I attended the recent Forum on Global Leadership, hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.
Among the speakers was U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. I didn’t realize what an African background the senator has. He has lived in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa – and is fluent in Afrikaans.
He, along with Lt. Gen. William “Kip” Ward, U.S. Army (Ret.), who served as the first commander of the U.S. Africa Command from 2007-2011, had a lot to say about Africa as an emerging continent.
Essentially, the 54 countries there are growing up politically and economically.
And it might not be the countries that first come to mind. For example, for the first time ever, Nigeria is about to overtake historical economical giant South Africa in terms of its GDP.
Evelyn John Holtzhausen, chairman of Cape Town, South Africa-based, HWB Communications and president-elect of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), said, “Rather than being a ‘dark continent,’ Africa, like Gulliver, is a rising giant flexing muscle as one country after another throws off the shackles of colonialism to embrace the new.”
He is not alone with that opinion.
"Africa has a great tradition of innovation and creativity and innovation is a central driver of economic growth, development and better jobs,” says World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry. “It is the key for firms to compete successfully in the global marketplace.”
But, they are quick to point out the potential pitfalls. One research document after another reminds those who want to do business in Africa to carefully study the environment before they "boldly go.” Those who arrive and want to exploit the market fail; those who seek to partner with existing successful African business are the ones most likely to succeed.
What entrepreneurs are increasingly finding is a market up-to-date with and in tune with global trends, hungry for innovation and very hostile to anything that has a whiff of exploitation.
Having a strong local partner (like HMA does with Evelyn and his team at HWB Communications) to help guide businesses through the process is essential.
It pays to look outward sometimes.