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Growing expectations on African businesses to lead from the front

Africa Practice was founded nineteen years ago with a mission to drive more capital flows to and within Africa, and to develop markets for the private sector to deliver goods and services to underserved communities.

So much has changed since then, but the scale of transformation over the next five years will far surpass the pace of change over the last twenty years. The revolution is only just beginning, and African business is expected to lead.

At a time when governments of all hues have shown they are incapable of addressing the wicked and interdependent problems that our societies face – from poverty, to corruption, to climate change, to food insecurity – there is growing momentum for industry to take a stance and to demonstrate that it is remedying societal problems. It’s companies that we relied on during the pandemic to keep our food supply chains operating, and to develop life-saving vaccines, not governments.

Business is no longer simply financial, it’s social

There’s a growing expectation today that businesses should bring solutions to social inequities, including innovative applications of technologies and working practices that address gender and race, financial exclusion, education and health. Those industries that do not conform with society’s expectations, or whose social influence is at odds with national governments’, will find themselves challenged by staff, consumers, regulators and a broad spectrum of stakeholders. They will find themselves out of business very quickly.

Striking the right balance for market systems development

While industry is expected to lead (because they are seen to have the resources and the competence), the role of the public sector in striking the right balance between innovation and regulation, is no less important.  Without the right enabling environment, investment does not flow, new jobs don’t get created, new industries don’t emerge, and lives don’t improve at the pace and scale needed to defeat poverty.  It’s no coincidence that most of our work at Africa Practice today involves capacitating partners to engage institutional decision makers and co-create policies that spur innovation and catalyse investments. Policy matters.



Our human and natural capital are our greatest assets

The African continent’s abundant human and natural capital are its greatest assets. We must design policies that value these and harness them appropriately if we are to increase gross added value, create new employment and decarbonise economies. Nature, in the form of our wetlands, lagoons, rangelands and forests, supply the world with a vital carbon sink and a cost-effective carbon sequestration solution. Around one-third of the mitigation needed between now and 2030 to achieve the 1.5ºC target of the UN Climate Paris agreement can be supplied by Nature. It’s incumbent on us to value it and protect it.

The new global battleground for technology is taking place in Africa today. With 16% of the world’s population – rising to 26% by 2050 –  the African continent  represents the biggest consumer market of the future. American and Chinese hardware and software suppliers are vying for this prize. So  must we.

On the supply side, African nations hold many of the metals and minerals needed to achieve the 4th Industrial Revolution and decarbonise our planet. The European Union has registered the need for African rare earths and metals to realise its Green Deal and reach climate neutrality by 2050.  So must we.

Abundant sunshine, water resources and reliable wind supply in coastal regions, give many African nations a comparative advantage when it comes to green electricity generation. We must harness the power of these.

It’s abundantly clear that the world cannot find solutions to climate change without Africans. Indeed, none of the most important challenges confronting humanity today can be solved without Africans. 

There’s huge value at stake and the onus now falls on African industry leaders to work with policy-makers, public goods organisations and CSOs to co-create solutions that leverage our abundant natural and human capital in order to realise every African citizen’s potential.


About the Author

Marcus Courage is the founder and CEO of Africa Practice.

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