More than 640 million Africans, or about 60% of the continent’s population, don’t have access to reliable and affordable grid-connected electricity, and are therefore dependent on energy sources such as kerosene, charcoal and diesel. Likewise, many businesses also suffer from poor power supply. For example, it is estimated that some 95% of the mobile tower sites in the continent’s off-grid regions run on inefficient diesel generators, which significantly drive up costs.
Former Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi didn’t like it when the African Union (AU) set tight deadlines that might never be achieved. At a debate about intra-African trade at the AU summit in January 2012, the late Zenawi berated the AU Commission for stating that a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) would be established by 2017. It was far too short a deadline for such a complicated and immensely difficult achievement, he said.
At the end of November 2016, a group of private equity professionals gathered in Cape Town for the SuperReturn Africa conference, which bills itself as the continent’s largest private equity and venture capital event. Jaco Maritz was there to learn about the opportunities and risks private equity investors see in Africa.
The East African Community (EAC) is an economic bloc formed by Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The countries have a history of cooperation dating back to the early 20th century. In the recent years, they have started various infrastructure projects to improve the connection between its members, ultimately decreasing the cost of doing business and making the bloc more attractive to trade with foreign countries.
Singapore is enjoying this opportunity, with investments in the African continent growing at a compound rate of 12% per year; the city-state has traded more than US$400 million with the EAC alone in 2013. Singapore is currently involved in various businesses in the region, ranging from agriculture to digital logistics solutions, and is eager to expand its presence even more. This pace will increase as legal frameworks and institutions covering the whole EAC bloc gain strength and eliminate corruption in the region; and when basic infrastructure problems are solved and an easy flow of goods and services is reached in the region.
Africa is a continent with incredible hope and opportunity along with incredible challenges. When visiting Africa, one hears about challenges regarding basic human needs such as nutrition and health care. One also hears about the leadership challenges South Africa currently faces. Upon further reflection after visits to several organizations, including Olam International, Philani, and the African Leadership Academy, it is clear that women in Africa are uniquely positioned to move the continent forward economically and politically. Based on the author’s experience in South Africa, there are three key areas where women can have a substantial impact: (i) agriculture, (ii) health education and (iii) leadership in politics and business. These areas will be the focus of the analysis below.