Tag Archives: economic growth

Moving Beyond the Bi-Polar View of Doing Business in Africa

New buildings in Gabarone, the capital of Botswana -- one of the most developed and fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabarone is the capital of Botswana — one of the most developed and fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

By Naledi Modisaatsone

Economic improvements and a wealth of opportunities for business in Africa have led to an increased focus on the continent. Over the past three years Ernst & Young’s Africa attractiveness reports have highlighted the continent’s steady rise. Their research provides some quantitative substance to the growing perception that African markets offer an exciting growth and investment opportunity.

Africa’s growth prospects differ not only country by country but also sector by sector. For example, agriculture is Africa’s largest economic sector, representing 15 percent of the continent’s total GDP, or more than $100 billion annually. It is highly concentrated, with Egypt and Nigeria alone accounting for one-third of total agricultural output and the top ten countries generating 75 percent.

Africa’s banking sector has also grown rapidly in the last decade. Sub-Saharan Africa has become a substantial player in emerging-market banking, with total 2008 assets of $669 billion, while North Africa’s asset base has grown substantially, to $497 billion. Africa’s banking assets thus compare favorably with those in other emerging markets, such as Russia (with $995 billion).

However, the Ernst & Young reports also highlight a lingering perception gap between companies already doing business on the continent and those with no business presence there. The respondents with an established business presence in Africa are more positive about the continent’s prospects and rank Africa as the most attractive regional investment destination in the world today. They view it as an exciting, dynamic, high-growth market. In stark contrast, respondents that have not yet invested are negative and rank Africa as the least attractive regional investment destination in the world.

The African business community should spend some time on this issue at the US-Africa Business Forum. It is their responsibility to debunk the myths that some external investors have about operating a successful business in Africa. These business leaders are successfully embracing Africa’s uncertainty, complexity and volatility, understanding that these are common challenges across most emerging markets.

They are actively balancing the three tensions that all companies face in doing business in emerging markets: long-term versus short-term focus, profit-taking versus sustainable growth, and managing the whole versus optimizing the parts. Most importantly, their companies are establishing strong competitive positions in key markets and are poised to benefit from the continued growth anticipated over the next decade.

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U.S. Companies Should Not Overlook Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa

A growing textile industry is among the drivers of Ghana's rapid economic growth in recent years. (Photo: Wall Street Journal.)

A growing textile industry is among the drivers of Ghana’s rapid economic growth in recent years. (Photo: Wall Street Journal.)

By Chris Braddock

Next week the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will bring approximately 50 heads of state to Washington, DC, for the purpose of discussing trade and investment in Africa and highlighting America’s commitment to the continent. During a recent trip in the region, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this topic.

Over the past four months I was busy traveling in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), meeting with businesses and academics and researching the business opportunities in five different countries. As part of this trip I had the opportunity to meet with several CIPE partners and consultants who, as representatives of the private sector, were able to speak about the enabling environment and some of the challenges and opportunities of businesses working in SSA.

Most countries in SSA have historically been seen as too unstable, too small a market, or too risky for U.S. companies to explore opportunities, so there are few American companies operating in the region. The perception of SSA for many is based on the plethora of negative stories presented by the media, but this is merely a small and decreasingly significant part of the SSA story. Growth rates are high, people are optimistic with larger disposable incomes, and foreign direct investment is flowing in larger quantities, particularly from Asia. U.S. firms are starting to get left behind.

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Broadband Internet Access and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

internet_peru

By Gustavo Guerrero

While broadband internet has become an essential business tool, it has been slow to arrive in the areas that need the benefits of development the most – namely rural regions of developing countries. Though there has been some growth over the years, there is still a long way to go. Recognizing this, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) released a report showing the effect of broadband internet on the economies of Latin American and Caribbean countries, outlining how countries can improve their telecommunications infrastructure.

Nationwide high-speed internet access is something that many in the developed world take for granted. However, in the developing world there is a different story. In Nigeria, low broadband penetration has been cited as hindering the development of e-commerce in Africa’s largest economy. Similar examples are present all across the developing world.  The potential for growth is there, waiting, but it cannot be realized until broadband penetration and speed are improved.

Having a web presence is now almost a prerequisite for becoming a successful business.  The specific type of web presence can range from simply listing basic business contact information and operating hours, to having an online sales portal. Being online offers many benefits with very few, if any drawbacks. While most businesses in the developed world have adapted to this new environment, businesses in many parts of the world lack basic internet access that would allow them to grow and thrive.

The report, Socioeconomic Impact of Broadband in Latin American and Caribbean Countries, consists of two major components which aim to promote broadband internet connection in the region.  The first is an econometric model for LAC countries which helps determine how increases to broadband penetration could affect their GDP.  The second is a set of recommendations designed to help governments best improve their infrastructure.

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The Private Sector’s Vested Interest in Citizen Security

Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)

Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)

Security is a fact of life that many of us in the developed world take for granted. I feel fairly confident that I can go about my life on a daily basis with nearly zero contact with crime or violence. Thanks to that security, I feel confident enough to shop, go out to eat, and generally spend time outside of my home and workplace, adding to the local economy. Thanks to this security, my city is growing and developing and life is generally getting better for most people, despite the recent economic recession. Imagine if that were not the case.

At the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lies safety – the security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. Intuitively we know that our basic needs must be met before we can endeavor to improve our self, our livelihood, our families, or our communities. Without the feeling of safety, people are less able to act freely in a market – to buy products, start businesses, or invest – limiting a country’s potential for development.

It is with this logic that a recent United Nations Human Development Report argues in favor of increasing measures in citizen security in the Latin America region. In this region more than 100,000 homicides are registered per year. The World Health Organization considers these levels epidemic and they are much higher than most other regions of the world today. The report’s authors state, “The level of insecurity many experience impedes human development.”

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To Harness Africa’s Demographic Dividend – Invest in People!

demographic-dividend

Naledi Modisaatsone is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Urban Institute.

The demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a rapid decline in a country’s fertility and the subsequent change in the population age structure.

According to the latest UN population projections, Africa will have two billion people by 2040, with the share of 12-to-24-year-olds growing from 18 percent to 28 percent. The increment in size of this age cohort in Africa will be parallel to a decline in the same age group in every other region of the world. This anticipated rapid growth of the labor force possesses serious development challenges, as well as opportunities. The rising question is: how should Africa best prepare in order to benefit from the demographic change in the coming generation?

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How to Grow Your Economy by 50 Percent Overnight

Not counted: Nigeria's GDP model is based on the year 1990. (Photo: Wayan Vota)

Not counted: Nigeria’s GDP model is based on the year 1990. (Photo: Wayan Vota)

In 2014, one small policy tweak will grow Nigeria’s economy by 40 percent, causing it to overtake South Africa as the largest in the region. A similar change in Ghana caused that country’s economy to grow 60 percent, while in Guinea-Bissau and Gambia the economy doubled in size. Even the United States increased its output by 3.6 percent using the same technique. What happened?

GDP rebasing. Simply put, these countries are all changing the way they measure their Gross Domestic Product — the sum total of all economic activity in a country in a given year — to better reflect what’s really happening the economy.

When Nigeria’s rebasing is complete, it won’t mean the country is actually producing 40 percent more goods and services. Living standards won’t jump by 40 percent — the government will just be counting more accurately. But it’s still hugely important.

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Eight of the World’s 10 Most Competitive Economies are Democracies

Democratic Switzerland is the world's most competitive economy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Democratic Switzerland is the world’s most competitive economy. China doesn’t make the top 10. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The World Economic Forum has just released its latest Global Competitiveness Report, which assesses the competitiveness of 148 economies around the world. This year’s top ten includes few surprises, but does illustrate an important fact: eight of them are democracies and rated “Free” by Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index. (Singapore, which ranks second, and Hong Kong, which is under Chinese sovereignty and ranks seventh, are both rated “Partly Free.”)

Why is this important? At CIPE, we believe that democratic and economic development go hand in hand: strong democratic institutions support strong market institutions, and vice versa. But this belief is not shared everywhere. There is a growing contingent who feel that “strong” leaders in charge of highly directed economies can lead poor countries to prosperity, and that elections and debate simply get in the way.

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