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 â€" 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 â€" 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 â€" such as Ecobank, SPAR Group, Aspen Pharmacare â€" 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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Iran To Offer Master's And PhD In Morality Enforcement

For those aiming to serve the Islamic Republic of Iran as experts to train the public morality agents, there are now courses to obtain the "proper" training.

Properly dressed in the holy city of Qom.

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

A woman in Tehran walks past a mural of an Iranian flag

The traffic police chief recently said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA

New academic discipline

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

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