The Many Faces of Africa

The impact of language, religion, culture and history

22/11/2013 Barcelona

Peter Bamkole

Africa is the second fastest-growing region in the world, but is not homogenous and it is a mistake to think of Africa as one. “It is moving out of hopelessness and from aid to trade,” Peter Bamkole, director general of the Enterprise Development Center at the PanAtlantic University in Lagos, Nigeria, told at the “Entrepreneurship in Africa” meeting organized by FINAVES, IESE’s investment fund. The meeting was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2013.

While China is investing heavily in the continent, especially in Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia, Bamkole said that Africans are also beginning to invest in Africa, and this is giving rise to African multinationals. He said that the three main investment areas are telecoms, the banking sector and construction. Mobile technology has revolutionized banking in Africa, he added. Most of the wealth creation is through small and medium-sized businesses, and countries such as Nigeria—which accounts for 50 percent of the West African economy—have a young and educated workforce.

Opening the meeting, Prof. Lluís Renart, director of IESE’s “Africa Initiative," said that technology was allowing African countries to leapfrog stages of development. Ten years ago, he said, there were only 300,000 phone lines in Kenya, but now there are 24 million mobile users.

Mary Waceke Muia, director of HR at the Central Bank of Kenya, said that Kenya is a leader in technological innovation and many technology companies have set up there. The country plans to build Konza Techno City as a world-class technological hub.

IESE Prof. Albert Fernández Terricabras, the director of FINAVES, discussed how IESE helps entrepreneurs find investors and the contribution of IESE’s associate schools to business development in Africa. “Business schools give access to finance, technologies, enterprise support services, assets, markets, and education and training,” he said.

However, Prof. Renart pointed out that there are only 27 members in the Association of African Business Schools, which, given a population of close to one billion, is very few. Of the 14,000 Africans who sat the GMAT exam, an entrance requirement for MBAs, only 2,000 went on to study in Africa for lack of places.

Prof. Fernández Terricabras emphasized the importance of finding local partners, a point that was taken up by Albert Alsina, CEO of the Mediterrània Capital Partners private equity fund, who said that partners should be chosen with care and never in haste. He added: “Governments in Africa are like fire: if you get too close you get burnt, if you’re not close enough you’ll freeze.”