guest post by Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah
Historically, the trade relationship between Europe and Africa has been a lopsided one in which Europe sourced raw materials from Africa, to feed its giant factories that served the world. Africa consequently became a raw material producing continent with little more to offer. This kept African economies at an extractive level and prone to shocks on the international markets. African economies have thus seldom been robust and self-sufficient.
Today, the emergence of the Asian giants like China, have hit Europe hard, as global supply is driven mostly by Asian economies that can afford lower cost labour. Africa continues to supply mostly raw materials, this time directed at Asian Factories.
While the big picture may not seem to have changed, a fast changing dynamic the growth in the middle income population across African Cities. Incomes are fast growing in Africa, providing an increasing more promising market to entrepreneurs across Africa and indeed the world over. Who is best placed to understand and serve the needs of this fast growing market? Who has the skills and entrepreneurial support and abilities to serve these needs quickly? The answers lie on both sides of the divide. The local knowledge lies with African Entrepreneurs who are already doing amazing things on the continent. But the advancements in technology, capital and organization is often found in the west.
Today, African economies are no longer looking simply for export markets for raw materials. We are looking to opportunities that allow us to create jobs at home, in factories and industrial plants that will produce more and more of the products and services that Africa’s fast growing populations require. Increasingly, African countries are more interested in Direct Investments and south-south trade, as against a continuous export of our raw materials.
This new dynamic, calls for a new partnership between European capital and African brains. It calls for a new partnership between European and African Entrepreneurship. A partnership not in the frame of African’s fronting for Europeans in industries where local content participation is preserved, but a true partnership in which people of similar interest, industries and values work together to build operational centers and businesses in key African Markets to first serve the fast growing opportunities in Africa and subsequently other global markets.
African Governments, African Entrepreneurs and European Entrepreneurs need to do a lot to make this partnership a reality and a mutually beneficial one at that. My hope is to use my keynote speech, to highlight what we all need to do – as European Entrepreneurs and as African Entrepreneurs to build this new partnership for our mutual benefit. Africa is busting with opportunity. Africa is ready for business. And if we work together we can build a framework that delivers value to our respective continents through entrepreneurship.