move, most of the world
slumbers. Why do I say this? In Charlotte, North Carolina, a "new"
market for promoting business in Africa, I had the great opportunity
to speak about the business potential in Africa on a local radio
talk show with Vince Coakley. But I was shocked that the majority of
people, who called in, were harsh in their perspectives on Africa,
particularly South Africa. This woke me up to how much the world
still needed to be awakened to business in the New Africa.
The callers saw no hope or light. They were mostly
truthful about what they had to say about crime, corruption, and
security in what they understood. They weren’t vicious, but you
could tell they actually believed or felt what they were saying.
I reminded the audience that US history wasn’t so
great for human rights and politics in the 1800s. We had one of the
bloodiest civil wars in history almost a hundred years into our
history. And even though we are supposed to be a beacon for human
rights today, we have a lot of problems here in the US.
African democracies are at most 60 years old and
places like DR Congo less than ten years. Countries in this stage of
development will not have the institutional strength, or strong rule
of law in general, as mature democracies yet they grow fast and
provide opportunities unmatched elsewhere.
The final point I made was that every country has
its problems, but also has opportunities. It’s important to find
what works for you in business and be open to possibilities.
This experience re-affirms my opening statement.
There is a New Africa, but most of the world is unaware and little
is being done to wake them up to the full reality of the Africa of
today and of the future.
You probably think that this article is about the
callers and people like them, but it’s not. It’s about the millions
of people who know something about the New Africa, but remain
silent, passive, or accepting of what is said and propagated.
Everyone should have a right to speak and to his or her opinion, but
those opinions do not have to go unchallenged or probed.
We who know should be sharing about the things in
Africa that do work and how it is progressing. While admitting that
Africa has the highest rate of poverty and HIV/AIDs in the world, we
should be pointing out that the rate of poverty has slowed and the
number of new HIV/AIDS cases is slowing compared to the growth of
the continent’s population.
In business, we should be sharing about the low debt
levels in many of the countries compared to the West and how
investment risk in the West is rising. Also, we should be sharing
about the impact African innovation is having on the mobile sector
around the world. While this is "old" news to many of us, it is
"new" news to most of the world.
It is not about create platforms to change the
perception of Africa, even though more are needed. It is about
individuals and organizations embedding Africa into normal,
everyday, mainstream conversation. If people are talking about
interesting news, share a comparative or insightful perspective on
what is happening in Africa.
If you are focusing on business and investment in
Africa, here are a few tips I gave on "pitching" Africa when I spoke
last year at the launch of one of our books at the World Bank:
Let Africa sell itself.
Watch the terms you use, e.g., wealth creation
versus poverty reduction.
Be authentic – share realities, successes, and
Place Africa in context of what is happening in
other global regions.
Focus on Africa as an upcoming, emerging region,
which already has close to 20 emerging economies.
Don’t sell Africa at the exclusion of other
global regions, but as part of a global strategy – one of
several regions a global business strategy should touch.
Explain how Africa can be used to expand markets
and extend globally.
Show people who have a passion to make a
difference in Africa how they can achieve this by supporting
for-profit ventures, or market-based social enterprises, which
are more sustainable.
We also need to broaden our engagement. We need to
move beyond circles that are familiar with Africa and get into
mainstream business and social groups and share about the continent.
Go and plant seeds where conversation about Africa in terms of
business and investment would be new.
Finally, I do have some good news to share about the
close of the recent radio interview. Several callers actually shared
One caller shared his experience about being in Cote
d’Ivoire. He found the people to warm, welcoming, and hard-working.
He said Cote d’Ivoirien pineapples were much better than Hawaiian,
and if he had the money he would invest there.
This caller represents to me an untapped, deep
spring of people that I know exists. We just need to reach them.
And concerning the rest of the world, it’s not up to
the world to change its perception of Africa. It’s up to us to
create a new perception of Africa.
Authors: Africa Good News Editor
Leveraging Zambia to Do Business in Africa
Zambia is among the top African countries in which
it is easier to do business, according to Greg Marchand, CEO of
Gizmos Solutions, an IT consulting and engineering firm in Zambia.
It is also expected to be one of the fastest growing countries in
the world through 2015. For US firms, there is also the bonus of
being able to trade in US dollars.
Zambia is a land-locked country with around 13
million people. Being land-locked presents challenges for supply
chains, as it can be difficult and costly to get freight into the
country. Since supply chains are a critical aspect of doing
business, Marchand suggests using supply chains that have been
developed by others. "Zambia was a colony of England and there’s
still a lot of government, as well as economic ties. South Africa is
a huge trading partner; China is a big trading partner; India is a
big trading partner," he says. "So, those supply chains have been
more established. The more you shift between two locations, the more
efficient you’re going to be. America doesn’t have a lot of trade
with Africa right now and the majority of commerce between the
United States and Africa is in the oil industry."
The nature of Zambia’s geographic, but land-locked,
location also presents a major opportunity, Marchand says, "We
(Zambia) are actually surrounded by eight countries and we have a
total of twelve borders to eight countries, which provides us with a
unique opportunity to be a trade hub – for people to bring their
products in and maybe add some value."
Zambia is a member of the regional economic
community – Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Even
though Zambia has 13 million people, it has access to a market size
of over 250 million people in SADC.
Besides being a geographically significant hub,
Zambia is endowed with abundant minerals like copper, land, and
water. China has taken advantage of this abundance to meet its
demand for minerals due to growth in sectors like manufacturing.
This is indicative of its investment in SADC countries – the largest
investments in 2009 were in the resource-rich countries of
Democratic Republic of Congo (~$228 million) and Zambia (~$112
million) according to the Ministry of Commerce in China.
Marchand also notes that the capital city of Lusaka
is considered prime real estate, "Lusaka has been recognized in a
recent Citi report as being one of the best investment locations for
land in the world. This report basically outlined where good
investors are putting their money and Lusaka is number two on the
For US businesses, Marchand points out several
opportunities specifically suited to American companies in Zambia
and other parts of Africa, "If I look at the IT infrastructure
sector, which is [what] I am in, we are in the fastest growing
telecommunications market in the world. We have a +20% compound
growth rate in cell phone subscribers. Other major G8 countries are
building the IT backbone in Africa and that’s going to be something
that’s going to be huge down the road…In the power sector, America
has not been as much involved as they have been in the oil and gas
extractive industry. Thirty percent of Africa has great power and
the next 70 percent is going to be built by somebody," he says.
"We’re kind of missing that boat of developing the next generation
of people who are into power generation in Africa. There are some
long play, uptake opportunities for American companies to do
generation and distribution."
Yet there are other sectors growing and attractive
to American companies interested in entering Zambia. "There’s also a
large opportunity in financial services – insurance as well as
primary commercial banking," Marchand says. "I would say an American
firm might not want to come in and do retail, but definitely
commercial trade, all sorts of commercial support finance; there are
some very lucrative businesses in Africa and it’s what fuels the
growth in the economy and there are ways to mitigate your risk."
Zambia may present great opportunities, but there
are still challenges and risks. Marchand advises, "…the first thing
you can do is do your homework, do your research, figure out some
key contacts, me being one of them; the reason I founded an American
Chamber of Commerce in Zambia is to facilitate trade and investment
with Zambia and the United States…The commercial services part of
the US Embassy is also a good place to start. I know our economics
and political officer (in Zambia) is extremely proactive."
Also, play up the networks in your local area, which
may connect you to Africa. For example, a significant number of
Africans work and go to school outside of the continent, so
university alumni organizations can prove to be useful in exploring
business in Africa shares Marchand. The key is to find the network
and contacts that can help you navigate and execute successfully in
Featured image is by Dr. Ferdinand Groeger.
Download radio interview from
New Home for Black Rhinos in Kenya
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), in partnership
with the Kenya Wildlife Services, has completed the second, and
final phase of its US$72 250 (R560 000) project to transport 21
black rhinos from the privately owned Solio Ranch and Mugie Rhino
Sanctuary, both in the Rift Valley province, to Ruma National Park
in the southwestern Nyanza province.
Home to a wide variety of birds and animals,
including roan antelope which are found nowhere else in Kenya, the
120-square-kilometer Ruma National Park is managed by the Kenyan
Wildlife Services (KWS) and was declared a rhino sanctuary at the
end of 2011.
Another advantage is that it is free of tsetse fly,
that large biting insect that transmits diseases such as sleeping
While the move was underway, the country’s forestry
and wildlife minister Noah Wekesa reaffirmed Kenya’s stance on
poaching, saying: "I want to send a strong message to the poachers
that they shall be dealt with severely according to the law."
He then said that his ministry will review current
penalties for those caught poaching, and if necessary would make
The move was also done to help encourage tourism in
western Kenya. While it was once normal to see several rhino at once
on a game drive, that is no longer the case, and the mighty animals
were last seen in the area more than 50 years ago.
Saving the black rhino
Kenya’s black rhino (Diceros bicornis) population
now numbers just 620, when a few decades ago it stood at over 20
000. The lowest numbers were seen in the mid-1980s, when just 300
The country, which once had one of the largest rhino
populations on the continent, is working tirelessly to help save the
remaining individuals, and has seen its efforts rewarded with the
doubling of the population of black rhinos in recent years.
The ever-present poaching situation is a serious
threat to the goals of KWS to boost the numbers.
However, Kenya has still escaped relatively lightly
compared to the poaching toll in other countries. Of the almost 500
rhino killed in Africa over the past five years, 70 died in Kenya.
In South Africa, 52 animals have been poached in 2012 alone – around
one every day.
Most poaching activity occurs in South Africa and
Zimbabwe because of the bigger populations found there.
The greatest demand for rhino horn comes from Asian
countries, whose citizens mistakenly believe it has near-miraculous
medicinal properties, and Middle Eastern nations such as Yemen,
where the horn is carved into a highly prized dagger handle.
The sophistication and the level of organisation of
poachers and illegal traders has soared in recent years. Poachers
are becoming almost military in the precision and speed of their
operations and it has been noted that some former soldiers, with
their combat training, have taken to poaching.
Various groups such as the WWF, the International
Rhino Foundation, the African Rhino Specialist Group of the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Saving
Rhinos, to name a few, as well as national wildlife authorities, are
fighting a constant battle to protect the sought-after beasts.
Because of the poaching problem, KWS conducts a
rhino census every year between July and October in the Tsaveo West
Sanctuary. A few months after the census, which provides information
on the number and distribution of black rhinos, the animals’ ears
are notched to help with identification and tracking.
During the 2010 exercise, transmitters were also
inserted into the rhino horns. Under sedation, the animal received
the device, which was placed into a hole drilled into the horn. The
hole was sealed and the animal was marked, allowed to recover and
By Lyndon Jaftha
Harnessing the Wealth of Minerals in Poor Nations
Developing countries with potential mineral riches
have often fallen prey to corruption and mismanagement. As a result,
they’ve failed to benefit from their natural resources and remained
in poverty. Now, new guidelines have been drawn up to help such
countries harness their mineral wealth.
The World Economic Forum and The Boston Consulting
Group have identified six steps to help poor countries cash in on
their mineral deposits. The recommendations are based on the advice
of 400 experts from NGOs, governments and mining companies.
Learning from the past
"Historically, there have been so many cases where
countries, who have lots of minerals, have systematically not
developed those correctly. They haven’t done them in a socially or
economically, what we call, responsible manner," said Alex Wong,
World Economic Forum’s senior director.
He said the "six steps" or "building blocks" can
help prevent history from repeating itself.
"What’s happening now with the commodity price cycle
that we’re in and the emergence of several countries onto the global
stage - such as Mongolia, Guinea, Peru – these are countries who are
now, for the first time in a way, having the opportunity to develop
their mineral resources and using it as a major way for their
countries to grow economically. So, it’s actually an incredible
moment where we don’t want to make the same mistakes that have been
made in the past," he said.
Poor, yet mineral rich, countries face a number of
challenges in developing their extraction industries. These include
not having the expertise, skills or resources at hand to develop the
industries. Another issue may be a failure to get local communities
and civil society involved in the process. And often the negotiating
process has not been transparent.
"So, people actually don’t understand what are the
terms of the agreement. They have, therefore, mismatched
expectations and lack of communication, which then obviously causes
lots of tension and misunderstanding," said Wong.
Doing what’s right
Wong said the recommendations help create a climate
of trust, which can lead to all the stakeholders benefiting from the
"First of all, promoting capacity building and
knowledge sharing. And that includes making sure everybody
understands how to do it. How to develop these mineral resources in
a responsible manner. Making sure people understand the costs and
benefits associated. The second category of actions is around
collaborative processes, processes both at the national level and at
the local level. So that you have mechanisms and processes for
people to be included in the discussions and have a feeling that
they’re part of the negotiations and the outcomes," he said.
The final category of recommendations concerns
transparency and dispute resolution.
Wong cautioned there is not an immediate return on
investment for mineral rich countries, as there may be for oil-rich
In for the long-term
"In mineral development, in particular, it’s
especially challenging because governments don’t actually often get
their revenue that comes from the process of extracting their
minerals until a good 10 to 15 years later in some cases. And
whereas oil is probably a little more immediate because you get
stuff under the ground, you ship it out and the government’s seeing
revenues," he said.
Wong said there’s been a good initial response to
the Framework for Advancing Responsible Mineral Development. It
highlights 22 successful projects in such countries as Mongolia,
Liberia, Ghana and Chile. He says a second initiative promoting
responsible mineral extraction is the World Bank-led Extractives for
Development initiative, or E4D.
By Joe DeCapua
South Africa Develops Hi-Tech Solution to Fix Roads
South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research (CSIR) has successfully piloted new road technology,
specifically designed to improve the lifespan of roads that carry
heavy traffic. If the technology is implemented nationally, it could
mean the end of potholes on local roads.
Economic growth, higher traffic volumes and higher
axle loads are some of the factors that have made it necessary to
review how South Africa’s roads are built and maintained.
South Africa has a well developed and extensive road
network of about 754 000 kilometres, of which over 70 000km are
paved or surfaced roads.
High-modulus asphalt (HiMA) technology, which can be
used on main routes, high-volume urban roads and at airports, is now
being considered for use in routine road design and construction in
HiMA could become a cost effective, innovative
solution to help meet the increased demands placed on the country’s
HiMA is the South African name for an asphalt
material type originally developed in France in the early 1990s. In
France, the technology is now used extensively on main routes,
airports and urban roads.
It is a composite material consisting of graded
mineral aggregate blended with a hard bituminous binder.
It has improved resistance against permanent
deformation and due to its high stiffness, provides better
protection of underlying road layers. Its high binder content also
makes it more durable.
Sustainable road maintenance
A research project was established to investigate
the feasibility of HiMA technology as a solution to sustainable road
maintenance in the country.
It is a joint initiative of the CSIR and the
Southern African Bitumen Association (Sabita).
Sabita represents various organisations involved in
the manufacture and supply of bituminous road building materials,
construction, maintenance and design of roads.
At the request of Sabita, the CSIR was asked to
develop South African specifications for the design of HiMA mixes,
using local components such as aggregate (crushed rock) and bitumen.
Bitumen is a binder used for asphalt and is derived
from crude oil at refineries, together with other products such as
Testing the benefits
The eThekwini municipality in Durban is the first
road authority to implement the use of HiMA technology on a section
of road at the entrance to the Durban harbour.
This road was the ideal trial site for HiMA
technology as it’s a major access route to the harbour, and always
in need of frequent maintenance. Paving of the HiMA layers on the
road was completed in September last year.
The base layers were constructed using
cost-effective road materials technology with improved performance
to cater for the extreme volumes of heavy vehicles entering and
leaving the harbour.
One of the HiMA mix designs used at the Durban
harbour contained 20% reclaimed asphalt and could carry much higher
traffic loads than traditional mixes.
The trial yielded positive results and eThekwini is
looking to implement HiMA technology more widely within its
Krishna Naidoo, senior manager of eThekwini’s road
rehabilitation branch, says that the municipality is impressed with
"We believe that HiMA offers a better solution,
taking into account the challenges posed by the weather and high
volumes of heavy, slow-moving traffic around the Durban harbour,"
Naidoo says. "Any interruption of traffic in that area affects the
If the harbour road requires less frequent
rehabilitation, pollution generated by traffic jams caused by road
repairs can also be reduced.
"The use of this technology in road construction
leads to roads that last longer and need less maintenance, thus
causing fewer delays for road users," explains the CSIR’s Dr Erik
Denneman, who also heads up the longer-life roads project.
HiMA also decreases the life-cycle costs of roads,
increases sustainability and decreases the use of non-renewable
materials such as aggregate and bitumen.
Lifespan of roads
Denneman says that HiMA is suitable for use in both
new road construction projects and upgrading of existing roads.
"Roads lose strength over time due to traffic loads
and this is why they need to be rehabilitated periodically," he
He adds that HiMA can also be used to build
‘perpetual roads’. This is an innovative concept where roads are
constructed to have a very high carrying capacity, using thick
layers of high quality material.
Although this will cost more initially, in the long
term the road would last longer and require less maintenance to the
structural layer. Only the top layer would have to be replaced
"Over the life of the road, this will reduce road
user delays considerably and increase the sustainable use of
resources," he says.
The durability of roads also depends on other
factors such as the weather.
"As South Africa has a hot climate, it is important
that the asphalt remains stable at high temperatures," he says. On a
hot day, the surface temperature of roads in South Africa can reach
Asphalt is a visco-elastic material, which means
that its stiffness decreases at higher temperatures.
"One of the advantages of HiMA technology is that it
has a stiffness at high temperatures that is significantly higher
than that of conventional asphalt."
Design guidelines for HiMA mixes
The CSIR and Sabita have developed preliminary
guidelines for the design of South African HiMA mixes and roads
containing HiMA layers.
The guidelines will be incorporated into the
updated, comprehensive South African Road Design Method undertaken
by the CSIR and other organisations for the South African National
By Wilma den Hartigh