Author: Vijay Mahajan
Review By: G. Stephen Goode
Working with NGO's, poverty and with key issues like HIV/AIDS in Africa I was so encouraged to read Africa Rising. Most of what one hears from the African continent in the press and media or the perception of Africa is one of war, disease, pessimism, corruption and general bad news. Vijay Mahajan, the Indian author, said that this was the same, bad /negative press that India was getting 20 years ago and now look what is happening and where India is going. In this perception, it is easy to overlook the business opportunities that are occurring. He predicts after multiple visits that Africa is moving already in a serious change for the future. He states, "that if Africa were one country, in 2006 according to World Bank data, it would be the tenth largest economy in the world." It is not but it is much richer than you think. Page 18 --" The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Africa. Entrepreneurs solve problems. Take away electricity, and they sell generators and inverters. Take away a stable financial system, and they make their money on speculating on foreign currency. Take away their employment, and they set up kiosks in the street. Entrepreneurship and the development of consumer markets may be a more clean, stable, and powerful driver of long-term progress than political reform. " Mr. Mahajan gives ample examples throughout the continent why this is not only the future, this is the present. We tend to emphasize how politics affects business but even in this global economic environment, how does business affect politics. Entrepreneurs are constantly looking for opportunities and are the primary engine in creating wealth. Mr. Mahajan gives many examples like Uganda of businesses that were forced out under Idi Amin but that have come back and are some of the largest businesses and corporate social responsibility shareholders in the country. Or like Rwanda, once known for genocide but now for a President that is seriously moving this country in another direction. Another example is the CelTel founder Mohamed Ibrahim. He says Africa has gotten a lot of bad press but there are 53 countries and 4-5 of them have severe problems but this is a BIG continent. "Even with this negative perception, when there is a gap between perception and reality, there is business to be made." page 21 - This company is now operating in 15 countries and has invested at the writing of this book USD 750 million in Africa. Ibrahim has consistently refused to pay bribes and has created systems of good governance. He has been giving back to Africa with a 200 million joint venture fund for African entrepreneurs. This Sudanese born entrepreneur says, " We are apart of the fabric of Africa. This money I have made in Africa, and it is really their money." He has also established an annual USD 5 million prize, plus $200,000 for life, for retired African leaders who rule well and then stand down. This award is larger than the Nobel Peace Prize. He is showing demonstrating the impact of business upon political and social development. Optimism is growing. Africa is indeed rising. Some of the best trained Africans are returning home to countries that have created positive and stable governments where there economies are flourishing. Even in countries of war like the western province of Darfur, Khartoum is being compared with Dubai. In Mogadishu which is still of international concern, in the north, Somaliland is thriving and stable. China is investing seriously into this continent. In fact, direct investment in Africa doubled in 2006 from the 2004 levels. The continent has been further connected through under water fiber optic cables and broadband internet will make an even more significant impact financially as communication increases radically next door and globally. 2/3rds of African countries have populations bigger than Singapore --if you cannot afford to miss markets like Singapore -- you cannot ignore these African countries. You get the gist of this book -- If you are in business and looking for opportunities, this book is a must --- I think it is also a must for Churches, NGO's, MicroFinance organizations to see how they can better partner for poverty alleviation and corporate social responsibility for the benefit of all. If you have been pessimistic about Africa, read this book.