Analyst Insight: With stories of Ebola and Boko Haram dominating the news, it would be easy to dismiss Africa from a supply chain perspective. Risk is clearly high and traditional reasons to engage supply chain - either for low-cost sourcing or new market entry - may seem absent. The truth, however, is that many supply chain leaders should start thinking now about how to engage this vital emerging market. - Kevin O’Marah, Chief Content Officer, SCM World
China has become by far Africa's biggest trading partner, exchanging about $160bn worth of goods a year; more than a million Chinese, most of them labourers and traders, have moved to the continent in the past decade. The mutual adoration between governments continues, with ever more African roads and mines built by Chinese firms. But the talk of Africa becoming Chinese - or "China’s second continent", as the title of one American book puts it - is overdone.
While progress is slowly being made, insufficient trade agreements exist in order to encourage and drive intra-Africa trade. As a result there tends to be a focus on doing business with regions outside of Africa, such as the United States or China, says Charles Brewer, managing director of DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa.
The trade relationship between the United States and Africa, as well as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) - which provides exporters duty-free access to the lucrative U.S. market - was recently put under the microscope at the U.S.-Sub Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, which coincided with President Barack Obama's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, both held in Washington last week.
When Kevin Smith and his partners started a solar energy firm in Santa Monica in 2008, they expected to sell their technology to advanced economies in Europe and the United States. But much of the action has been in a part of the world Smith initially wrote off: Africa.
United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) has exercised options for six additional 14,000-TEU vessels bringing the total order to 16 ships. The order has been placed with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in Korea and is the largest in UASC's history, worth over $2bn, including all options. The order features vessels that will be amongst the largest, most technologically advanced, and most environmentally friendly container vessels ever built.
In the developed world, electricity is cheap and as available as the nearest outlet. But in off-the-grid Africa, energy poverty is endemic. With national grid expansion lagging well behind growth in demand, increasingly Africans are looking not to centralized, fossil fuel-based solutions, but to the sun.