We continued our ‘Focus on Africa’ series last week as we were kindly hosted by Barclays Bank at their global headquarters. Theresa May has clearly stated that the UK will look to foster deeper relationships with African countries because of their imminent departure from the EU. This is therefore part of our analysis on what opportunities may arise as a result of this.
We were joined by esteemed actor, entrepreneur and political aspirant, John Dumelo as well as 80 young diasporans keen to learn about what prospects they could engage with on the continent.
John Dumelo, 35, does not shy away from being an advocate of investing in agriculture. In fact, he is a proud farmer. He focused on this heavily during the conversation, referencing current investments he has in Ghana, Guinea and Liberia in addition to prospects he is eyeing up in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
Africa imports $35billion worth of farmable products every year. However, only 2% of land in Africa is used for agriculture. Furthermore, the African Development Bank has said that within the next 6 years, Africa will import $110billion worth of farmable products every year. John sees this as an opportunity for the diaspora to bring money and invest back home in Africa. Access to capital is harder in Africa, but much easier in the Western world which is something Dumelo mentioned young diasporans should capitalise on. The reason why agriculture was a no brainer for John Dumelo and why he urges a lot of us to consider it is because of the demand. Simply put, people eat everyday and a farmer is needed to produce that food. Furthermore, according to The United Nations, Africa has the highest rates of hunger in the world and it is increasing. Therefore, being involved in agriculture, enables you to address a daily need of everyone on the continent.
John Dumelo also spoke about the need for African governments to do more in terms of innovation when it comes to tourism. He used the example of Dubai and the fact that many people travel there just to see the world’s tallest building. However, in Africa as much as there are beautiful places and wonderful history, new things are only being created at a very slow pace. This is another area in which he believed the diaspora have the capital and the ‘know how’ to invest in and bring more tourism to the continent.
There were also very good contributions from the floor. One of the prevalent concerns raised was about the relationship between the diaspora and the locals. It was concluded that the best thing to do for a “them versus us” culture to be avoided, is for diasporans to spend time with locals and try to learn some of their customs and social norms to bridge the gap. There was also a heavy discussion on government corruption and the need to pay bribery to land a contract, even if the proposed project will have a good impact on the society. On the reverse, some people spoke about how in the West, the same thing is done, but it tends to be covert in the form of an expensive dinner or travel expenses paid for a meeting. It was concluded that the extent in which happens in Africa is unacceptable, but this concept of a ‘facilitation fee’ is not uncommon regardless of where you are in the world.
However, the discussion generally evoked a sense of optimism amongst the attendees. Dumelo referenced the work that the Chinese are doing in building airports across Africa, amongst other things. He challenged the diaspora to work together and see ways in which they can combine their finances and invest, because if Africans do not build Africa, someone else will which will come with several consequences. The attendees felt that they had a purpose and sense of duty to invest in their respective countries, no matter how big or how small, to take control of the continent with the right intentions and to see it progress.
We were also joined by Oxford Business Group, Naija Startups and African Foundation For Development in a networking reception who were all sharing information with the delegates about invest opportunities in Africa. Thanks to everyone who came and we will see you at the next one!
Written by Elorm Haligah