Investment and Ingenuity: Overcoming Obstacles to Doing Business in Sub-Saharan Africa

On Wednesday, August 6, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted a public event to mark the release of its new Issue in Focus report, “Investment and Ingenuity: Overcoming Obstacles to Doing Business in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The report was authored by Africa Center Visiting Fellow Aubrey Hruby.

Atlantic Council Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham opened the event with welcoming remarks which were followed by Hruby providing an overview of the report’s key findings. A panel discussion, moderated by Pham, followed and featured Hruby; William Asiko, CEO of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa; Morten Jerven, associate professor at Simon Fraser University and author of Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It; Diana Layfield, CEO for Africa of Standard Chartered Bank, the largest bank on the continent; and Hamilton Ratshefola, general business leader for IBM South Africa.

During the panel discussion, speakers argued that business leaders’ perceptions of Africa are changing as they increasingly recognize the continent’s opportunities; but despite such progress, obstacles remain such as a lack of dependable infrastructure, incomplete data on consumer trends and market intelligence, and inconsistent government execution of policies. The question and answer portion of the event continued the exploration of effective strategies to entering the African market and mitigating and overcoming risk.

The report by Hruby documents the obstacles to Western investment in the region and offers solutions for policymakers and business leaders. While commonly held concerns about Africa—political crises, security issues, and pervasive corruption—do factor into companies’ and funds’ consideration of African opportunities, the report argues there are more serious obstacles impeding Western investment. These include, among others, inadequate infrastructure and small, land-locked markets; a lack of market data that leads to difficulty in accurately assessing risk; and poor policy implementation and execution by African governments.

The report can be downloaded here.

Related Experts: Aubrey Hruby and J. Peter Pham