Africa: The giant is awake – now our turn

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Africa: The giant is awake – now our turn

WARNING: This is an interactive blog.

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Now Google ‘African building projects’. Go on, try it. So what comes up?

I already know and you have your suspicions.

It seems that the only things going on in the diverse continent that is Africa are aid projects led by charities, most of which have offices in the UK and throughout the developed world. Now do the same for China. Slightly different isn’t it? And Britain too, and in fact anywhere else in the world.

So Africa is a no-go zone for multinationals. It has no opportunities and no one is building anything other than schools and hospitals there, right?

Wrong.

The seemingly unavoidable associations that occur when we think of Africa has become the major barrier to investment and development. But the West’s failure to see past aid, safari trips and elephants provide opportunities for savvy investors and developers. China is now the largest trading partner of Africa – totalling $210 billion last year. We all know that China has been defying global economics in recent years, and the truth is they are a step ahead. The Chinese government pursue ‘mutual benefit’ in Africa – aid does not enter the rhetoric. But things are moving on from purely infrastructure, mining and natural resources. And it is Africans making it happen.

Atterbury’s Mall of Africa – a 1,250,000 sqft mall located in Johannesburg – hopes to unlock the massive spending potential of affluent Africans. And more will follow; there are development projects underway in Nigeria and Kenya too, as retail environments are created that can satisfy the need of local demand. Liberty Group Limited now provides investment services in 14 African countries, while STANLIB have also made the transition to conduct business outside of SA. The Broll team that work on the Mall of Africa describe the continent as ‘the awakening giant’. African consumer spending is set to double between now and 2020 according to some.

The ICSC’s recent appointment of former BBC business development expert Abby Livesey, who will give some focus to sub-Saharan Africa, gives an indication of how perhaps the focus of investment is shifting. Don’t forget to look south. We are.

Soon there may even be the variety of hits that the continent deserves when you type Africa into Google, and maybe we can even ask Google to forget the other stuff.

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