An established fact is that Africa is home to 6 of the top 10 fastest growing countries in the world. It is also a fact that the continent is fast becoming more integrated in the world economy revealing unprecedented economic opportunities. Another fact is that Africa’s middle class population will be over 300 million by 2016; this will facilitate trade in consumer products from UK to Africa to meet the government target of $1 trillion by 2020. Fact, there are opportunities in Africa!
What is not a well-known fact is the variety of opportunities Africa offers to the UK business community or how they can be accessed safely. Perceptions about Africa elicit fear and suspicion in many British businesses, sadly not helped by headline news of disease and war, limiting their view of expansion and growth opportunities. Indeed a recent survey from the British Chamber of Commerce revealed that most British businesses have got into Africa by accident through online approaches and not that they actively sought to do business with Africa.
Most UK businesses think of trade with Africa in the context of commodities. However, due to the rising middle class and the international interest in Africa, there is a growing need for professional services and innovative solutions to fuel this growth. African leaders and captains of industry are placing a premium on professional services that meet international standards. This has resulted to a rebirth of the policy of multinationals in the 70’s called “knowledge transfer” or in the manufacturing sector “technological transfer”.
A simple explanation of Knowledge or technology transfer can be described as a strategic relationship where UK experts offer services to African countries and as part of that exchange, the indigenes of the country are trained to carry on in the standard that has been set up.
Leading this charge is indeed the diaspora community of professionals who not only serve as a bridge between the UK and Africa, but also have the cultural balance to lead the incursion. The higher customer experience expectations of the middle class consumers, the growing need for transparency which is demanded by the internet and international trade is a perfect opportunity for organisations who offer professional services to step in and be part of the coming world order.
The graphic from the Office of National Statistics is the perfect illustration on how services are becoming the most significant exports the UK offers. From specialist consulting like Accountancy, Performance Management, Data Analysis to IT, it is time to shake up the old brigade of the PWC, Anderson Consulting, Ernst and Young and the like, by encouraging UK SME’s to also offer services and build the managerial capital of Africa.
Fact, Europe may be the largest trading partner to the UK, but the UK has perfect leverage into the biggest African economics like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa based on a common language, not to mention the legacy of colonization.
As a British business person, do not limit your view of Africa; open up to the opportunities that are available in the safety and security of the UK. Visit the Afro Business Exposition in Reading, Berkshire and you will be amazed at the Africa that you never knew you did not know.