Oxford Africa Conference
Oxford Africa Conference
Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world. There are now 465 companies each generating over $1billion in revenue per year. Technology is breaking down borders on the continent and there are numerous innovative tech start-ups offering pioneering solutions to healthcare, education, and business challenges. The consumer success story of the last decade has been driven by technology and a growing middle class – with a young, dynamic population, demand for products and services can only continue to grow.
According to Acha Leke of McKinsey, Africa offers the highest rate of return on investments, which explains why a record $4 billion was raised by private equity investors in 2014. With half of the world’s arable land, the continent will play a vital role feeding a rapidly growing global population, whilst its mineral wealth will literally provide the building blocks for future growth and development. Considering the incredible natural beauty and biodiversity across Africa, tourism also looks likely to continue building upon the impressive growth of recent years. South Africa will have to work hard to ensure the new visa regulations, aimed at protecting children, don’t undermine the tourism sector.
As we know all too well in South Africa, skills shortages and infrastructure issues must be addressed in order to ensure Africa continues to rise. Several speakers, including President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, spoke of the need to increase regional trade. In Europe a staggering 70% of trade is regional in nature, whereas in Africa the figure currently stands at only 11%. This indicates how much work is still required to develop regional partnerships within Africa.
Stronger relationships with neighbouring countries would undoubtedly lead to faster development and economic growth. What is more, many African companies are importing products and services at a high cost from far flung countries, when in some cases these are already available on the continent. Again, it is infrastructure, transport and communications that need to be developed, in order to build relationships and increase regional trade.
Many of the conference’s delegates, speakers and panellists have returned to Africa after studying and/or working overseas. Homecoming Revolution (who introduce worldwide African professionals to employers and help facilitate the logistics of relocation) state that 359,000 South Africans have returned home over the last five years.
At the recent Speed Meet Africa event in London, CEO of Homecoming Revolution, Angel Jones cited various reasons for returning, including “the desire to be near friends and family, the prospect of developing an innovative career, the climate and outdoor lifestyle”.
The Oxford Africa Conference’s “Female Diaspora” discussion was particularly interesting, as the theme of repatriation was examined in some detail. Frances Mensah-Williams (Chief Executive of Interims for Development) and Sneha Shah (MD of sub-Saharan Africa for Thomson Reuters) both talked passionately about the fantastic opportunity expats have to make a difference when returning to the continent, as well as the lifestyle benefits one can enjoy. Frances suggested that professionals keen on moving back should first “consider their skills and research how they can be used”.
Sneha Shah (who moved to Johannesburg from the USA) said she wanted to move to South Africa so that her children “could play outside and experience different social interactions and cultures”. With so much innovation, opportunity and potential, it is little wonder that thousands of skilled expats are returning to unleash their skills back home.
Photo by Facebook.com/OxfordAfricaConference