The World Trade Organization has slashed its forecast for world trade growth in 2014 to 3.1 percent, citing weaker-than-expected gross domestic product growth and muted import demand in the first half of the year.
For every company that thrives in a foreign market, probably five companies stumble. The complexities of entering a foreign market can result in many strategic mistakes and missteps. Even businesses that eventually "win" in a geographic region can teeter on the edge for years.
Over the last few years, the conventional wisdom has coalesced around a view that success in emerging markets is primarily a function of outstanding execution - speed, opportunism, tenacity, and guile - instead of a well-thought-out strategy supported by a set of winning and difficult-to-replicate organizational capabilities. In other words, street smarts are supposed to beat MBA smarts every time.
Africa is not easily pigeonholed, and making generalizations about its consumers is a risky proposition. The continent has 1 billion inhabitants"”speaking more than 2,100 languages and spanning 54 countries that cover an area larger than China, the U.S., India, and Europe combined. Despite this diversity, one thing is clear, however: a new consumer class is emerging across Africa"”one with increasing purchasing power and a hunger for products and services that once seemed unattainable.
Currently, most global companies are operating in a two-speed world, yet this scenario was not on the drawing board when today's leaders were rising through the ranks. The length of the economic malaise in mature markets and the sustained growth of emerging markets have jumbled the deck for them.