A Perspective on Doing Business in Africa, by Ejike E. Okpa
Some years ago, I was introduced to a lady whose name is Mary, who somehow has garnered attention in Africa. She lives in California but somehow believes she is the queen of what is good for Africa.
I want people with a good understanding of Africa’s inter- and intra-challenges, to be honest and discuss the issues and opportunities, not FEEL-GOOD promoters who want to impress naive Africans gathering for a jamboree of nothing.
I spoke with her and we didn’t have what I considered an endearing conversation because I thought her understanding of issues facing Africa was thin. But because she is an American lady, it does appear all one needs to impress most Africans is to flash being an American. No matter how thin and low quality the content of a foreigner is, most Africans not knowing the difference often swallow what is put in front of them. It is no wonder pure whites and white-look-alikes receive thunderous ovation in Africa.
Just consider one of the catch-on growth projections of $6.7B by 2030 to $29 trillion by 2050, is like selling ice to the Eskimos. To calculate the growth rate using present and future value models will bust the computer. Only naive and unseasoned minds who believe the sun will rise from the WEST just because will subscribe to such.
Africa is burdened by regional and national challenges that get in the way of developing and growing. And that will not be effectively addressed by gathering and shuffling papers. Not the African Union nor any of the regional communities ECOWAS, SADC, EAC, and CFA, are prepared to understand the benefits of collapsing the borders and eliminating national currencies for a regional one.
Business and corporate governance are still very elementary in most African countries and the absence of capital markets to enable the creation of financial instruments that can be traded is basically absent. A cash-n-carry continent whereby the governments are still in control of what happens limits the level and scope of effective business development.
Good wishes are not willful.
Africans wish for things to HAPPEN but lack the WILL to cause it to happen. In most countries, the president is the de facto political and business Alpha-n-Omega; regardless of what is discussed/presented, if they do not agree and see how their pockets are to benefit, forget it. Africans ingratiate themselves with the perennial notion of having minerals – UNEARNED RESOURCES that they did nothing for the mineral to be there. What matters is to produce the minerals in order to develop.
As for this event, attend at your own pleasure or displeasure. If one wants to do business in Africa, single the particular nation and commit to mastering its attitudes and culture, by identifying someone to assist you navigate the hidden mines before you go mining.
Just thought I share.
Ejike E OKPA is a Global Affairs Analyst