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Africa As Investor Goldmine - Why This Time It's For Real

Ecobank in Abidjan, one of Africa's many entrepreneurial successes
Ecobank in Abidjan, one of Africa's many entrepreneurial successes
Jean-Philippe Dorent and Pascal Lorot*


PARIS — As Europe barely recovers from an unprecedented crisis, the African continent is experiencing a vigorous period of growth. This long-awaited shift is slowly but steadily making investors more confident, even if they remain aware of the risks. According to a recent study conducted by Havas Horizon, investors are showing broad optimism concerning the future of the African economy, and are now ready to reinforce their positions and investments on the continent. At the same time, however, big European companies willing to invest in Africa are still too rare.

After remaining shut out from the high-stakes economic calculus for years, Africa has now become a key component of global trade. Since 2001, the continent's annual GDP has grown on average 5%, and is expected to accelerate this year again thanks to Eastern Africa and its estimated growth rate of 7%, as well as Central and Western Africa, which are heading towards 5 to 6% growth.

The main explanation for this new prosperous era is the transformation of the development model of the continent. African economies have long organized themselves around the exploitation of natural resources — being vulnerable to the fluctuations in the market of raw materials as well as deteriorating terms of trade. In Africa, the priorities now are focused around the diversification of its economic sectors, in particular to the digitial world, which was at the heart of the Forbes Forum Afrique held on July 21 in Brazzaville, Congo.

Africa is also characterized by an undeniable demographic dynamism, which has directly spurred growth and is a determinant criteria for investment. No fewer than one human out of four will live in Africa by 2050. This demographic explosion comes along with the development of a middle class of 300 million people with soaring overall purchasing power.

Africa attracted a record 50 billion euros in foreign direct investment in 2013, and nearly 80 billion in 2014, proving that investor perception has been changing these last few years. Investors now see in Africa numerous prospects and growth levers thanks to the extraordinary natural potential of the continent (immense farmlands, abundant mining resources representing 30% of global reserves), but also thanks to its identified needs in terms of infrastructures (cable television, fiber optic, satellite ...).

The Havas Horizons study found that the investor community now considers Africa a dynamic, ingenuous, agile and innovative continent. Several notable inter-African entrepreneurial successes — such as Ecobank, SPAR Group, Aspen Pharmacare — as well as the launch of broader global innovations such as "mobile-banking," and other applications linked to mobile phones, also have helped boost the continent's image in the eyes of investors.

Major international groups such as Orange, Huawei or Rocket Internet have devoted massive investments in the potential of the continent, to the point where some African countries are considered privileged strategic partners. European companies, in particular French ones, are now looking to take greater opportunity that Africa offers, just as China, Brazil and Turkey already do. The long-term vision requires the establishment of a sustainable collaboration based on common economic, social and societal values.

*Dorent is managing director of Havas Horizons; Lorot is president of the Institut Choiseul.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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