Innovation in Kenya

On a recent trip to Nairobi, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet with both Equity Bank and M-PESA at Safaricom.  M-PESA and Equity Bank are prime examples of companies involved in a new trend in innovation.  A recent Economist report on innovation in emerging markets explains that “many of the most important innovations…are aimed at the middle or the bottom of the income pyramid.” Continue reading

Collier Warns Against Expanding AGOA to Non-African Least Developed Countries

Eminent development economist Dr. Paul Collier, Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, warned last week that expanding the trade preferences currently reserved for eligible African nations by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to all Least Developed Countries (LDCs) would be disastrous for African economic development. Continue reading

Africa in 2010

by Margot Bokanga

One important question the business and development sectors and policymakers in Africa and the international community may be asking is “How will Africa perform this year and this decade?” Despite last year’s global recession, Africa remained the most profitable emerging market to invest in, and this year it offers strong business opportunities to many investors. Looking through the Top 9 Business Stories of 2009 that I posted last week, I found three trends. Continue reading

The Base of the Pyramid: Room to Grow

by Tom Haslett

One of the most important questions facing multinational corporations today is whether they can make a profit with products and services marketed to the poor in developing countries. Many companies are actively exploring this approach with a variety of goods meant to reach consumers with limited expendable income: this is called a “bottom of the pyramid” strategy. As firms search for new opportunities, Africa represents a particularly large and attractive market to tap. Equally importantly, new innovations that earn a profit for their creators can also serve the continent’s people as a powerful tool for development. Continue reading

China and Africa: A Complicated Relationship

On a recent visit to China, I was impressed by how well the urban Chinese seem to be faring.  While I’m aware that life in Beijing and Shanghai is not representative of how everyone in China lives, it’s remarkable that a growing number of people have enough expendable income to eat in restaurants and purchase consumer goods.  I was surprised by the modern and well-developed infrastructure – new railroads and highways, bright train stations and stunning, futuristic airports. Continue reading

West Africa’s Regional Economic Integration

Last week, Accra hosted the Ghana-Togo-Benin-Nigeria Business Summit to explore ways to boost investment and trade between our four countries.  In a speech read on his behalf, President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo expressed my exact sentiments on regional economic integration.  He urged businessmen in these countries and other West African states to stop seeing challenges to cross-border business as obstacles, but instead as opportunities.  These trials should be an impetus for us to define appropriate measures for facilitating business, investment and trade.  Continue reading

UNCTAD Reports $88 Billion Foreign Investment in Africa in 2008

UNCTADThe United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) released its World Investment Report 2009 on September 17, subtitled “Transnational Corporations, Agricultural Production and Development.”  The Report finds substantial decreases in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) around the globe due to the recession, but shows impressive pre-recession FDI growth in Africa in 2008 that positions the continent to be a strong investment destination once global economies begin to recover. Continue reading

Debunking Myths About AGOA

Published at – Trade Talk with Rosa Whitaker
by Rosa Whitaker

In the aftermath of the annual AGOA Forum held last month in Nairobi, there has been a chorus of pessimists placing AGOA in the Hall of Shame of failed policy initiatives.  They could not be more wrong.

In fact, AGOA is among the most successful US policies towards Africa-especially in terms of a return-on-investment ratio.  According to the OECD, over the past 50 years the US has spent well over $325 billion dollars in foreign aid to Africa – yet Africa remains the only region of the world getting poorer.  The returns on investments from US aid have been dismal. Continue reading

A Jozi Revival

I’m in Johannesburg this week looking at the South African trade and investment climate. Having first visited Johannesburg in 1995, I had a particular image of what I thought I was going to return to. Then, all the businesses and government offices had abandoned their offices for commercial parks in the northern suburbs. The city skeleton that was left functioned more like an elaborate car park for taxis. Business offices were quickly repurposed to suit the new resident’s needs. Crime and squatting skyrocketed as immigrants, slum dwellers and drug dealers took refuge. Continue reading

Looking for Affordable Energy in Africa

The demand for electrical power in the developing world is growing at nearly three times the rate of demand in the developed world. And as countries in the global South, especially in Africa, add newly-affordable common household items such as refrigerators and air-conditioning units, the existing power grids, most of which were set up in the late 1970s, are becoming overwhelmed – already most operate at rates far higher than their capacity can support.  Just last week, Kenya began rationing its electricity due to the low water supply for hydroelectricity plants from an ongoing drought. Continue reading

Marketing and Branding for African Exporters

nandosAt last week’s 8th Annual AGOA Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, TWG Managing Director Aubrey Hruby joined a distinguished panel of speakers from such organizations as USAID’s West Africa Trade Hub, South African sourcing agent Cool Ideas, and the Kenya ICT Board to address the topic “Development of and Access to AGOA Export Markets.” Continue reading

Obama in Ghana

Published at – Trade Talk with Rosa Whitaker
by Rosa Whitaker

In Ghana, President Obama made a strong, albeit not new, call for better governance in Africa.  I was there and witnessed the extraordinary enthusiasm that met the president and also the ambivalence among Africans about his message.

Why did Mr. Obama not call upon the Russians to embrace better governance when he was there just days before arriving in Accra? Indeed, why had he not delivered a similar message to the people of the Middle East during his historic speech in Cairo in June? Continue reading

Manual Distribution Centers: Market Access and Job Creation

As a strategy for development, “manual distribution centers” are becoming as popular in development sectors as micro-finance was in 2005.  A concept pioneered by Coca-Cola, MDCs are independently owned, low-cost operations created to service retail markets where classic distribution models are ineffective and inefficient because of distance or lack of infrastructure.  For example, Coca-Cola hires local distributors in Africa to ship their beverages out to less accessible areas, creating jobs and increasing the markets they can reach.  In addition to giving people in hard-to-reach parts of the world access to more products, the MDC system integrates local businesspeople into global supply chains, which is a crucial part of turning the opportunities of trade into broad-based prosperity.  Continue reading

High Risk, High Reward: Risk Management for Investors in Africa

Everyone knows there are high returns on African investment.  Private equity firms like Emerging Capital Partners have had huge successes on their investments in areas like telecoms, regional banks, and commodity exports, and last year the UN Conference on Trade and Development released a report showing that Africa had provided the highest return on foreign direct investment (31%) of any region in the world for two years straight.  So why does Africa still only get three percent of global foreign direct investment? Continue reading

Not On My Watch

Published at – Trade Talk with Rosa Whitaker
by Rosa Whitaker

As the Obama Administration develops its Africa and trade policies, it is critical that it resists pressure from some development advocates and members of Congress to support legislation that extends the duty-free access to the US market enjoyed by African nations under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to all Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Continue reading

Green Shoots for Africa: the Africa Business Initiative

It’s a pretty powerful testament to the potential of African markets that, despite the recession, investors are still very interested in what the continent has to offer.  Last week the US Chamber of Commerce launched the Africa Business Initiative (ABI), designed to help inform American businesses about the opportunities for engagement in Africa and how to go about investing. Continue reading

Ugandan Economy to be among Africa’s Strongest in 2009

A Ugandan coffee farmer harvests coffee beans.  Coffee is Uganda's top export, earning $348 million in 2008.

Coffee is Uganda's top export, earning $348 million in 2008.

Uganda’s economy is expected to be among Africa’s strongest in 2009 with a growth rate of around 6% thanks largely to strong regional trade and continued demand for its agricultural exports, according to the African Economic Outlook 2009, published in May by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Continue reading

President Obama’s Emerging Africa Policy

Published at – Trade Talk with Rosa Whitaker

by Rosa Whitaker

Slowly but surely, President Obama’s Africa policy is beginning to take shape.  In my twenty-five years of work on African economic issues, I’ve seen consecutive US Administrations become increasingly more committed to Africa’s development. I don’t believe President Obama will be an exception.  The fact that his overall foreign policy is driven by experienced-hands with Africa expertise gives reason to believe that Africa will be well-integrated and supported within the broader US foreign and economic policy construct.  Continue reading

Why Africa Needs Market Access

by Paul Fakes

The World Trade Organization recently released its 2008 International Trade Statistics.  At a glance, you can see not only that Africa remains isolated from global trade (Africa represents only 3% of trade worldwide), but that the continent is still making little progress in expanding regional trade.  While regional economic communities are implementing substantive measures to reduce barriers to intra-African trade, it will be some time before regional free trade agreements are fully implemented, not to mention the continuing need for substantial infrastructure investment to reduce the costs of regional trade.  Continue reading

Multimodal Technologies for Africa

As new social phenomena, like Twitter, combine one technogical platform (SMS – short message service) with another (the internet), the feasibility of communicating has increased. This has particular relevance for Africa, which has the world’s most dense cell phone usage.  (With three out of every four people using cellular numbers as their primary number, cellular numbers in Africa are the closest thing to national ID numbers in most countries). And, as the highly anticipated fiber optic cable in East Africa comes online, Africa will be well-equipped to advance these multimodal technologies. Continue reading