Africa is a big continent, full of beauty, resources, and opportunity. While it is not advised to blindly invest in all African countries, on a selected basis many of the countries have become most attractive. Countries within Africa are in various stages of economic maturity. The number of attractive countries for which to invest grows year after year. In the past mining was the most interesting investment class to foreigners, but as time has passed selected other opportunities have surfaced. Software, tech, retail, hospitality, education, agriculture, hospitals, entertainment manufacturing, logistics, real estate development, pharmaceuticals are just a few areas where investors can access attractive opportunities. The fact is that Africa has become a hot investment space and it will get hotter.
The economic landscape of China in the nineties was much different than it is now. At that time China was backwards and struggling to find traction. Roads were poor, paranoia was heavy, hospitals and schools were sub-par, tech was nonexistent, there were food shortages, they had no real manufacturing base, logistics were a nightmare and worse. This changed quickly due to a strong government that was focused and acted. Today China stands out as a shining example of a successful evolution that happened by acting and staying with a plan.
The PRC government was organized, the people united, and everyone was open to foreigners investing. The Chinese realized that foreign investment coupled with education was the way to the top, and it worked. The Chinese focused on today, as it all starts with the attitude of “let’s take action now.” Today will shape tomorrow, but action and planning must be undertaken if a successful evolution is to occur. With this in mind the government made short (one to five years), medium (five to 25 years) and long term (100 years) plans.
The plans to create a new and modern China that could compete in all world markets was well thought out and called for action. The government was highly organized never swaying from the plan. A similar story to China would be “The UAE”. If a person visited Dubai in 1998, and then compared with today, the growth and maturity are amazing. The Dubai skyline is iconic and stands out throughout the world as what can be accomplished in a twenty-year period of time. The UAE is another example of how significant 20 years can be with proper planning and a non-wavering government who sticks with the plan. Like China the UAE government took the reins and worked with private enterprises and “foreign investors” to make the dream reality. The UAE like China has a solid government who is exceptional at planning and implementing. In the UAE like in China first focused on logistics by building a world class airport, improving roads and the development of a world class port system. The UAE also built a train to get people to and from work as they improved the roads to western standards. Cold and dry storage facilities were created, industrial zones were created, and the list goes on.
Journals from the west are so confused as they do entire specials on Chinese ghost cities. The truth is these are not ghost cities, but instead the result of 100-year master planning. Shenzhen for example, went from 20 thousand people to over 25 million people in 25 years. The west cannot fathom these so-called ghost cities, because in the west if something does not make money immediately, it is considered a failure. In China, the 100-year plan allows strategic long term master planning. A city is built that can hold millions of people. Industrial parks and factory shells are built and purposely keep empty for years. Then all at once they will move millions of people and industry into the “ghost city.” The planning that the government of China undertakes is remarkable. Imagine building a city and having no one live there for sometimes more than a decade, then in months it becomes a thriving economic metropolitan powerhouse city.
As a first important step China focused on logistics by shoring up the port system, airports, rail, roads, software, along with the training of people to be able to handle new jobs. Both UAE and China leaders realized for anything great to happen and be sustainable that logistics had to be the first priority. As an example, the fast train system in China is absolutely amazing, it was built out in only 8 years and services the entire country. This is a remarkable achievement, as in America, they have been talking about a fast train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (not a long distance) for decades and it is not even started yet. The fact is that all the early billionaires in this modern China were in the logistics space.
The next step was to increase the education level and it happened over the next 20 years. This approach paid off and instead of brain drain by people leaving China which had happened in the past, scholars and leaders stayed in China. At the same time industrial manufacturing zones were created all over China. By prioritizing logistics, a path was created to get goods to market. China became over the next couple of decades became the dominant manufacturer of goods for the world.
The latest stage in China is now underway. China is developing its own brands that will be recognized throughout the world for quality and reliability. From software to electric cars, China brands are being introduced to the international marketplace while earning praise, success, and brand recognition.
Enough about China, after all this article is about Africa. Actually, what you just read is the blueprint for building a powerful and strong Africa. First, like in China, Africa must start with a solid logistics solution. Getting goods to market in many parts of Africa can be challenging, especially with crops from agriculture, where time is of the essence. Without proper roads, rail, ports, software and other logistics solutions big industry and manufacturing will not find its way to most African countries. Second, education must be a priority among all Africans. Third short-, medium- and long-term planning must be created. Plans that are not disrupted every time the government changes. One of the things which China and the UAE have in common is governments that are consistent over the decades.
Government changes are one of the biggest challenges that Africa faces. A united strategy must be followed where new governments stick with already existing solid non-changeable short, medium and long-term plans. Often new leaders get confused by bringing in a new plan thinking this will make them popular. After all the previous regimes did not know what they were doing is the common thought. This is the total wrong approach. What is important is the actual implementation of a plan, not a new plan. Research clearly shows that constantly changing plans is a recipe for disaster. Instead, what is important, is the implementation of an existing well thought out plan. A plan that does not change and has at least a 20-year window for achievement. With this strategy positive changes and dynamic evolution will transpire and goals will be realized.
This is a short article that could be much longer. It is a fact that fewer words have more impact than long dissertations. If Africa follows the strategy and blueprint that China and the UAE have already proven is a successful approach by thinking long-term, then over the next 20 years Africa, or a least many African countries can become powerful, wealthy, and independent in both their own and world markets.
We can learn from others success, and the China and UAE models as proven by case studies that they are strategies that truly work. There is an analogy that is relevant to the meaning of this article, and that is the story of “The Chinese Bamboo Tree”. With “The Chinese Bamboo Tree” it takes five long years before you see any evidence that it is growing. For the first five years only the roots “foundation” are being formed. Seeds must first be planted, watered, and fertilized. It then takes five full years before a sprout breaks through the ground. Once the spout is seen then suddenly the tree grows 90 feet in a mere five weeks. For a strong Africa it is the same as the Bamboo Tree, first a solid foundation must be built with logistics as the core of the approach.
It will take years, maybe even decades for success to be noticed and realized. At first you will see nothing, however by staying with a short-, medium- and long-term plan Africa can have the same success as China and the UAE. As the foundation is being built, supported by a solid plan, slowly but surely the individual countries one by one will become powerful and meaningful on a world economic scale. Eventually people will enjoy prosperity as the momentum increases with each and every passing year. That newly found prosperity can then be passed on from generation to generation.