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Business Brief: BCG head sees bright economic future in Africa; Regional integration challenges continent’s leadership to overcome obstacles; and Morocco bank wants to make its mark in West Africa – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

Jean R. AbiNader
May 21, 2018

In an interview with La Tribune Afrique, Patrick Dupoux, senior partner & managing director at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), explained why his company believes in the economic emergence of Africa. We first met Patrick when he was advising AMDI, the Moroccan Agency for Investment Development, on its industrialization strategy. BCG was responsible for many of the contacts made by Morocco with automobile and aeronautics companies in the US and elsewhere, efforts that contributed to Morocco’s continued development as a world-class manufacturer.

He noted that “African entrepreneurs are the heroes of the integration of the continent, they give it a concrete reality. That is why we wanted to pay tribute to them, identifying 150 companies – half African, half multinational, who are at the forefront of the integration of the continent.” BCG has previously published studies on “the economic emergence of Africa, as well as on the need to evolve its “countertop” economic model based on natural resource extraction, to a more diversified model based on the construction of local production ecosystems.” That message has become the priority strategy for African countries seeking to diversify their economies.  In large part, the fluctuations in commodity prices, continued demographic pressures to create jobs, and the growth of a skilled workforce are making this transition a priority.

Up until now, the continent has not built a sufficiently interconnected logistics network that eases the flow of goods and services, so there is little benefit from intra-Africa trade, now that is changing. Unfortunately, inter-governmental cooperation is still lagging, as “Africa has 16 economic zones which, moreover, overlap and lack coherence. And I do not even talk about visas: 80% of Africans need it to travel to Africa!”

Yet there are four indicators that African markets are integrating. The first is the tripling of intra-African investment, led by South Africa and Morocco, so the investments are North-South and East-West, making better interconnectedness a necessity. Secondly, “Africa is investing in Africa.” In the last two years, for the first time, more than half of the acquisitions were made by other African companies.

The third indicator is the sharp rise in intra-African exports, nearly 20% compared to 12% ten years ago. Finally, for the first time, Africans account for more than half of international tourists and passengers on the continent. Africa travels to Africa.”

Dupoux also highlights the importance of entrepreneurs in advancing African integration. For example, he pointed out that “The 30 largest African companies, which were present on average in 8 African countries in 2008, are today in 16 countries.” He mentioned Royal Air Maroc and Moroccan banks and telecommunications operators as particularly active, which creates demands for supply chains and skilled human resources.

In looking to the future, Poroux noted that despite the obstacles, there is much to be gained from inter-African business. “With Morocco in the lead, and the dynamism of its entrepreneurs, Africa should continue its integration.” In closing, he remarked, “We are not yet close to an African single market. On the other hand, we should witness a stronger convergence and an extension of the economic and commercial zones. The good news is that integration of the continent is finally underway, and that African entrepreneurs are at the forefront of this movement.”

In a similar appraisal, the Tribune did an article on West African integration, calling regional integration a driver of economic development. Noting that there is both a strong correlation and causal link between them, the article focuses on the challenges in reducing obstacles to integration, citing the EU as a model. It sees digital technology and e-commerce as means of “circumventing the fragmentation of national markets while accelerating economic diversification.”

It calls for “An even stronger political will to re-find our vision, between ambition and pragmatism, redefine a concrete plan staggered with intermediate achievements, and finally deliver the expected results foremost among which, GDP / per capita growth.” 

 

Moroccan bank CFG sets sights on West Africa along with its partners the private equity firm Amethis Finance and AfricInvest to be a success. They plan to set up offices in West Africa based on strategic alliances in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal in 2019. They are also looking at acquisitions as an entry strategy and an immediate customer base. Their portfolios would include “opportunities in the field of asset management at first, then in the activity of retail banking in a later phase.”

The partnership makes great commercial sense according to CFG Bank management. “We are delighted with this partnership with Amethis and AfricInvest. This investment will allow us to benefit from their vast experience of African commercial banks and their solid network in the African and European financial sector, as well as from a strengthened capital base to be able to continue implementing our ambitious commercial banking project,” said Souad Benbachir, managing director of CFG Bank. 

Created in 2012, Amethis is a manager of a major investment fund of over $700 million for African investments. AfricInvest Group is considered a model for private equity in Africa, with more than 140 investments in several sectors of the economy on the continent, with total assets under management of more than $1 billion in 25 countries.

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