The best way to rebrand Africa? Invest in entrepreneurship

Because of its long-standing negative image, Africa has been unable to benefit fully from increasing global investments and the advantages that globalization may have to offer.

That image will be the subject of extensive discussions during the Rebranding Africa forum, an event organized in Brussels by Notre Afrik magazine on the theme: “Investing in Africa, undertaking for Africa”.

Nowadays, African and international media, following in the footsteps of The Economist, are inclined to more accurately portray the continent’s remarkable economic achievements. But Africa still has very little control over its own story. For instance, the continent accounts for less than 3 percent of all Google searches. Further, the narrative on Africa’s emergence focuses narrowly on its impressive and continuous economic growth, to the tune of 5 percent per year on average, over the past 15 years.

Changing Africa’s image requires us to go beyond the economic dimension so that at least two additional and fundamental aspects are taken into account: on the one hand, the rising demand from its booming urban middle class, and on the other the continued increase in Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment. These facts should serve to bolster Africa’s reputation as a prime destination for international investors and a continent of entrepreneurs.

Without entrepreneurship, it will be hard for Africa to enter a growth dynamic. As such, we can propose three different interventions can boost investments for the benefit of entrepreneurship, which in turn would transform its image and brighten its future.

The first and most effective way of investing in Africa’s entrepreneurship is to boost the spirit of business undertaking so that opportunities become phenomenal achievements. To that end, UNDP is working on promoting inclusive markets in Africa through the development of regional value chains in sectors such as agribusiness.

Second, countries in Africa should put into place policies that enable and nurture private companies. This should include facilitating investments, and using public markets as a catalytic and strategic force, targeting SMEs as a priority, as they represent 90% of Africa’s private companies and provide 50% of all jobs.

Third, Africa will need to reinvent the way in which businesses are being funded. Although the banking sector is soaring, it remains fragmented and somewhat disconnected from companies’ increasing financing needs. We must therefore develop another form of financial intermediation that would reconcile banking with finance, and create a combined culture of risk-taking and profitability.

There is no better "rebranding" phrase than Graça Machel’s assertion that “private companies are the new face of Africa." The spirit of entrepreneurship is very much alive on the continent. It needs to be actively nurtured.

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