CDC's Chairman, Graham Wrigley, writes for the London Stock Exchange (LSE) on why inspirational talent is an integral part of Africa's growth. This article was first published in the LSE's 'Companies to Inspire Africa 2017' - a report highlighting some of the most exciting high growth businesses on the continent. You can download a copy here.
This year began with economies across the world facing their fair share of uncertainty, and Africa is no different. But while the business climate on the continent may have changed and become more challenging of late, the talent is certainly still there – shown through the many inspiring companies this publication rightly highlights.
A decade or so of ‘Africa rising’ – a high-growth period triggered by many drivers, such as mobile technology and a strong commodity cycle – has now given way to a more difficult macroeconomic environment for the continent as a whole. For all those working with businesses in Africa and passionate about the continent, like we are at CDC, this makes telling the story of business success more challenging.
But it is vital that we do it. So I very much welcome the work London Stock Exchange Group is doing to showcase the positive stories of flourishing companies in Africa – and the wider economic opportunities that come from thriving, well-led businesses.
Why are they so important? In any country, most people understand that the private sector is critical to economic growth, job creation, and generation of tax revenue. Placed in the context of Africa: according to the African Development Bank, as many as 12 million new jobs are needed every year to keep pace with the rapidly growing proportion of the population across the continent which is of working age.
The success of companies reflects their ability to attract, train and sustain the best talent on the continent. You need these people to grow larger organisations, which create the number of jobs needed, because the quality of leadership – more than any other single factor – determines whether or not a business succeeds. Talent also raises quality standards within firms, making them better places to work and more attractive to investors – both in terms of foreign direct investment and from domestic institutions, such as pension funds.
We shouldn’t shy away from the fact that there are challenges facing companies in Africa but there’s also a lot of spirit, talent and business sense. We know this because every day we work with inspirational leaders from the 600-plus businesses in Africa we invest in. With the right combination of finance, advice and support these people can navigate the challenges and drive the growth to help the continent rise.
CDC Group plc is the UK’s development finance institution. Wholly owned by the UK Government, it invests in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with the aim of supporting economic development to create jobs. CDC takes a flexible approach and provides capital in all its forms, including equity, debt, mezzanine and guarantees, to meet businesses’ needs and achieve development impact. CDC has net assets of £4.8bn.