Africa is on the global corporate agenda. A series of announcements from multi-nationals such as Coke, GE, Nestlé and Samsung regarding billion-dollar investments on the continent, have caught the attention of the global media. Management consultancies, development agencies and financial institutions have followed swiftly with increasingly positive reports on the business opportunities, which go far beyond the traditional perception of Africa as a resource story and a recipient of charity.
The African macroeconomic environment is transforming, as policy makers have pushed through painful structural adjustment programmes, established independent central banks and adopted pragmatic fiscal and monetary policies – all of which have helped to create a more business enabling environment.
Also critical has been the decline of armed conflict – once the scourge of Africa, intra- and interstate wars have declined by over 60 per cent since the beginning of the millennium. In turn, political stability, in much of Africa, is becoming the norm rather than the exception as countries democratise and begin to set their own agendas.
What has been less noticed is the role and influence of African businesses, entrepreneurs, policy makers and consumers in this revolution. A new generation of African entrepreneurs has been created – new African-owned and managed businesses are challenging traditional incumbents and introducing new business models and strategies that are driving domestic growth.
Our objective is to ensure that this profound change receives the attention it deserves, providing a rigorous analysis of the drivers of Africa’s entrepreneurial-led growth, but also identifying the continuing barriers to progress and the means by which Africans themselves can overcome those barriers.
The Brenthurst Foundation and the Tony Elumelu Foundation are commissioning several in-depth case studies across a number of key sectors, highlighting how intra-African trade, often considered negligible, is transforming the continent, as Africans lead the way in investing across borders. The ‘Oppenheimer Elumelu’ Research Series, for which this Discussion Paper serves as the introduction, will provide insight into how Africa’s own entrepreneurs and businesses are becoming more regionally focused and creating multinational enterprises that are breaking down the often artificial barriers that have separated the continent. The case studies will form the empirical foundation for what we believe will be a major forum, bringing together leading academic, business, and policy leaders from across the continent to debate the findings and the specific policy implications. The cases will be published, and our Foundations will seek collaborative ways to catalyse the implementation of the key policy recommendations.
The case studies will identify key successes, but also highlight and offer solutions to the structural impediments that must be overcome to deliver the economic and social gains the continent requires. They should be read as a competitiveness manifesto for Africa that illustrates how and why Africans are, and should – even more so going forward – be investors in Africa.
Despite the relative economic success of the last decade, Africa still lags behind on many of the global surveys relating to business competitiveness. Policy makers have to continue to implement strategies that create the enabling environment that allows business and economic growth to flourish. Competitiveness as a concept needs to be entrenched in all segments of our society, as Africans realise that the global business world owes us no favours.
The goals of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Brenthurst Foundation are to develop agendas that position Africans as the key agents in the continent’s economic transformation, with the rewards and responsibilities associated with that role. Although, we bring different perspectives, geographically and in mission, we both share origins in entrepreneurial success in Africa and a commitment to assist the process of Africa’s economic and social development.
This publication is co-produced by The Brenthurst Foundation and the Tony Elumelu Foundation, based in Lagos, Nigeria.