Continental divide

Waking Up to Africa's Potential

Africa factory-Bloomberg-CHANGED
Africa wants German consumer goods, machinery and cars.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A survey by the Handelsblatt Research Institute finds the continent ripe for investment, but many German firms are blighted by a patronizing, short0sighted attitude, that is blinding them to the business opportunities on the continent.

  • Facts


    • Africa’s economy is rapidly shifting away from a focus on raw materials and infrastructure projects, towards consumerism as the middle class reaches an estimated 300 million.
    • Two-thirds of German firms doing business in Africa describe their efforts as “successful” with returns increasing the longer they do business there.
    • Patience and long-term commitment is important as in many parts of Africa administrative systems and infrastructure remain sub-par.
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The patronizing attitude of the German business community towards their African peers was all too apparent at a recent conference in Stuttgart. African experts made presentations on economic opportunities south of the Sahara, and African business representatives touted for partnerships with German companies. The Germans responded by listing for the assembled ministers, ambassadors and executives, all the deficiencies of their continent. In tones that were part-lecturing, part-compassionate, they offered well-meaning proposals for aid programs.

It wasn’t aid the Africans wanted, but business relationships with equals.

Economic growth in Africa has been consistently higher than the global average for many years. A new generation of leaders has established itself in government and business. This generation has often been educated at European and American universities and supports democracy, transparency and open markets. They are the product of the new and fast-growing African middle class, now estimated at more than 300 million people. They’re not in total control, by any means, but change is on the way.

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