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Africa Trends Roundup: Internet-Anywhere, Smart cities, & Jobs creation

September 8th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Editor's Note, Technology

Getting insights from the noisy coverage of Africa can be very hard. We’ve sifted through all the news and views and identified these recent stories which more accurately indicate what Africa’s cultural, and business ecosystems might look like in the near future. Read on and continue to stay one step ahead.

  • Made In Kenya, Assembled In America: This Internet-Anywhere Company Innovates From Silicon Savannah – Fast Company: (BRCK) is essentially a mobile Internet router. It connects to the web in three ways: by plugging in a standard ethernet cable, by bridging with other Wi-Fi networks, or by accessing 3G or 4G data via a basic SIM card…While designed in Kenya, BRCK is manufactured and assembled deep in the heart of Texas, by a company called Silicon Hills. Located outside of Austin, the company has the key ability to iterate and do small runs. According to its CEO, BRCK couldn’t also be manufactured in Kenya because of the considerable import taxes and time delays when bringing components into the country.

  • Infrastructure & connectivity key to Africa’s smart cities – IT News Africa: For a continent driven by mobility, Wi-Fi presents a significant opportunity to aid in the socio-economic development of people – particularly as it provides a cost-effective access solution to high-density areas such as those found in cities.
    Fletcher cites the example of Kenya and Ghana that are heavily investing in building pre-planned technology hubs that have the capacity to be involved in the smart cities of the future.

  • The Previously Untold Story Of Africa’s Mobile Revolution – Forbes: Africa’s mobile revolution has been called a phenomenon that “changed African nations more significantly than any development since their independence from colonial powers.” Today, Africa is even more reliant on mobile technology than the West. But one important story has remained untold. It’s the saga of how one person, imbued with entrepreneurial passion and surrounded by a supportive ecosystem of colleagues, helped launch an SMS text messaging service for real-time market pricing that eventually transformed the continent.

  • Africa at work: Job creation and inclusive growth – McKinsey: Despite the creation of 37 million new and stable wage-paying jobs over the past decade, only 28 percent of Africa’s labor force holds such positions. If the trends of the past decade continue, Africa will create 54 million new, stable wage-paying jobs over the next ten years—but this will not be enough to absorb the 122 million new entrants into the labor force expected over the same period. However, by implementing a five-part strategy to accelerate the pace of job creation, we estimate that Africa could add as many as 72 million new wage-paying jobs over the next decade, raising the wage-earning share of the labor force to 36 percent…If Africa accelerates job creation, it could add 72 million additional wage-paying jobs by 2020.

  • Africa’s testing ground – The Economist: Nigeria’s promise has made it a test-bed for the Africa strategies of consumer-goods firms. This is not only because of its size. It is also because of the spread of Nigerian culture—its music and movies—around Africa, says Yaw Nsarkoh of Unilever. The Anglo-Dutch company has been trading in Nigeria for nearly a century and is expanding its operations.Procter & Gamble, another global consumer giant, has just completed a factory near Lagos, its second in Nigeria..Just as Nigeria is used as shorthand for the business opportunity in Africa it is also a summary of the continent’s shortcomings.

  • Report reveals sub-Saharan Africa’s 10 most competitive economies – How We Made it in Africa: More than half of the 20 lowest-ranked countries in the report are sub-Saharan, and many markets have insufficient infrastructure and poor levels of health and basic education…The region’s challenge is to turn high growth into inclusive growth and make the transition from agriculture-based economies to higher value-added activities.

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Business success in Africa is all about relationships

July 10th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Business

Carlo Regueiras, Africa Sales Manager at Altech ISIS explains:

Despite the fact that doing business in Africa has changed significantly over the past few years with the continent’s business environment maturing, there are still many continent- and country-specific adaptations that are required for a company to be successful. The only way to achieve an effective business presence in an African country is through local knowledge.”While many companies profess to have this local knowledge, few have an established network of local partners that allows them to overcome the challenges that even home-grown businesses have to overcome in these emerging markets, and even fewer have presence in multiple African countries.

Read more in Africa is all about relationships)

Kenya’s Billion-Dollar Dash to Become the Tech Hub of Africa

April 22nd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Technology

Bloomberg reports:

Nairobi, Kenya has become the tech hub of Africa, a niche that could be worth more than one billion dollars to the country in the next three years despite its 40% unemployment rate. Kenya is throwing all their eggs in the tech basket as they build a multi-billion dollar infrastructure in the form of a “Techno City” that will support 200,000

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Trailer: When China met Africa (documentary)

April 6th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Film/Television, General, Politics, Travel

When China met Africa‘, a new documentary film produced by Marc Francis & Nick Francis and Miriana Bojic Walter, tells the story of China’s entrance into Zambia and the cultural and business relationships surrounding:

A historic gathering of over 50 African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia where the lives of three characters unfold. Mr Liu is one of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled across the continent in search of new opportunities. He has just bought his fourth farm and business is booming.

In northern Zambia, Mr Li, a project manager for a multinational Chinese company is upgrading Zambia’s longest road. Pressure to complete the road on time intensifies when funds from the Zambian government start running out.

Meanwhile Zambia’s Trade Minister is on route to China to secure millions of dollars of investment.

Through the intimate portrayal of these characters, the expanding footprint of a rising global power is laid bare – pointing to a radically different future, not just for Africa, but also for the world.

Watch the trailer below:

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Western Union partners with M-Pesa for international mobile money transfers

March 31st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Business, General, Technology, Travel


Western Union has announced a partnership with M-PESA, the popular Kenyan mobile cash-transfer service. This deal opens up Western Union’s huge money transfer network to the Safaricon-owned “mobile wallet” service. The parnership will allow customers in US, UK and other countries to transfer money to a Safaricom/M-Pesa user’s account and the receiver will receive an SMS message from M-PESA notifying them that the money is available in their account.

Kenyans living abroad can now send money to their relatives back home through Safaricom’s mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa.
This is after Safaricom and Western Union signed an agreement, which enables Kenyans living in 45 countries in the US, Asia, Europe and Africa to access the now world famous M-Pesa service.
Although they can send up to Sh35,000 per transaction, limits per day, per month or per year will depend on the country the money is sent from, following the link-up that is likely to give the NSE listed firm a head start in the increasingly competitive mobile telephony market.
“Through this partnership, our customers and their friends and families will benefit from affordable, faster and more convenient international remittances,” said Safaricom chief executive officer, Bob Collymore.
Mr David Yates, of Western Union, applauded the service as an impressive adoption of the mobile channel.
“Cash payout through M-Pesa is projected to go up from 23 per cent to 40 per cent, as the traditional cash payout will take the rest,” Mr Yates said.
The transaction is similar to a traditional cash-to-cash money transfer, except that the sender specifies the recipient’s mobile phone number at the time the funds are sent.
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IT giant Infosys seeks African market expansion

March 30th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Technology

Indian IT company Infosys Technologies is continuing its entrance into the African continent. It said in a statement Friday morning that it believes Africa is a market for long-term IT services and hopes it will be able to implement an investment strategy.

In an interview with the Times of India, Infosys CFO V Balakrishnan said that Africa has great potential and populations are demanding an improvement in IT services.

Nigeria’s regulatory body this week echoed similar statements when it said that mobile phone services in the country are sorely lacking adequate customer service and infrastructure. Infosys could capitalize on this exact issue, said Ahmed Gabr, an IT specialist based in Nairobi.

Read more at itnewsafrica.com

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Microsoft chairman plots Africa’s tech revolution (video)

January 18th, 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted in Business, General, Technology

In the video featurette below, CNN’s African Voices highlights Cheick Diarra, the Microsoft chairman for Africa who has been trying to make technology more accessible on the continent. In the video Mr. Diarra talks about tech affordability, connectivity, and training in Africa, and also comments on combatting software piracy by developing the local software development community, Before joining Microsoft in 2006, Cheick Diarra spent 10 years working for NASA as its first African astrophysicist.

The latest chapter in his career has seen him return to Africa, where he has been heading Microsoft’s operations since 2006, trying to make technology more accessible on the continent…’This is a unique opportunity because somebody like me, who is known for his scientific achievement, being able to have the opportunity to use, to leverage a company like Microsoft to really put the technology-access issue at the middle of the table,” he says….However, Diarra is quick to point out that access to technology will do little to accelerate Africa’s economic and social development if it is not accompanied by investment in the continent’s most important resource — its people. – CNN African Voices
More in the video below.
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Africa’s wealth and consumerism draws big brands

January 14th, 2011 | 4 Comments | Posted in Business, General

The Wall Street Journal is currently running an in-depth interactive series on the rapid development and potential of the African consumer market. The first installment of the series includes a wealth timeline of foreign investment in Africa, consumer profiles, an insightful article on multinational brand perspective and more. It’s a must read. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

There’s a new gold rush under way for the African consumer, a campaign that spans the continent and aims to reach an emerging middle class. These are the people who have begun to embrace cellphone messages, restaurant meals and trips down supermarket aisles.
In Kenya, a battle between units of Britain’s Vodafone Group PLC, and India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. has driven down the consumer’s cost of a text message to a penny. Yum Brands Inc. of the U.S. recently said it wants to double its KFC outlets in the next few years to 1,200.
And Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay nearly $2.5 billion to buy 51% of South Africa’s Massmart Holdings Ltd., with plans to use the discount retailer as a foothold for continental expansion. Andy Bond, Wal-Mart’s regional executive vice-president, describes the potential as a “10- to 20-year play.”
Some analysts believe a billion-person continental market already has arrived. Consultancy McKinsey & Co. says the number of middle-income consumers—those who can spend for more than just the necessities—in Africa has exceeded the figure for India. The firm predicts consumer spending will reach $1.4 trillion in 2020, from about $860 billion in 2008. – Read more on WSJ.com
click image to enlarge
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Insights on mobile banking & advertising in Africa (videos)

January 5th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, General, Technology

If you’ve been following this website or been engaged in any recent conversation about Africa’s future, you can’t have missed a mention about mobile technology innovation and it’s impact in Africa. For the curious or uninitiated, here are a couple of videos which focus on the trend and give some insight particularly in the banking and advertising industries.

Banking revolution saving lives in Africa (CNN)

According to the Bureau of International Information Programs at the U.S. State Department, around one million of Tanzania’s 41 million inhabitants use mobile phone technology to carry out financial transactions and save money.
At the same time, only 12% of the population have a formal bank account, while almost half of them own a cell phone.

M-Pesa: Kenya teaches the developed world about the mobile wallet (BBC)

In developing world countries like Kenya, the technology to do this has been around for several years – and you do not need a bank account to use it. M-Pesa launched in 2007, and there are now nearly 100 services like it around the world, mainly in developing countries. Can the developed world learn from Kenya’s experience with the mobile wallet?

Mobile Advertising in Africa (A talk by Ankit Rawal of InMobi)

Ankit Rawal, Head of Advertising, Africa, InMobi speaks about the state of mobile advertising in Africa at iHub in Kenya.

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South Africa formally invited to join BRIC group of emerging global powers

December 24th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, Politics

South Africa has been formally asked to join the BRIC group of major emerging markets, comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China, bolstering its position as Africa’s champion.

Chinese President Hu Jintao wrote a letter to his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, to inform him of the decision and inviting him to the BRIC’s third heads of state meeting in Beijing next year, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a statement on his ministry’s website today.

South Africa, which has a population of 49 million compared with China’s 1.36 billion, is betting on raising its clout on the world stage by joining BRIC, while strengthening political and trade ties within the bloc. The country accounts for about a third of gross domestic product in sub-Saharan Africa and will offer BRIC members improved access to 1 billion consumers on the continent and mineral resources including oil and platinum.

Joining the group is “the best Christmas present ever,” South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a reporters in Pretoria today. “We will be a good gateway for the BRIC countries. While we may have a small population, we don’t just speak for South Africa, we speak for Africa as a whole.”

More at bloomberg.com

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