Category: Thought Leadership

  • 22nd November, 2023
  • < 1 min reading

The benefits of a diverse workforce are increasingly evident, as more women have joined the global workforce in recent years. This shift is also reflected in the changing landscape of women’s senior leadership roles.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, there has been a steady global increase in women’s share of senior and leadership roles over the past five years (2017–2022). The global gender parity for this category has reached 42.7%, the highest gender parity score recorded. Despite this progress, women hold less than a third of leadership positions worldwide.

In a recent interview with BBC NewsBolaji Sofoluwe, our Group Managing Director, stressed the significance of “more women going for senior positions.”

Bolaji, recognized on Power Media’s Black Powerlist 2024 as one of Britain’s 100 Most Influential Black People, discussed the importance of having “women who look like me in the boardroom.”

She shared insights into her various roles, including being the chairwoman of a women’s forum, chairwoman of BGEN International , and a mentor at the UK Research and Innovation

You can read the full interview here:

  • 20th October, 2023
  • 3 min reading
Diving into the vibrant African market?

Here are some essential tips to pave your way into this diverse continent with a growing middle class and an abundance of untapped potential.

Embrace Cultural Diversity:

Africa, the world’s second-largest continent by area and population, is unique with national and regional differences.

With this kind of diversity, it’s understandable that each African country also has its own unique identity, culture, and way of life. Although Africans have diverse cultures, they share common ground.

By taking the time to immerse yourself in the local culture and learn about their day-to-day #business practices and business etiquette, you can overcome some of the challenges that are faced when expanding into Africa.

Find Your Niche:

Finding the correct target market for your products or services is the key to effective African market expansion. Africa’s growing economies provide great potential for B2B and B2C expansion.

With around 1.3 billion consumers now and an anticipated increase to 1.7 billion by 2030, the future of retail and consumer spending seems promising. However, African income levels have not been increasing at a steady rate since household expenditure on the continent has remained largely static.

While studies demonstrate that African consumers are sophisticated and loyal to brands, the vast bulk of consumer purchasing on the continent currently occurs in informal, roadside marketplaces, even in countries with well-developed retail and distribution industries.

A well-defined niche in Africa will benefit from less competition and will produce significant commercial growth while using fewer resources.

Phase Your Entry:

Market expansion can be a daunting task; doing things carefully and strategically is essential. When entering new markets, and not just Africa, you may as well test the waters with one foot. Rather than incurring the risk of fully establishing a company, developing strategic alliances with local enterprises that are already taking the risk and navigating the market can be a wonderful strategy with fewer risks. Consider a staged approach to entering the African market.

This will allow you to adapt and alter as needed, as well as test different ideas and approaches before committing to setting up in a specific location.

Leverage Import-Export Opportunities:

When considering expanding your business in Africa, you have several options available to you, each with its own set of advantages and problems. From marketplaces to local sales reps, local branches, subsidiaries, or joint ventures, there is something for everyone.

Similar to how businesses in other markets search to export or import from different markets, #African businesses look for strategic import-export prospects both within and outside the continent. Strategic collaborations can give your product or service access to new markets, such as Africa, as well as shared expertise and reduced resource expansion.

Establish Local Roots:

Having a solid local presence and focusing on your expertise can give you the confidence to extend your company into African markets. Local knowledge can assist businesses in better understanding the legal and regulatory environments of emerging markets, such as Africa.

African countries, like the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, have legal systems. What is legal in the United Kingdom may be illegal or strongly regulated in another country. Businesses that lack local knowledge may find themselves in violation of these restrictions, which can result in large penalties and legal action. Having local experience in the form of legal advice or #consultants can thus be quite beneficial in assuring compliance with local laws and regulations.

Harness the Power of Connections:

In the dynamic African market, relationships matter. Building strong ties not only keeps you ahead but also streamlines your supply chain and product availability. Cultivate these connections to stay competitive and enhance your market penetration. Cultivate these connections to stay competitive and enhance your market penetration.

Remember, the African market is as diverse as it is promising. Embrace your uniqueness, find your niche, and nurture relationships—these are the building blocks for your success. Here’s to thriving in the heart of Africa!

Photo by kurt arendse and  pius quainoo on Unsplash

  • 15th December, 2021
  • 7 min reading

Overview of tech investment opportunities in Africa

Technology is an important part of any country’s modernisation strategy; technology developments in health, communication, and economy benefit all nations. The most powerful countries in the world are also associated with technological breakthroughs, which emphasises the importance and influence that can be generated by developing a technologically integrated society.

As a result, there is a widespread misconception that Africa lags behind the rest of the world in technological breakthroughs; nevertheless, recent achievements are gradually dispelling this myth and significantly repositioning the continent in this regard.

Over the last decade, digital connectivity has rapidly spread across Africa. More than 300 million Africans acquired Internet connectivity between 2010 and 2019, with approximately 500 million more smartphone connections. According to the International Finance Corporation, the number of Internet users in Africa is predicted to increase by 11% over the next decade, accounting for 16% of the global total.

The number of mobile phone users has grown at an exponential rate, from 330,000 in 2001 to 30 million in 2013. It could be argued that the Internet is the first piece of technology to have had a substantial impact on Africa’s technological advancement.

In Africa, a 10% increase in mobile Internet coverage raises GDP per capita by 2.5 percent, against only 2% globally. Furthermore, a 10% rise in digitisation, or the conversion of information to a digital medium, increases GDP per capita in Africa by 1.9%, compared to 1% in non-OECD nations. More broadly, reaching 75% of the population with Internet access could result in the creation of 44 million jobs. It’s safe to claim that the mobile technology industry is a significant economic driver and has resulted in increased trade and investment opportunities in Africa.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile technology and services accounted for 8.6% of total GDP in 2018, a contribution that amounted to over $144 billion of economic value added. In addition, the mobile sector supported approximately 3.5 million jobs, generating an extra $15.6 billion in taxes. As a result of increasing connectivity, businesses and communities have been able to leapfrog societal challenges and weak infrastructure through the use of new technology, which has paved the way for economic progress.

by the end of 2019, Sub-Saharan Africa had approximately 144 mobile money providers, servicing over 469 million registered accounts with $1.25 billion in daily transactions, compared to 298 million registered accounts for traditional bank accounts in 2017. Mobile devices are now the accepted medium to connecting to the Internet, and to carry out financial transactions in Africa.

investment opportunities in Africa

Internet’s contribution to GDP in Africa

Fintech, healthtech, media and entertainment, e-mobility and food delivery, and B2B e-Logistics are just a few of the emerging verticals in Africa that are fuelling innovation. Over the last decade, Africa’s Internet gross domestic product (iGDP) – defined as the Internet’s contribution to GDP — has rapidly increased. In 2012, less than a decade ago, the Internet economy in Africa was estimated to be around 1.1% of GDP, or $30 billion. According to Accenture, iGDP might add $115 billion to Africa’s 2.554 trillion GDP (4.5%) in 2020, up from $99.7 billion in 2019, with the potential to rise as economies develop. By comparison, the Internet sector contributed 9% of GDP in industrialised economies like the United States in 2018.

The Internet economy has the potential to add $180 billion to Africa’s GDP by 2025, rising to $712 billion by 2050. Over the next five years, COVID-19 is expected to limit economic growth in Africa and the rest of the world. Despite the pandemic, Africa’s growth will be driven by the Internet economy’s resilience, private consumption, developer skill, public and private investment, digital infrastructure investments, and new government laws and regulations.

Investments did pick up, and from July, VC funding on the continent had a bullish run until December. Despite the fact that 2020 did not see the same level of megadeals as 2019, and did not surpass the $2 billion barrier, it proved to be a successful year for acquisitions. High-profile instances include WorldRemit’s $500 million purchase of Sendwave, Network International’s $288 million purchase of DPO Group, and Stripe’s more than $200 million purchase of Paystack.

Sector analysis of Africa’s Internet economy Sector

Fintech has evolved into a major driving force in the African Internet economy, directly contributing to GDP growth while also enabling a variety of other industries. Fintech startups continue to be Africa’s most funded sector, with a significant year-on-year increase. The vertical received $836 million in investment across 65 deals in 2019, up from $379 million in 2018 across 42 deals, resulting in a 120% increase in funding and a 55% increase in deal volume year over year (YoY).

Fintech startups have remained the most popular destination for tech investment opportunities in Africa, growing at a CAGR of 24% over the last decade and accounting for 54% of all Africa startup funding in 2019. The fintech sector in Africa is expanding in part to serve the unbanked and financially excluded population. However, the rise of these solutions and increased access to mobile technologies is driving demand and growth in this sector. The opportunities arising from vertical expansion beyond traditional banking services are also a contributing factor.

Surprisingly, despite the Covid pandemic, Africa’s venture capital ecosystem has been steadily growing in recent years, with an influx of funding from local and international investors reaching previously unheard-of levels. According to Africa-focused firm Partech Africa, African entrepreneurs raised a modest $400 million in 2015, compared to the $2 billion invested in the continent in 2019.

These figures were expected to rise in 2020, but with the pandemic sparking an economic downturn, businesses were forced to downsize as investors re-strategized, which slowed down activities during the first few months of the year.

However, in an unexpected turn of events, investments began to increase, and VC funding on the continent began a bullish trend that lasted until December 2020. Despite the fact that 2020 did not witness the same flurry of megadeals as 2019, and did not break the $2 billion barrier, it was a good year for acquisitions. The $500 million purchase of Sendwave by WorldRemit, the $288 million purchase of DPO Group by Network International, and the more than $200 million purchase of Paystack by Stripe were all high-profile acquisitions.

tech investment opportunities in Africa

Four key factors that are having a positive impact on technological investments in Africa:

  • A rapidly rising urban and mobile population is driving digital consumption growth

The African economy benefits greatly from a growing urban and mobile population. Internet penetration is currently at 40%, and a 10% increase in mobile Internet penetration can boost GDP per capita in Africa by 2.5 percent, compared to 2% globally. Increasing Internet penetration to 75% could result in the creation of 44 million new jobs.

  • The tech sector is driven by a thriving developer and startup scene

Africa’s tech talent is at an all-time high, and it will only get better. There are approximately 690,000 professional developers in Africa, with more than half concentrated in just five countries: Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. Despite the challenges that the African startup ecosystem faces, the future appears bright as venture capital continues to pour into the continent.

  • Internet infrastructure investments are further boosting connectivity

More people will be able to enjoy cheaper and faster Internet access as infrastructure continues to improve. Subsea and terrestrial fibre-optic infrastructure investments have fueled the rapid expansion of global Internet capacity. For example, Equiano, Google’s own undersea cable, is set to be finished in 2022.

  • Pro-innovator regulation can benefit the African Internet economy

Inconsistencies in regulatory requirements make it difficult for businesses to gain market access and raise capital. Initiatives such as startup acts and regional harmonisation are examples of progressive initiatives that are promoting mutually beneficial growth. Entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers must continue to communicate in order to foster enabling environments conducive to the growth of digital firms.

Development opportunities

Africa can take advantage of the Internet economy to help informal businesses and workers overcome challenges. For example, businesses in Africa’s informal sector have limited access to finance and quite often do not make use of modern business practises, particularly in bookkeeping and accounting. As a result, they often incur higher costs when interacting with suppliers or clients due to insufficient logistics, a plethora of middlemen, and the prevalence of cash transactions. Furthermore, access to electricity is less certain in the informal sector, particularly in rural areas, creating an overall unpredictable economic environment.

Despite this, the vast majority of workers in the informal sector own a mobile phone, often used for both private and business purposes. Mobile phone ownership in the informal sector is broadly correlated with access to digital connectivity at the national level.

COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how digital platforms that service the informal sector can support societal resilience. Because of their ability to quickly reengineer their platforms, digital platforms were critical in supporting government responses to the outbreak in several markets, particularly in reaching the underserved. This further emphasises the importance of technology in supporting Africa’s economic growth and stability.

The most significant development opportunity lies within Africa’s significant population growth and demographic transition, which is driving, increased consumption. As they mature into household decision-makers, young African consumers are becoming more rich and globalised. The proportion of the population that is of working age will continue to rise; by 2050, Africa will have the lowest dependency ratio in the world.

As a result, the continent’s competitiveness in both skilled and unskilled labour will improve, resulting in greater consumer purchasing power. By 2030, Africa is expected to have more than 1.7 billion consumers, with the ability to spend a whopping $2.5 trillion.

tech investment opportunities in Africa

What does the future hold?

Year after year, African technology startups continue to raise record-breaking sums of money. While actual investment numbers vary, estimations show that investment opportunities in Africa’s digital sector have increased year after year for the past five years. The attraction and reputation of Africa as a venture capital investment destination is growing, attracting investors ready to take some early risks based on the continents attractive opportunities and long-term economic potential.

This expansion is being largely driven by the increased ease of doing business, improved business environments, and the world’s youngest and fastest-growing labour force. Improved government policies that encourage greater cooperation across the continent and across various sectors of the economy have given investors even more reason to be optimistic.

Not to mention the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will bring together a market of 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.6 trillion. AfCFTA aims to reduce tariffs on 90% of all goods and promote free movement of goods, services, capital, and people throughout Africa. It will make Africa’s regional economic communities more integrated and accessible, making it easier to do business across the continent.

Despite this progress, investment in Africa remains in its early stages when compared to other emerging global trading blocs such as Southeast Asia. This indicates that there are still untapped technology investment opportunities in Africa, but this will require governments to become more investor-friendly to achieve continued and consistent investment growth.

In conclusion, despite the pandemic and other challenges facing the African continent, trade and investment opportunities in Africa continue to thrive, and the future of Africa looks bright with continued investment in technology and progressive policy initiatives such as the AfCFTA.

  • 5th October, 2021
  • 6 min reading

Africa is home to some of the fastest-growing economies and consumer markets in the world, and in recent years Africa’s household consumption has grown faster than its gross domestic product (GDP) —and has even outpaced the global average GDP growth rate. Considering the increasing affluence, population growth, urbanisation rates, and rapid spread of access to the Internet and mobile phones on the continent, Africa’s burgeoning economies present exciting opportunities for expansion in a range of sectors. However, the African business landscape can present unique challenges that are not often encountered outside of the continent and can make it challenging doing business in Africa.

Both large and small businesses are critical to Africa’s economic growth as they are key drivers of growth locally, regionally and internationally, and in turn provide a significant portion of the local population’s income. And, given the current rate of globalisation, the growth potential is unimaginable. Despite this, there are risks of doing business in Africa, and a large number of business owners report that they encounter obstacles that are almost entirely unique to Africa, these obstacles range from lack of financing to shortages of skilled labour. The risks of doing business in Africa must be addressed effectively if Africa is to fulfil its full potential. By 2050, Africa, which already has the world’s youngest population, is expected to quadruple; a consequence of this will be an increase in demand for work as well as solid and sustainable income sources.

However, it is not all about challenges and obstacles when it comes to doing business in Africa. For instance, a common misconception is that Africa’s future economic growth is solely dependant on sectors such as oil and gas, but this is not the case. Customer-facing industries such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) are booming, thanks to a burgeoning middle class, youth population and mass urbanisation. Furthermore because of its rapid growth, the population is disproportionately young and low-income, making for a quite shrewd clientele! When you have a few dollars to spend each day, you want to maximise the value you receive for your money.

To successfully access Africa’s significant economic opportunities, businesses must establish creative business models and robust strategies that are specific to their target market. Companies must be aware of the potential challenges and issues so that they can factor them into their business models whilst developing their innovative initiatives. Even though obstacles will vary among the continent’s 54 countries, here are some of the most common issues that we’ve encountered when doing business in Africa.

doing business in Africa

Key Challenges of Doing Business in Africa

A Price-sensitive Market (with little market data)

Although Africa has a growing GDP and the total addressable size of the market is $2.35 Trillion (2020), the reality is that the purchasing power of the average consumer in Africa is still relatively low, with Sub-Sahara Africa’s GDP per capita of $2,461 (2019). This is significantly lower in comparison to the world average GDP per capita of $11,417 (2019).

With a large base of consumers that have become even more price-sensitive, companies tend to allocate more resource to marketing so that they can connect directly with a small base of consumers that have the ability to pay for their products.

This problem is exacerbated by the scarcity of market data, information and technology tools to aid companies in locating and understanding their African clients. To overcome these challenges companies must allocate additional resources to obtain data and market insights they require in order to serve their consumer base.

Finding skilled labour

The bi-annual Africa’s Pulse report released by the World Bank in 2017 showed that firms increasingly rate workforce skills as the most binding constraint to their business in Africa.

The skills gap in Africa’s labour market is still very high. Although there are a large number of young people on the continent (60% of the population is below the age of 25), finding skilled talent is a major challenge for companies looking to scale their operations.

In a lot of African countries there is a misalignment in schooling and training programs, and obvious weaknesses in the higher educational systems that do not align skills with the labour market. Education budgets are not prioritised, and education can be guilty of focusing on theoretical capability over practical ability, which doesn’t transfer well to the world of work. In light of this, Africa has a young, highly educated and eager population that when given the right training and guidance are capable of exceeding at any task or job that they are assigned.

Many companies that have been successful in Africa have recognised that they can gain a competitive advantage by focusing on meeting labour demands and skills requirements of their industry/sectors by offering on-the-job training, and support to their employees.

Some businesses are also actively seeking to adapt and improve their existing internal knowledge base by establishing programs to share skills and experience across generations. For smaller businesses in Africa an approach could be to encourage and support staff in gaining skills that the company sees a demand for in the near future. For example, skill sets like data analytics and programming can be encouraged amongst staff that have the potential and are willing to learn. In a nutshell, businesses both large and small must begin to reconsider their talent acquisition and development strategy.


A widespread lack of access to electricity in Africa is another major challenge for businesses. This lack of consistent access to electricity limits modern economic activities, provision of public services, and quality of life. Africa’s access to electricity significantly lags compared to the world, and there are significant regional and country variations in access to electricity within the continent. Africa’s current average 43 percent access rate to electricity is half of the global access rate of 87 percent.

The insufficient supply of electricity can significantly increase the operational cost of businesses that sometimes have to develop self-sufficient solutions to stay operational and can significantly increase their overheads.

In the coming years, it will be critical to harness other sources of energy, such as solar and biofuels, to supply businesses with the fundamental infrastructure they require, rather than creating a typical electric grid, particularly in remote areas. Businesses should begin to look at renewable energy alternatives and look at how they can be funded individually or collectively.

Supply chain challenges

Moving around in Africa can be a logistical challenge. The weak infrastructure, and the multiple challenges involved in moving between countries are a major cause of disruption in a business’ supply chain. Not only can it difficult to get goods efficiently to the end customer, but it can also be challenging for people to meet up to facilitate business transactions and deals in a region where face-to-face meetings are prioritised in order to build trust.

Because transportation is one of the major barriers in many African countries, manufacturers have devised creative ways to transport their goods. For instance, Coca-Cola in Africa has a “small army of entrepreneurs” who take over where trucking ends by walking or biking products the last mile to their delivery destination. It is important for businesses to find innovative approaches to distribution challenges that they face, and partner with local service providers.

Tough government policies and difficult regulatory landscape

62.5% of the last quartile of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index is occupied by African countries due to the ever changing and challenging regulatory landscape on the continent. Across the continent, it can be quite challenging to start a business, enforce contracts, register new property, get regulatory permits, and protect investors. Although African countries have shown significant progress in improving the ease of doing business, more can be done to make Africa even more competitive on the global stage.

With a changing and ever-evolving landscape, along with policies that frequently change, it can be difficult for businesses to build consistent long-term plans. This inherently increases the cost of doing business in Africa. Businesses need to come together and become more strategic and proactive in their dealings with the government by being unified in disseminating their challenges to government, as enables policy makers to create policy’s that consider the needs of the private sector.

The high cost of securing capital and moving it around

The cost of capital to start and run a business in Africa is high relative to other regions. Banks loans often come with high-interest rates due to the perceived risks of doing business in Africa. Repaying these high-interest rates limits a companies ability to reinvest in the business to fuel growth. That is the reason a lot of businesses in Africa cannot reach significant scale to expand globally. Banks keep these rates high because they lack the resources to accurately prove company or individuals creditworthiness.

Fintech in Africa has helped the continent overcome many of these challenges, from aiding financial inclusion to prompting investors to invest in start-ups gradually but steadily in the continent. With the advent of fintech, businesses in Africa are now able to access financing at a more equitable rate, and with less onerous terms and conditions placed on them.

To make progress in this area, these challenges must be overcome if Africa is to achieve its growth goals in the next decade. Businesses that innovate to assist individuals and other businesses in overcoming these challenges will achieve huge success in Africa. What the continent can do for itself to create and capitalise on the commercial prospects it provides is to continue to invest in infrastructure; thus far, investment levels are on pace, despite infrastructure lag.

To create more jobs, many African countries must focus on supporting the formation of more large and medium-sized businesses. To do this, education systems that are currently geared on producing civil employees must be modified. Schooling should incorporate more career and technical education skills, and nurture entrepreneurial ideals.

On a final note, multinational corporations must respond to Africa’s actual reality. Doing business in Africa is unlike doing business anywhere else. You are unlikely to succeed if you approach the situation from a European or American perspective. Opportunities exist if you can adapt and have a patient strategy.

  • 21st September, 2021
  • 4 min reading

Africa presents enormous economic and growth opportunities, which are presented by its leading consumer markets such as Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana. Despite this, many multinational corporations struggle and face particular challenges when doing business in Africa, and struggle to conduct successful business in these markets due to issues such as weak infrastructure, difficult trade policies and procedures, and fragmented retail markets. Its true that these challenges have not stopped countless others breaking through the boundaries and acquiring a profitable market share in Africa. But how have those successful businesses been able to overcome distribution challenges in Africa?

Distribution challenges in Africa

Overcoming distribution challenges in Africa

Product adaptation for the local market

To begin with, the successful enterprises that have made a mark in Africa share one essential trait: they have recognised and embraced the need of adapting their products and services to the needs of the local market. Coca-Cola and Unilever are two prominent companies that have successfully accomplished this, according to Deloitte’s Africa: Tapping into Growth study.

Coca-Cola, which has a presence in 54 African countries, caters to underprivileged communities by selling beverages in returnable bottles. Customers can, in fact, pay solely for the contents of the bottle if they drink it at a store. Unilever, which employs around 40 000 people across the continent in over 40 locations, on the other hand, has adjusted some of its goods to better meet the needs of the African consumer. One such product is margarine, which has been changed such that it does not need to be refrigerated.

Secondly, these businesses make investments in their communities and local governments. According to Deloitte, Unilever was one of the first large tea businesses in Kenya to commit to sustainable sourcing of tea when it launched its “field schools” in 2007, which have now trained over 250,000 farmers in the region on sustainable tea production. These organisations ensure that they have skilled individuals to execute their objectives by investing in local talent and looking after their staff. This ensures that their employees are not headhunted by other companies. Utilising local skills, knowledge and experience are key to substantial and sustained growth in African markets.

Build the infrastructure that is required

Companies that are successful in doing business in Africa have a good understanding of the business landscape. According to the PWC analysis, Prospects in the retail and consumer goods industry in 10 Sub-Saharan African nations, this is why many “home-grown” enterprises are able to expand into other regions and gain ground against foreign competition. Shoprite Holdings, a South African supermarket chain, is one such example, having opened over 300 stores in 14 African countries since its entry into Zambia in 1995. Whereas more than 90% of sales on the continent are still done through informal means, this company has been cooperating with property developers to build shopping malls or just building their own retail centres.

The understanding of the “home-grown” edge has resulted to many of these companies becoming takeover candidates or being sought out to collaborate with through mergers, joint ventures, or supply arrangements. The PWC research cites WalMart’s acquisition of South African retail business Massmart as an example, and RCL Foods, a significant South African poultry supplier, taking investments in local product manufacturers that will benefit from its cold-chain distribution capability as another.

Establish credibility, and collaborate with local stakeholders

In Africa it is essential for non-African businesses to collaborate with local business networks to deal with the unique business environment, which is often hindered by bureaucracy, corruption, ever-changing regulations, as well as multiple currencies and protectionist measures.

To earn the right to influence local agendas and effect change, businesses in Africa should become more inclusive in their approach by appointing local business leaders to their board of directors, get listed on the local stock exchange and invest in community development.

For instance, NIIT, India’s IT training pioneer, works with a local government in Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana to help students develop vocational training skills and also finds them internships in India.

Invest in local talent recruitment, development, and retention

The lack of qualified professionals in Africa is mostly attributable to the population’s low education level and a significant brain drain of highly educated workers.

Leading companies make a substantial commitment to create a rich talent pipeline. They leverage their corporate reputation, brand strength and presence. Some companies also launch graduate recruiting and training programs and provide clear career development paths. They ensure that salaries are correctly benchmarked not just against local competitors, but also against companies in other fast-growing sectors that could raid their talent.

Explore new and novel distribution alternatives

Because transportation can present significant distribution challenges in Africa, many manufacturers have devised novel ways to transport their goods. Also, the vast majority of consumers in Africa still buy from small stores, hawkers, and “spaza shops” (run out of homes in South Africa). While modern retail is growing, it’s still a fraction of the informal retail landscape.

To accelerate market coverage, many companies establish a network of trusted third-party distributors and wholesalers, teaming their own salesforce with distributors to ensure a measure of control.

Some companies collaborate with traditional outlets directly to increase sales and improve distribution, and in the process, professionalise the way shopkeepers work. According to the Deloitte assessment, Coca-Cola has a “small army of entrepreneurs” who take over where trucking ends by walking or biking products and successfully fulfilling last-mile deliveries.

Marico launched a program in Egypt aimed at developing its relationship with suppliers and distributors and improving their communication skills, as well as in sales and management techniques. Such programs enabled it to maximize its outreach to consumers through its trained associates.

In some categories, companies bolster sales by encouraging unauthorised sellers to formalise their businesses. Brewer SABMiller helped illegal taverns in South Africa convert into licensed outlets, transforming off-the-books sellers into a thriving new retail segment.

Gain a competitive advantage by collecting your own data

Data on Africa’s diversified consumers and retail environment is scarce and often not accurate or reliable. Instead of relying on less-than-reliable data from public research firms, leading consumer packaged goods manufacturers use innovative technology to gather their own data.

A good example of this approach is Olam, who are a global leader in agricultural products with a packaged foods company in Africa. Olam is investing substantially in analysing the dramatic disparities across West African consumers, allowing it to tailor products to local demands and uncover potential new growth areas.

So, in a nutshell, by adopting a number of these approaches that we have highlighted above it will ensure that your organisation can face up squarely to the many distribution challenges in Africa. It is important to state that when developing a strategy or intervention plan it is necessary that businesses gather as much information about the environment in which it wants to operate and compete in. Africa is not a one size fits all approach and companies that have realised this are the ones that are making significant progress in Africa.

  • 31st August, 2021
  • 4 min reading

Advancing trade, investment, and technology in Africa offers enormous economic growth and increased prosperity, and has positioned Africa at the centre of the global economy, and technology has played a key role in this development. The establishment of IT ecosystems is bolstering regional trends in business, investment, and modernisation. More and more global tech firms and investors are realising the sheer potential of the African market with its massive population of 1.3 billion people.

This has created an opportunity like none before for the African continent to leapfrog into the digital economy, coupled with the establishment and implementation of trade and economic initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) or The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The main objectives of these trade and economic initiatives are to bolster trade and investment opportunities, and the use of technology is essential in achieving this. For example, the use of payment platforms to speed up the exchange of money across borders. Digital technologies have also affected the composition of trade by increasing the services component, fostering trade in certain goods such as time-sensitive products, changing patterns of comparative advantage and affecting the complexity and length of supply chains in Africa which will ultimately lead to increased trade within Africa as digitalisation increases the scale, scope and speed of trade.

While the covid pandemic has had a devastating impact on Africa, it has also provided an opportunity as it has thrust Africa forward to embrace the use of technology at an earlier and quicker pace. In the form of adoption of digital technology of businesses across Africa, there was a moment of epiphany across the continent of the importance of technology to restructure and revise the way they use technology to stay competitive. From small-time traders to large firms, fuelled by a vibrant young population and entrepreneurs, the results have shown that those who quickly adopted change have managed to survive the negative impact of the pandemic while those who were slow to adapt to change have struggled. One of the effects of the pandemic is that it created the perfect storm by necessitating the demand for all conceivable communications, especially businesses to be done virtually within a very short period. The result of this approach was that it allowed businesses to seize the opportunity to leapfrog into the digital future sooner than they would otherwise have done.

What does all this change mean for Africa?

In the last 10 years, mobile phone ownership and usage in Africa has grown exponentially. According to a Gallup poll in Sub-Saharan Africa, about two-thirds of the homes have at least one mobile phone. The Pew Research Centre reports, “In a few short years, the proliferation of mobile phone networks has transformed communications in sub-Saharan Africa. It has also allowed Africans to skip the landline stage of development and jump right to the digital age.” In simple words, Africa essentially skipped the PC era and is now directly finding itself in the midst of the mobile revolution.

The rise of technology has allowed Africa to leapfrog from PC to the mobile revolution and empowered young Africans to become innovative in their use of technology, which has led to the creation of a booming tech market within Africa. Africa is now at the epicentre of tech. Although there has been a recent drop in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, Africa’s rising tech sector has bucked this investment slump as we continue to see a rise in tech financing and investment.

Technology in Africa

Technology in Africa is seeing huge investment

Africa is experiencing a trend that has the potential to turn around the fortunes of the continent and place Africa in a unique position where not only will its economy expand, but also fuel the growth of the global economy itself. In Africa, technology is evolving beyond social ventures or a limited business opportunity. The continent’s technological revolution is beginning to pervade all aspects of life. Sub-Saharan Africa’s technological transformation is being witnessed in commerce, health, education, finance, governance, and creative culture… This evolving tech ecosystem will continue to empower Africa’s markets, people, and potential in meaningful ways, playing a pivotal role in taking this continent from the world’s economic margins into the digitized mainstream.”

The growth in funding seen across the continent’s tech ecosystems in 2020 is extremely strong, and all the more impressive given the circumstances of the year when you take into account COVID-19 and its many implications. Technology Investment in Africa surpassed the $700 million mark for the first time, and by all accounts, the appetite to invest in Africa is yet to diminish.

According to the sixth edition of the annual African Tech Startups Funding Report, in 2020 funding records were set as “397 startups raised an impressive US$701.5 million in total funding. Both these figures are up substantially on the previous year, with the number of funded startups increasing 27.7 percent in 2019, and the funding total growing by 42.7 percent.”

Africa is now experiencing a phenomenal amount of investment taking place in its tech ecosystem, this trend is accentuating the belief that Africa’s market is the new frontier for growth, this is due to a combination of factors, which include a young entrepreneurial population, pro-government reform policies and the emergence of the middle class with disposable income.

The lessons learned so far are that Africa is on the cusp of a great opportunity to revive its economies, and to also substantially contribute to global growth. Initiatives such as AfCFTA and AGOA can assist Africa in increasing and enhancing trade and investment and lifting the continent out of poverty, and technology is critical to this equation. With the assistance of technology, Africa has managed to leapfrog its way into the digital age, and not only that, but Africa has also become a viable first option for those who want to invest in tech. With a young vibrant and educated population Africa has become the place of innovation, which was highlighted during the covid pandemic period as Africans embraced technology to sustain trade and investment activities.

Now that we have entered the post-pandemic era, it is critical that from a technological perspective Africa takes a more resolute stance on building its domestic broadband and digital infrastructure while deepening its domestic capacities to analyse its comparative advantage in regional and global value chains.

For those with robust trade, investment, and value chain development skills, along with the governance systems to build on them, the Covid-19 pandemic offers real opportunities to reposition themselves on the global stage. Those unable or unwilling to make the infrastructure investments, and without the skills and commitment to grasp the opportunities, will no doubt face additional threats to their future trade and FDI growth prospects.

  • 23rd August, 2021
  • 4 min reading

There has been so much written about the benefits and opportunities that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will present. A key and immediate effect of this agreement is that it has turned Africa into a single market with 1.3 billion consumers, as of January 1st, 2021.

The agreement has the potential to increase employment opportunities and incomes, helping to increase opportunities for all Africans.

The AfCFTA is expected to bring 30 million people out of extreme poverty, and raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 a day, and make African countries more competitive by boosting intra-African trade by 52.3% once import duties and non-tariff barriers are eliminated.

Successful implementation of the agreement is key, including careful monitoring of impacts on all workers—women and men, skilled and unskilled—across all countries and sectors, ensuring that a wide spectrum of society experience the full benefits of the agreement.

Amongst the pertinent questions being asked right now is whether Africa is ready and fully equipped for such a herculean task, especially in terms of the implementation of the agreement, taking into consideration the intricacies and complexity of bringing together 36 countries to agree on a common position.

A reoccurring concern that emerges is the ‘implementation’ of the pact, what does this mean exactly? Well, it means that all African countries must work together as a united front on the continent to raise standards and build new industries.

The second key element that is critical in this mix is the ability of African nations to pull their resources together to strategize, plan and implement the agreement by empowering and enabling businesses to comply and take advantage of the AfCFTA opportunities.

Africa is now seven months into the agreement. It is pertinent to note that systemic changes will take a while to implement, and it will not be achieved overnight. So, are there any early signs that show that AfCFTA is having a positive impact on Africa?

African Continental Free Trade Area

How Has the African Continental Free Trade Area Impacted Africa So Far?

Amongst the recent positive results and impacts being recorded so far are the following:

  • According to the latest United Nations report, it was only four days later after the trade agreement kicked in January that two Ghanaian companies achieved a major milestone with the first-ever shipment. Using the AfCFTA, the firms became forerunners in product exportation.
  • An expected milestone is the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) project with Afreximbank giving $500 million for clearing and settlement in the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ). The system is expected to be ready at the end of 2021 and is the first major step taken in addressing some challenges related to the cost of currency convertibility under AfCFTA implementation. The bank aims to inject up to $3 billion to aid in the Africa-wide PAPSS project.
  • Wamkele Mene the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat. Inked an agreement with the UN Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Africa in March 2021 to assist in digitizing intra-African trade, improving export preparedness of SMEs led by women and youth, and strengthening national customs authorities. So far, the 37 countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification by 7th July 2021 have adopted the AfCFTA Agreement.
  • South Africa is already benefiting from AfCFTA with regard to future growth and further trade expansion, due to its existing strong connections across the continent and its already well-established manufacturing base. Smaller economies, such as those of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, are also benefitting, due to existing favourable conditions, such as having open economies, good infrastructure and supportive business environments.
  • As of February 41 State Parties had submitted their schedules of tariff concessions, including customs unions members from the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, the Southern Africa Customs Union, the EAC and the Economic Community of West African States. However, not all customs processes are fully in place. Only a few countries, such as Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana and South Africa, have in place the needed customs procedures as required by the relevant AfCFTA provisions.
  • So far, 11 of the 41 countries and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have validated AfCFTA implementation strategies. The strategies aim at complementing the broader development framework of each country or region, especially in relation to trade and industrialisation policies. Some are already implementing their AfCFTA strategies and have a National Committee in place to ensure proper coordination of implementation, policy coherence and effective domestication of the agreement.

These indeed are very promising developments of the early stages of the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement and is already revealing a glimpse of the promises it holds for the continent if it is properly executed.

Like all global economies Africa has had to navigate the challenges of the COVID Pandemic.

Many countries have seized the opportunities within the crisis to move faster on key reforms and investments that will be crucial for long-term development. Despite this, the road to recovery will be long and vary significantly across economies and sub-regions.

In this context, a successful implementation of AfCFTA is crucial. In the short term, the agreement would help cushion the negative effects of COVID-19 on economic growth by supporting regional trade and value chains through the reduction of trade costs. In the longer term, AfCFTA would allow countries to anchor expectations by providing a path for integration and growth-enhancing reforms.

Of course, it should be recognized that the full implementation of such an agreement will take years and will require the full buy-in and support of businesses and governments across Africa, but there should be an expectation of short-term benefits and gains for participating countries.

It is hoped that in a relatively short period of time, growth in trade, skills, learning, and efficiencies should materialize. Yes, this is going to be one of Africa’s greatest endeavours, but we should never forget that the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement has the potential to be an economic catalyst for the continent, transforming it into the global economic powerhouse we all know it can be, but only through a shared vision, honest and transparent leadership, and effective collaboration.

  • 2nd August, 2021
  • 3 min reading

The easing of the pandemic, aided by global vaccine rollout, means that African markets are shifting their focus to post-pandemic recovery. After 16 months of uncertainty, which has resulted in the economic stagnation of African economies, where trade and investment activities have ground to a halt.

With the gradual resumption of trade and investment in Africa, there has been a renewed focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, which is now taking stage in the trade and investment domain. The increased insistence in the inclusion of ESG factors has been driven by investors in Africa, aided by continued government stimulus, and supported by Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) and multi-national development banks.

While the pandemic has not affected all African economies as severely as predicted the pandemic has still had a severe impact on some of the most vulnerable economies such as Angola and Zambia, which lack the macroeconomic opportunities of countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt. The recovery from the pandemic is a key focus for Africa, and provides an opportunity for ESG factors to become a key requirement when deciding where, when and how to direct funds back into Africa, and to ensure Africa’s recovery is sustainable particularly from a trade and investment perspective.

Although ESG initiatives have been fully embraced in other parts of the world it seems that Africa has some catching up to do, and has fallen short when it comes to its implementation and ability to unlock the benefits that linked to ESG factors. Despite Africa’s diverse natural resources, renewable energy potential, human capital and significant development opportunities, connecting investors (many situated offshore) with investees on the continent is not always straightforward.

Unfortunately, this scenario has resulted in missed opportunities and limited the ability of ESG components, such as monitoring how companies manage energy or pollution issues, to penetrate investment flows into African projects that would otherwise enable the promotion of ESG investment goals within the continent. For now, Africa’s most visible contribution is through initiatives that are associated with ESG-related criteria that assist the UN accomplish its sustainable development goals, in other words, social impact projects.

Africa’s ESG Potential

How Can African Economies Unlock Their ESG Potential?

A key factor for unlocking this potential is for investors in Africa to become more aware and comfortable with the risks associated with investing in developing markets, as well as for them to find “sustainable assets” that can provide acceptable returns. Companies that recognize the potential of ESG must be able to clearly demonstrate how effectively they manage their operation, which includes how they interact with stakeholders, understanding their environmental impact, and how they detect and manage risk.

A strategy that can assist Africa in unlocking its ESG potential is through the collaboration of funding or co-funding initiatives with Development Finance Institutions (DFIs).

In this case, DFIs come in handy as DFIs have a long history of being sources of finance in Africa, often providing riskier, longer-term investment capital with an emphasis on sustainability, and enticing commercial lenders to engage using ESG-like metrics. As investment vehicles, DFIs can plug funding gaps on projects that banks might turn down due to concerns over the risk or length of an investment, as most banks tend to be more focused on shorter investment loans and less risky projects.

DFIs have traditionally worked two-fold. On one hand, banks have facilitated their investments on the continent – which is known as wholesale lending. DFIs lend money to an African or an international bank with on the ground connections, who then lend money to the agreed upon framework using embedded infrastructure. As these loans are funded by the DFI, they are traditionally sustainable in nature, adhere closely to the ESG requirements of the lender, and require reporting and validation.

The combination of DFI capital, which can be used to make riskier investments, with a national or international bank’s capital, reaches more businesses and opportunities for trade and investment activities while alleviating some of the bank’s reporting and validation obligations.

The potential benefits of this approach is that smaller businesses can also benefit from this arrangement. SMEs are critical to Africa’s development, especially from a trade and investment perspective and it is only by fostering the growth of entrepreneurs and SMEs that Africa will be able to eradicate poverty and progress to the next level. Hybrid lending arrangements that handle risk that banks are unwilling to take on, along with investments in ESG and sustainable development initiatives, can, and will pave the way for Africa’s future growth and development.

  • 14th July, 2021
  • 3 min reading

Businesses within a trade and investment environment have spent most of the last fifteen months attempting to adjust to unusual conditions. While the struggle against the pandemic is far from over, there is now a glimmer of hope and optimism in the air. The reality of things now is that companies or individuals that want to trade and invest in Africa must adjust their approach in order to survive.

Various reports suggest that economic recovery from the pandemic could take 2 years, or more. The Africa’s Pulse report which was recently released by the World Bank, suggests that economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will decline from 2.4% in 2019 to between -2.1% and -5.1% in 2020 and beyond, depending on the success of measures taken to mitigate the pandemic’s effects.

The pandemic has presented a challenge for businesses to reinvent themselves in order to survive and take advantage of prevailing economic opportunities; the main way of achieving this is by restructuring themselves and their business operations. Adaptability is the key to solving this conundrum, and any entity that is not able to adapt and be agile within a short period of time is unlikely to survive in the long-term. The inability to adapt quickly or become agile and take advantage of economic opportunities in the post pandemic environment is one of the key challenge’s businesses are facing in Africa. So how do businesses that wish to take advantage of trade and investment opportunities in Africa navigate the new post pandemic world, and what are the economic opportunities?


The Do’s and Dont’s of Trade and Investment in Africa Post Pandemic

The Do’s

Technology is now a game changer for businesses – The rapid adoption of technology, digitisation, and new ways of working will continue to accelerate. Most of the businesses that did not embrace technology at the onset of the pandemic are nowhere to be found today.

The name of the game is surviving rather than economic efficiency – To secure survival in the post-pandemic environment, contingency planning should be integrated into every link of the value chain. Businesses will have to be much more strategic in deciding which alliances are vital and which are transactional, rather than building relationships based on leverage and getting the better end of the bargain wherever feasible.

Trade and investment initiatives need to look inwards; hence the strengthening of intra-regional and Intra-Africa trade is critical. Regional partnerships are critical for businesses. There needs to be concerted efforts to harmonize trade-related regulations, customs controls, and reduce both tariff and non-tariff barriers. The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides opportunity for this to become a reality.

The Don’ts

Don’t be stuck in your old ways – Companies that hurry back to old ways of trading in Africa may very well stumble and stagger in the decade to come. The pandemic has given companies that want to trade and invest in Africa the opportunity to transform and prepare for a more turbulent world. First, they must be able to fully reimagine the boundaries of their company from an African trade and investment perspective.

What do you want inside vs. outside? In other words, post pandemic environment (the outside) dictates that companies that revert to business as usual (the inside) will not survive for long, the way businesses must now function are dependent on the adoption of a set of different rules and skills. These emerging post pandemic rules and skill sets are going to be based on two key principles, namely the ability to be agile and quickly adopt change, and secondly, the mindset to understand the importance and necessity for change.

Don’t assume anything – Don’t take your existing clients for granted, post pandemic you should throw away old assumptions: The raw customer needs that will define your industry may be drastically different. What are your customer’s needs? Be resilient and adapt as you progress, responding to your customers’ evolving needs. And beware of new entrants that could leapfrog you to meet those needs faster, cheaper and better.

In conclusion, your Africa trade and investment strategy post pandemic will be less about beating your economic opponents and more about how businesses can help to battle a bigger, common adversary, such as climate change, pandemics, or maybe socio-political ills such as inequality.

  • 1st April, 2020
  • 2 min reading
The coronavirus is significantly impacting with all businesses feeling the effects. Here Bolaji Sofoluwe explains how ETK Group has expanded its services in response to the pandemic. There is no question that the outbreak of Covid-19 has had a huge impact on services, supply chains and staff provision. The disruption affects new trade relationships between the UK and Africa, so it is important that, as a company, we respond to the new demands. To help our clients, and potential new business, we are adapting our services. We know that it is very uncertain around the world, and that in a lot of cases, systems as we knew them before, are on a temporary go slow. In response, ETK will be offering support with expediting payments, managing human resource relationships, in-country representation, supply chain interruption and resilience consulting.


Anyone experiencing delays in receiving payments from African suppliers or businesses can be helped by our finance and credit control experts. We have several trusted partners with whom we can work to ensure our clients experience the minimum possible hold-up. Our partners offer tailor-made, robust solutions to ensure that our clients receive their business-critical payments – vital in today’s climate.

In-country representation

This is handled by ETK’s global associates who work on the ground in Africa. The service is aimed at people who have been forced to cancel their trips to Africa due to travel restrictions. However, they still need to progress negotiations. Our team can represent our clients in many ways. ETK can provide help with crisis management in Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania and Angola.

Supply chain interruption

ETK can communicate with existing suppliers or source alternatives for businesses who require help with supply chain interruption and resilience consulting. This is the case for both internal interruption such as the breakdown of vital machinery, or external, for example the disruption to the flow of raw materials or parts to the business. We will work with companies to undertake a comprehensive business impact analysis to prepare their firms to address the impact of possible future supply chain disruption. This will strengthen the existing supply chain, identify alternative supply chain partners and look at ways to manage product demand, and as a result, will protect sales, revenue, cash flow and business reputation.