Is Africa the next business hot spot?

Written by on 28th November 2012
Category: Business Travel

Africa has been named the “next hot spot for business” in a recent survey by Graebel Relocation Services. The continent is now home to seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria) and the survey deems it “a land of opportunity.”

It’s hard to make any generalisations about Africa, a continent which as large as China, the US, India, Japan and all of Europe combined. Its growth is buoyed by several very strong economies such as Nigeria, Botswana and Algeria which, the report shows, are benefiting from large deposits of rich natural resources. Countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tanzania, which are the world’s fastest growing economies after China and India, are also benefiting from a growing middle class and more political stability.

Life is changing faster across the African continent than anywhere in the world, particularly when it comes to telecommunications. A recent report by McKinsey & Company showed that telecom companies in Africa had added 316 million subscribers since 2000 – more than the entire population of the US. High-speed internet access is springing up across the continent and a Bloomberg report this year estimated that by 2015 the number of African people with internet access will have tripled.

However, doing business in this vast continent still varies hugely depending on the country. The report shows that Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan are still suffering from debilitating levels of corruption while the still recent turmoil in countries such as Libya and Egypt has left businesses reluctant to invest. Meanwhile across Africa, telecommunications development isn’t necessarily matched by infrastructure development, from electricity to transport.

My experience of the continent is limited to the two weeks I spent in Ghana, which were exhilarating, surprising and occasionally frustrating, but extremely worthwhile. Ghana is one of the easiest countries for newcomers to the continent to visit: it’s politically stable, rapidly modernising, and when I visited the people I spoke to were excited about the country’s economic future. Nigeria, also in west Africa, is growing faster (at an annual rate of nearly 7%) but is less politically stable. Kenya is east Africa’s largest economy and like Ghana is relatively easy for business travellers to visit; Nestlé, Coca-Cola and General Electric have all based their sub-Saharan operations in its capital, Nairobi. South Africa, meanwhile, is often described as the “gateway to Africa” and many companies treat it as a base for doing business in nearby countries. For the time being at least, it has the best infrastructure and the largest economy in the continent.

While we’ve been working with property partners in the South African cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria for several years, we’ve recently expanded into Kenya, east Africa’s largest economy, and added a number of new properties in Nigeria. New properties added in these countries include Milverton Apartments in the Nigerian city of Lagos and Mei Place Apartments in the Kenyan city of Mombasa. We now have 6 properties in Lagos in total, which is testament to Nigeria’s growing suitability for business visitors.

Pictured: Jacaranda trees in Johannesburg, South Africa