“It’s not enough for Africans to be consumers. We also need to manufacture African products,” said Hamadoun Touré at a seminar arranged by IVA’s Programme Council for Africa.
Hamadoun Touré is Founding Executive Director of the Smart Africa Alliance, which is tasked with using ICT to transform Africa.
According to him investment does more for development than well-intentioned donations.
“I have nothing against profit-driven projects. Profits create opportunities for investment in all sorts of infrastructure and to develop innovations. And innovation is nothing new in Africa.”
Hamadoun Touré pointed out that smart phone banking was invented in Kenya because banking services were a real problem there.
“Local challenges in Africa are an excellent breeding ground for innovations,” he said.
One major challenge on the continent is that it consists of multiple markets. The rules and conditions for e-commerce need to be harmonised.
Big data centres are needed as well. The cloud services available are not adequate. This could also present business opportunities for Swedish companies.
Åsa Jarskog is Chairman of the Swedish Southern African Chamber of Commerce. She believes that everything production related in Africa is an opportunity for Swedish companies.
“It’s also a myth that all African nations are corrupt,” she said.
In Sweden people are sympathetic to the situation in Africa. But this has to be converted into a realisation that there is business to be done there. This was the opinion of Ousmane Kane, Executive Chairman of Enco & Associés in Mauritania.
“Africa’s population is growing fast. Agriculture needs to be developed. This is an important sector for the future,” he said.
The mining industry is also one that needs significant development according to Ousmane Kane.
“Many people are talking about African mines, but not a lot is happening; production is low. When investments are made in mines the infrastructure in a region is developed,” he said.
But, as the speakers pointed out, Sweden is falling behind. China and India have been far ahead for decades. Sweden has a good reputation and it should be possible to use this for mutually beneficial business.