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Africa’s corporate crystal ball: Banking, agribusiness and services leaders on the year ahead

By Nicholas Norbrook
Posted on Monday, 22 January 2018 10:16

Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director, Ladol, Nigeria:

Optimism for Nigeria

Nigeria is starting to support its real economy, and that is going to have tangible results. One of the reasons that the halving of the oil price didn’t result in an 8% fall in our gross domestic product, as it did in the 1980s, is because of the strength of the agricultural sector and manufacturing sector – things that have quietly been happening over time. Nigeria is an unsung success story because we have managed to weather the storm so much better, which shows you what is going to happen when we come out of it.

One of the pro-business things this government has done is the executive orders. In April this year, President Muhammadu Buhari came out with a directive that was anti-monopoly. It said any policy that favoured a monopoly should be struck down, which went largely unreported, but this is earth-shattering. It’s the government of Nigeria, a country that is famous for rent seeking and monopolies, and sabotaging the economy for decades. Likewise, another directive for the ease of doing business was aimed at the civil service. If you are a government official, a request for action cannot sit on your desk for more than a week and if it sits on your desk for more than a week it will be deemed to have been approved. It really breaks up a lot of the power that the more unscrupulous people in government were using.

Venkataramani Srivathsan, Managing Director for Africa and Middle East, Olam, Singapore:

Putting the farmer first

As with other parts of the world, in Africa extreme weather conditions impact the availability of food for many. And given that 2017 is set to be one of the hottest years on record, better managing climate-change impacts is going to be a continuing imperative. Together with governments, we need to support the small-scale farmer with as much as we can so they get the best bang for their buck in these challenging times. To do this, they need to be recognised as the primary food producers for Africa. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be optimistic about 2018. Certainly, there is increasing recognition among companies and governments that current food and agricultural systems are working neither for farmers nor our planet. We are going to have to reimagine the way agriculture works, which is no mean feat.

Ravneet Chowdhury, Chief Executive, Bank One, Mauritius:

Opportunity in financial services

Globally, I think Africa still represents a great opportunity because there’s still a lot of ­pent-up demand and growth in Africa. Clearly, there is a great opportunity in the financial institution space, which a lot of global players don’t get into because they don’t understand Africa. But there is a lack of momentum. The heavy growth East Africa has been having has slowed down, for example. South Africa has its own problems. The oil-producing countries have their own problems with the oil price. With regard to banking, the collapsing walls between telecoms and banks, and the growth of big data, I think the storm is coming and it will take us all along with it if we don’t prepare ourselves and reposition to adapt. Banks haven’t proven to be great service providers for the mass customer. Banks today don’t seem to have the information on a customer to be able to know what a customer needs, and along with regulations it’s making it extremely difficult for the customer to get a really great experience because we will still block a customer’s card if he travels out of the country and doesn’t tell us.

This article first appeared in the December/January 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine

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