What investors should know about business opportunities in Africa

The 3rd annual Africa summit organised by Dagens industri in Stockholm was a think tank for most of the major Swedish companies that have long business relations with Africa like ABB and Ericsson on what investors should know about business opportunities in Africa; the mistakes to avoid and analysis about the region which was delivered through lecture at the summit.  African Ambassadors from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda revealed the business opportunities at their respective countries.

“There is no one Africa. There are countries in Africa that are stable, there are countries that are rich, there are countries that are affected by absolute war and poverty while others are run by dictators. There are those in democracy, some are dependent on natural resources and others run more diverse economies. So we cannot speak of homogeneous Africa but heterogeneous Sub-Sahara Africa. If we look at the long-term goals, there can not be anything but a successful continent.

Africa in terms of the population is growing and is getting bigger, looking at specific sectors and specific countries the bigger trend is favourable. Even though there could be lots of issues that need to be solved like reduction in extreme poverty, increase in standard of education, reduction in corruption and attention to security issues, situations are different from country to country. There are 54 countries in Africa and this summit will focus on Business opportunities in Africa and what sectors to target. Welcome to the third annual
African Summit of Dagens industry”  — Opening remark by Karin Grunberg Woloddarski.

Mr Pereric Högberg, Africa Director in Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained in his presentation entitled African is experiencing rapid growth and development- is Sweden coping? how  some of the factors that made information about African hard to access in the past such as few journalists or writers were now more readily available to write about Africa, and that there were very few Africans living in Sweden compared to the present 21 century where we have a globalist world, where everyone can see, hear and interact with each other. The world has changed and on that basis when it comes to Africa we need to check our facts. Based on his over twenty years of business experience in Africa, he gave these pieces of advice to the audience on what to think about Africa:
– The image of Africa is changing because the reality has already changed.
– Africa is not one, its a continent with 54 countries.
– Its very important to have a long-term business plan.
– Go to Africa and see for yourself.

Ambassadors from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda spoke about business opportunities in different sectors in their respective countries: Kenya Ambassador to Sweden,  Ambassador Dr. Joseph K.Sang said agriculture is a key area for Swedish companies to make input. There is also opportunity in green energy as a key area because of the Kenyan government resolve to produce 3000MW solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy.  Other areas are ICT, mining, wholesale retail and waste management. The Rwandan Ambassador to Sweden, Ambassador Christine Nkulikiyinka, said all the sectors mentioned by Kenyan Ambassador were also open to investors in Rwanda with additional opportunities in real estate and tourism where the government is looking into partnerships with Swedish investors. Botswana’s Ambassador to Sweden, Ambassador Lameck Nthekela said he would rather share his approach on the opportunities available to investors in Botswana from the Southern African regional level because Botswana has land locked boundaries with four other countries like Namibia to the northwest, South Africa to the south, and southeast, Zimbabwe to the northeast and Zambia to the north. Therefore investment in Botswana will facilitate investment throughout the Southern African region. He continued that Botswana is currently in need of about 900MW energy distribution to meet the projected amount for 2016 energy.  There are opportunities for transport and logistics in areas of rail infrastructures within Botswana and the southern region. There is a railway line and a bridge that need to be connected between Botswana and Zambia which worth 4 billion USD and more opportunity in solar sectors because two third of the land in Botswana is desert which is good for generation of solar energy. The Ethiopian Ambassador to Sweden, Ambassador Woinshet Tadesse added the Health sector in her contribution, apart from aforementioned points above, as another area the investors could look at. Ethiopia is a big market to invest in because of its population density. Despite multiples of business opportunities in Africa, Ambassador Woinshet said perceptions and misconceptions about Africa on issues like corruption, security, and all other negative vices overshadow the opportunities that abound in the continent and encourage Swedish investors to visit Ethiopia.

Tobias Becker, The head of Africa program in ABB in his presentation called, The key to success, emphasized the importance of thorough research of the country in Africa the investors are interested in and its economy, along with a trip there to experience it. When we (ABB) industrial company look at Africa, look at the population of people from the continent, 75%  are younger than 25 years.   l speak of a continent that spends 3 billion dollars per day. Increase in demand for commodities because of population growths and the business language for fifty-four countries are just four which are English, French, Portuguese and Arabic. These, he believed makes business easier when compared to Europe that has around 23 languages. Anna Selander the head of ConsumerLab at Ericsson focused her presentation on the voice of the consumer. The African consumer population in Sub-Sahara Africa is under 20 years compared to Sweden’s  41 years and 67 % of these people live in rural areas with a strong tendency to migrate to the urban cities (world bank report 2014). She also presented data on varying usage of media, usage of financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa and method of cash payments.

There were other speakers like Marie Englesson, CEO and Founder of Atsoko, who shared her business experience in Tanzania with the audience while Peter Stein made his presentation on West Africa, analyses the economic situation in Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The summit was rounded up by Isabella Lövin presentation on energy and sustainable development in Africa. In order to highlight the opportunities of a
new diverse and dynamic market such as Africa, more summits like this is an essential avenue to get the latest insight about business opportunities in one of the world’s fastest growing continents.