Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies as well as more than half of the world’s youth population. Whilst there is poverty in Africa, there is also a growing middle class of educated people with significant purchasing power living in large urban centres. As a region, Africa’s business environment is relatively underdeveloped. But in recent years African business opportunities have been growing rapidly.
When referencing the impact of Covid-19 on the continent, with real GDP growth of 6.9 per cent in 2021, the African Economic Outlook 2022 supplement by the African Development Bank reported that the enthusiasm for Africa, its people and its economy should not be underestimated.
Aside from the traditional resource-based sources of business, such as oil, gold, diamonds, coal, cocoa, coffee, tea and leather, the new generation of Africans and the growing middle class have created emerging business opportunities such as in support centres, manufacturing and processing, education, travel and tourism. The region has been at the forefront of technological advancement in the developing world. Mobile technology continues to change Africa through wide networks that connect cities and towns with remote areas, providing internet connectivity that some believe could add US$ 300 billion per year to the GDP.
The economic growth anticipated in Africa could be quicker than most geographical areas and will demand a workforce that is skilled, determined, innovative, passionate and able to think critically. And these young professionals are hungry for education and upskilling to meet the needs of investors and businesses as they expand throughout Africa.
With more and more associations looking to grow their networks, the continent provides an opportunity for greater global engagement that addresses the needs of this new generation of professionals. Associations that create, facilitate, empower and add value to their networks will likely remain more relevant to the realities of the new marketplace. An active and growing association market in Africa is supported by expert organisations launched in recent years, such as the African Association Management Company and the African Society of Association Executives, which has just hosted the 4th Africa Association Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The theme of the September 2022 summit was Power of Associations – Connect, Collaborate, Change Africa.
The sustainable socio-economic transformation and the legacy benefits to communities, cities and countries resulting from hosting business events are well understood in Africa. They are powerful motivators across stakeholders that will open up new funding sources. And whilst creating connections with people is essential, Africans consider it a valuable way of building a business relationship. The emerging opportunities in areas such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, Open Skies for Africa Agreement and the Africa Agenda 2063, among others, are examples of some of the positive steps that will support increasing the current three per cent of global association meetings that take place on the continent annually. The countries to watch with the fastest-growing economies are Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Mozambique. South Africa and Nigeria are the two largest powerhouse economies on the continent.
As an African living and working in Africa, I am convinced of the potential for business in Africa. The continent is dynamic, optimistic and poised for strong diversification, industrialisation and economic growth, making it an attractive growth opportunity market for associations and business events.
The Business Tourism Company is an international African-based consultancy. CEO Rick Taylor is the strategic architect behind eight National Convention Bureaus in Africa and has delivered more than 100 diverse tourism projects across Africa and internationally.