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Top 6 African business and culture trends to watch in 2010

Africa_fireworksIf, like me, you’ve been watching people and events surrounding Africa in mainstream and non-mainstream news, you’ll know that 2009 was a big year for Africa, From President Obama’s visit, to the new fiber-optic cable in Kenya, there was a lot of president-setting efforts going on in Africa. While there were the instances of political unrest, in all I think African countries had one of the better years. Looking forward to 2010, Africa seems in line to be put through some vigorous tests, From politics to agriculture and technology, in 2010 Africa will be challenged to show the world what is brewing under the hood for the next decade. Here are a few trends I think will greatly influence how Africans live and work in 2010:

1. Trickle-up innovation/reverse innovation

In 2007 C. K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, highlighted five ways that developing nations are often ahead of the curve and how multinationals can adapt to the the changing product development lifecycle. In 2010, though some analysts say the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 is in recovery, we’ll continue to see an increase in businesses looking to developing nations, including Africa, as ground zero for new product and service innovation. Organizations will not neglect consumers in developed nations though. Rather, developing nations will take precedence in business development, with markets in the west getting re-targeted efforts already proven elsewhere. The big question is will African nations also turn their innovation sights into Africa to bolster African business and gain a home-field advantage against foreign businesses.

Watch: Google, GE, Microsoft, Nokia

2. Mobile and connectivity growth and standards
At this point, mobile technology is synonymous with connectivity in Africa. From government to industry, Africans are growing more reliant on the mobile phone for all aspects of life. 2010 will see a continuance of this trend within communities, and more importantly, governments will increasingly begin to use the mobile phone as a way of reaching African civilians. We are already seeing that in Kenya’s Obama-inspired mobile campaign to educate Kenyans on public policies. Beyond mobile technology, we’ll also see a surge in government-funded connectivity efforts and legislation around Africa. With the new fiber-optic cables launch in Kenya and other regions moving more services from analog to digital, Africa’s connectivity will be a priority for forward-thinking leaders. Case in point is the Kigali government’s recent launch of a $7 million wireless hot spot facility. We can expect to also see a lot of foreign investment in development and organization of the African mobile sector. I, for one, am looking forward to the growth of mobile innovations by African entrepreneurs. Hopefully African private and public sectors can engage the independent developers to accelerate the mobile industry in 2010

Watch: Government data centers,  2010 Fifa World Cup mobile marketing, Netbook market growth, M-pesa, Fiber-optic cables usage, MTN, KenyaAirways on Twitter, Zain, Safaricom

3. Rise of the African creative class
For the past several years, young Africans have been struggling to define a new identity for the themselves in the connected global community. As political stability has solidified in many African countries and African youth have begun to exert their influence at home and abroad, a community of independent creators have strengthened their voices and come to the forefront to re-define Africa for the 21st century. Fueled by connectivity, voluntary repatriation, international travel, and the growth of African cities, Africa’s creative class will be at the center of shaping Africa in 2010. In 2009 we saw African blogging reach it’s peak and a surge in African style and design multi-media channels. From Arise Magazine, to BHF Magazine, to Design Indaba, the exploration of what it means to be African in the 21st century continued to influence all areas. In 2010, with the debut of the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, we will see Africa’s creative class flexing their influence on everything from technology, to government policy, to international business. With so many African and foreign private and public organizations hoping to capitalize on the event, Africa’s creative class will be at the center of it all. As the core drivers of Africa’s urban areas, the creative class are the ultimate influencers. 2010 will be the year when they will be thrust into the limelight internationally. Let’s hope they (we) are ready.

Watch: Arise Magazine, Fela on Broadway, Design Indaba, Maker Faire Africa 2010, The Blk Jks, FESPACO, African Gay & Lesbian groups, Paul Sika, African Avante Garde

4. The Africa brand and tourism
The 2010 Fifa World Cup will have a major impact on Africa whatever the end result is positively or negatively. Most importantly, the World Cup will challenge African tourism, marketing, infrastructure and related industries to develop and maintain a consistent African brand identity. With the advent of high-profile global events like this and a need to share resources, African governments will have to re-visit and form cross-border alliances. While we have already seen regional groups like the East African Community strengthen their intergovernmental ties, 2010 will be the year when all African countries will have to answer the cross-border alliance question at the behest of foreign political engagement.

Watch: 2010 Fifa World Cup, African government summits, Cross-country tourism packages,  ICT sector, “Made in Africa” labeling

5. Africa and African-Americans
Not much has been said about the growing relationship between Africans and African-Americans. By and large there is still a communication rift between the two groups. But slowly, the relationship between the two groups is becoming symbiotic. While I don’t see a major shift in opinion between the two groups happening in 2010, I do expect a continuation of the rapid growth of African-American wealth to playing a part in African development. Resourceful and wealthy African-Americans will continue to invest in African culture and politics both on the continent and abroad, while Africans borrow from African-American history for lessons on developing an international identity. Particularly, a growing number of African-American entertainers and business people will see Africa as an extension of their life in the United States. some will even maintain plans to buy and move to the continent seeking a more personally and financially fruitful life. Africans will also begin to formally recognize this trend and capitalize on the brain gain. As more African-Americans look to Africa, African will become more high profile in African-American press pushing Afropolitan culture further into American pop culture.

Watch: Fela On Broadway, African real estate development, Africa correspondents in urban media, African-American foreign invetment groups.

6. China..and India
In November 2009, China pledged a multibillion-dollar package of financial and technical assistance to African governments over the next couple of years.  This was among one of the many efforts by Chinese government and business to form a tight alliance with Africa. China’s relationship with Africa will continue to dominate Africa news in 2010, with support and objections from many diverse groups as we’ve seen in 2009. The new year will also see an increase in Indian alliance with countries within the continent though it will continue to pale in comparison to China’s efforts. India and Africa will strengthen their ICT development relationships as African countries continue to push themselves as outsourcing destinations.

Watch: India-Africa learning trips, Chinese import export from Africa, Sino-African cultural conflicts.

What do you think? What other trends will influence Africa’s growth and development in 2010? Please share your comments.

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Video: Nigeria’s Brain Gain

December 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, General, Travel

If you can’t see the video above click here.

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FELA! musical hits Broadway with rave reviews

December 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Books/Magazines, Business, Events, Featured, General, Music, Politics

FELA! musical

If you haven’t already heard FELA! The Musical has opened on the Broadway in New York City. For many people, myself included, this marks a milestone in African culture’s rise to global recognition. Nigerian musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti has been an major inspiration for many young Africans looking to re-define what it means to be African in the West. Ever the African icon, Fela’s music and ideas have been at the cornerstone of the growing Afropolitan culture in New York and other metropolitan areas around the world. He has inspired many creative expressions of African culture including my own early foray into Africa-influenced business. After many years as an Afropolitan lifestyle inspiration, now the essence of what Fela has defined for modern Africans has brilliantly been captured in this new musical.

In it’s glowing review of the new musical The New York Times writes:

There should be dancing in the streets. When you leave the Eugene O’Neill Theater after a performance of “Fela!,” it comes as a shock that the people on the sidewalks are merely walking. Why aren’t they gyrating, swaying, vibrating, in thrall to the force field that you have been living in so ecstatically for the past couple of hours?

The hot (and seriously cool) energy that comes from the musical gospel preached by the title character of “Fela!,” which opened on Monday night, feels as if it could stretch easily to the borders of Manhattan and then across a river or two. Anyone who worried that Bill T. Jones’s singular, sensational show might lose its mojo in transferring to Broadway can relax.

FELA! The Musical features the Afrobeat music of Fela Anikulapo–Kuti, a book by Jim Lewis and the direction and choreography of Tony® Award winner Bill T. Jones. The musical is co-produced by Jay-Z, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith among others.

Watch the opening night and behind the scenes videos below.

If you can’t see the videos above, click here

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Europe’s $774 billion African desert solar power project launches

December 2nd, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted in Business, General, Politics, Technology, Travel

desertec-africa-sahara-solar-map

Investors and industrialists from 14 companies met in Munich, Germany recently to formally launch Desertec Industrial Initiative, a €400 billion ($774 billion) collaborative project to provide 15% of Europe’s energy via solar power from Africa’s Sahara desert by the year 2050. Since it was formally announced earlier this year, the project has gotten mixed responses from development and renewable energy groups.

Speaking about the benefits of the project MEED Magazine writes:

Desertec’s backers say the scheme will create jobs and boost local economies. Some go so far as to claim it could even reduce the number of economic migrants to Europe. Governments on both continents will need to collaborate to define a regulatory and legislative framework for the scheme. If Desertec can overcome these hurdles, it will set a precedent for international energy co-operation.

But critics of the project also give some strong points. New Scientist Magazine writes:

Critics are lining up to point out the project’s shortcomings. They say it could make Europe’s energy supply a hostage to politically unstable countries; that Europe should not be exploiting Africa in this way; that it is a poor investment compared to covering Europe’s roofs with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels; and that, while deserts have plenty of sun, they lack another less obvious but equally indispensable resource for a solar thermal power plant – water.

Despite the debate, the project seems to be moving ahead with North African countries like Tunisia and Algeria showing support and making plans.

What do you think? Is the Desertec project good or bad for Africa and/or Europe?

More about the project and it’s launch in the videos below.

If you can’t see the videos click here

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