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Africa on the cusp of radical change as economies rapidly develop

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Samuel Dukuly, a resident of Liberian capital, Monrovia, is happy with a quantum of photovoltaic panel that has recently been installed above his shanty. “I have been dependent on oil lamps all my life. Things would have been different, had there been no wars,” he explains. A small improvement, but it is enough to point out that Africa is on the cusp of a radical change brought forth by both global and local forces.

The First and Second Liberian civil war did not let the Liberian economy stabilize; further more, it destroyed the infrastructure the country relied on. A good 15 years have passed, and it has completely changed the state of affairs. Liberia’s GDP has increased by 59% in the last 10 years. Currently, the GDP is $2.1 billion.

Samuel Dukuly is able to send his children to school and provide them with the education he was robbed of during the civil wars. It’s speculated that the intervention of UNSC made it possible, but the credit goes to the Liberians themselves.

Liberia moved from stabilization to transformation. The bulk of the transformation happened under Africa’s first female president, EllenJohnson Sirleaf. Her initiatives prompted the Diaspora of successful Liberiansto come back home and take the reins of the economy. The peace and tranquillity cultured an environment that attracted investment worth $16 billion. Soon, the West African country will be able to completely repay its debts.

Most of the African states have the same story. Countries torn by internal conflict overcome the strife through scientific and economic development. The rebound of the states in terms of economy and business hascaused a ‘blooming effect’ for the entire continent. Africa is growing into one of the most investment-rich domains in the world.

By 2030, the global population will rise to 2.4 billion. One-fifthof that population will be that of Africans. The increase in population soundsgrim to some, but it also brings the possibility of better healthcare and astable financial system. Numbers dictate the age group between 23-27 years tobe the majority in this population boom in Africa. The young workforce is setto catalyze the positive change happening in Africa.

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The 60s featured only three major African cities with apopulation more than 1 million. Today, there are about 56 cities with sprawling infrastructure, and in 20 years, there will be more than 100 cities. These will be hubs for businesses and large markets that will maximise productivity, economic efficiency, and innovation.

Nema Ramkhelawan-Bhana, an analyst from Rand Merchant Bankexplains, “Africa’s importance to the global economy is reflected in a numberof noteworthy publications that have been distributed by respectedorganisations in recent years.” Africa has learned to diversify its economyinto different portfolios.

According to a report published by the Angola-based investment conglomerate, Quantum Global,   Botswana has been ranked the best in terms of GDP, economic growth, credit rating,external debt, and the ease of doing business. Botswana is considered the leastcorrupt country with political stability. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) marketplace is open for investors through Botswana.

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The report has ranked 54 countries on the basis of growth factors, liquidity factors, risk factors, business environment factors,demographics, and social capital factors. All of these features have been condensed into a single indicator called the ‘Africa Investment Index’.

The Quantum Global report based on their Africa Investment Index, places Morocco as the second runner-up and Egypt as the third. South Africa couldn’t make it to the top three because of its external debt, slow economic growth, and exchange rate risk, despite the country being aninvestment haven.

Somalia performed the worst and ranked last. At the horn of Africa, this country lacks a well-organised and authoritative central government that can maintain peace and regulate the economy. The economy thrives only on a few exports, primarily that of coffee and livestock. Yet, the infamous Somalian piracy has contributed to their economy.

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The loot allowed rapid development of boom towns and expansion of infrastructure. European companies used to dump nuclear waste inthe Somali coasts due to the absence of coast guards. Illegal fishing in Somaliterritory was also a problem. Piracy has put an end to these practices that abused the Somali environment and resources.

In spite of the hurdles, investors are keen to put theirtime and money on Somalia. The horned coast could be hiding several potentialoil wells, the reason why the Norwegian company Spectrum will provide seismic services for oil exploration. Somalia poses a lot of demand, mainly in the healthcare, education, real estate, and telecom sectors.

Healthcare is bettering under the watchful eye of UNICEF,but a lot has to be done as infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate stillrun quite high. Per 100,000 births, the global average of maternal mortalityrate is 216 deaths. Somalia attributes 850 deaths per 100,000 births, almost four times the global average.

Healthcare experts blame lack of real estate and infrastructure to establish health centres in rural areas and multi-speciality hospitals in cities. As a result, Somali people have to travel to countries like India and Malaysia, where care for complex medical cases are affordable.

Real estate in Somalia is risky, considering the absence ofa registry system. If you want to establish a commercial or residential property, the plot or the complex needs to be verified by local elders, followed by authorization of public notaries. Purchase of real estate inSomalia needs extreme caution and research. It is better to talk extensively tolocals about a property before buying.

The lack of registration and record keeping in real estate, healthcare, and other documentation-demanding areas is a symptom of a poor education system. Angola, Guinea, Gambia, Ethiopia, and Niger do not have enough schools or facilities to educate the Kids. Economists agree that this is a grave problem that needs special focus.

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Most of the difficulties in education are faced by female students. They are either married off early or give up schooling as result of harassment and the discouraging society.

Vocational training is the most important of all, as itprovides the young with necessary skills to get employed in almost all the sectors. There are jobs waiting for the trained youth. South Africa hasthree-quarters of its companies devoid of engineering staff, while more thanhalf of the young people are jobless. Vocational training can bridge that gap.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Ghana can boost its economic growth by 3% every yearby ensuring all 15-year-olds achieve a basic level of education. Distance learning can ensure education comes to the students if they cannot go to school themselves.

Distance learning requires a strong internet connection. Unfortunately, most of the African countries do not have a strapping telecommunication system that backs a continuous and unbreakable interface tothe World Wide Web. On the other hand, mobile penetration in Africa is morethan 80%. Private telecom companies have assisted in connecting Africa morethan public forums.

It is why diversification and privatisation are crucial for Africa. Private companies can help scale infrastructural development by bringing in investments and innovative solutions. You can already see the development flair as several startups are using the mobile penetration to their advantage.

Entrepreneurs, such as Deepankar Rustagi, Bright Simons, and Peris Bosire found that it was easier to reach people via a simple app on the smartphone, as not everyone can afford a personal computer. It has pushed the sales of Samsung smartphones in the continent, through which people can hireprofessionals and single out counterfeit drugs.

Deepankar Rustagi created Vconnect to bring people together. The company is transforming how a business accesses a market and engages with other businesses. mPedigree was founded by Ghanaian innovator Bright Simons,who wanted to create a central registry where information about a product, itsbrand, and manufacturing unit are stored. This has made it easy for people tocheck if a certain drug is a harmful imitation or not.

Bigger players like Gina Din Kariuki, Jason Njoku, Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, and Maavi Norman have brought some what bigger changes in the African business sphere.

Gina Din Kariuki stepped into the world of public relationsin 1997 when it was still a budding industry in Kenya. Her company, the Gina Din Group has helped create strong relationships between brands (both international and national) and their target audiences in Kenya.

The Gina Din Group provides all the services a high-levelbrand would need, from brand strategy to communications. Gina Din Kariuki also established The Gina Din Foundation to empower women and the youth by providing them with a global platform and lots of resources.

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Likewise, Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, a Swiss-Angolan entrepreneur, founded the Quantum Global Group. Apart from its role as an investment juggernaut in sub-Saharan Africa, it ranks African countries on the basis of a calculated indicator called African Investment Index. This indicator helps investors understand which African country can offer the best opportunities.

Jean Claude Bastos de Morais deems creativity and innovationto be imperative for Africa. In fact, he established the African InnovationFoundation (AIF) that aims to fuel the Young Turks of Africa with the spirit of modernism and innovation. Through AIF, Jean Claude Bastos de Morais established ‘Innovation Prize for Africa’ (IPA), a prize that’s given to an innovator who can bring prosperity to Africa and better the quality of life for Africans.

The winner of IPA receives a prize of $150,000 and the nominees receive $5,000. The Grand Prize winner for IPA 2017 was Prof AlyEl-Shafei from Egypt. His patented innovation called SEMAJIB modifies mechanic alturbines to improve efficiency and reduce costs of energy generation dramatically. Dougbeh-Chris Nyan won IPA’s Social Impact Award Winner for an ingenious test that he developed that can check and distinguish more than five infectionsin less than 40 minutes.

With such cutting-edge technology, African states are slowlymaking their presence felt on the global platform. Currently, the biggest investment platforms for them are the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The Middle East has always been a trade route for Africans since time immemorial. Multinational companies are looking to open offices in Dubai and Riyadh.

Investor Jean Claude Bastos de Morais says, “There is a long tradition of Gulf investments in Africa, from telecoms and airlines to natural resources and agriculture. Dubai has made significant efforts to make Africans feel welcome in the city, and regularly attracts African heads of state and business delegations to its conferences.” Quantum Global is gearing up to open its representative office in the UAE soon.

On the contrary, Africa should not give up on the agricultural sector for over-diversification. It has the richest and arableland in the world. This continent can potentially feed the entire world if the land is sustainably used with a modernized approach. India, China, and Brazilmay compete with an African nation for the superpower status if the progress is kept uniform.