Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think Review

Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think
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Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think ReviewThe strength of this book, which is my reason for giving it four stars, is that provides a positive perspective on Africa that stresses just how much innovation is underway there, a valuable counterbalance to the general bleak evalations of its economic growth, and that it adds to a major and, for me, vital shift in thinking about development and aid. It has a lot of weaknesses when it moves beyond its largely consumer market focus, however.
This is a marketing expert's book, written by someone with first-rate knowledge and a wealth of experience and corporate contacts. It challneges the old development community assumtions about the population in the undeveloped world being largely helpless, ignorant and adrift. That community mostly views its own capabilities as being wiser, knowing better and being more qualified to define plans and investments than they. Its priorities have been grand schemes, infrastructure projects and close collaborations with governemt and international agencies. I strongly recommend Easterley's demolition of this perspective in his book The Whte Man's Burden. Like Africa Rising, he argues for a bottom-up focus on giving local entrepreneurs the tools and limied help they need and will quickly exploit. There is a huge pool of entrepreneurial energy among small business owners, farmers, taxi drivers, entertainment providers and many others. Far from being lazy or ignorant, they are street-smart and energetic. Africa Rising shows plenty of instances, and also points to such multinationals as Unilver and Coca-Cola in stimulating demand and meeting widespread needs. The exammples are interesting and often striking. Nollywood, the rapidly expanding Nigeria-based (hence the "N")is a major producer of films, for instance, and the equal of Bollywood as a social force. Many of the book's examples come from the FMCG field -- fast moving consumer goods -- and the book shows many specific instances in beer, washng powders and househld items. As in all parts of the world, local mobile phone services are another growth area. New airlines are popping up around the region. The total market is an estimated $900 billion economy. The author argues, like Easterley, for Trade not Aid as the driver for growth.
Here, the book achieves its main goal: to provide a picture of Africa as opportunity and Africans as innovators and enrepreneurs. This is the four star element of the book. It is positive and changes how a reader sees Africa.
The weaknesses are when it moves to broader topics. There are too many cases that are really just claims, often from central government, that just do not hold up. For example, one comapny, RGC of Sierra Leone, is reported as having implemented a city-wide Wifi/Wimax service in Freetown (the other two cities are Taipei and Philadelphia. The evidence for this is the much-repeated and often word-by-word inclusion in articles of an RGC press announcement. It's more than dubious, as are the use of comparable paeons to intelligent campuses for software development, favorable comparisons with Singapore and Dubais infrastructure deveopments, examples of major successful government programs in education and many other modernization claims. These do not hold up to detailed exploration and a weakness of the book is its use of scattershot references from magazines and newspapers. The author frequently argues that Africa is in many areas ahead of and richer than India and China. This is not convincing without far more detailed analysis and statistical rather than anecdotal evidence. Many relevant topics are ignored especially the wider social realities of the rural/urban divide. It is a book with no real economic analysis. So, for instance, much is made of Highladd teas, a Kenyan estate that has built up its production and sales of tea. Well.... Kenya is the largest exporter of teas but the prices have halved wordldwide and machnes have displaced thousands of workers. Tea is produced by poor peasants -- the average daily wage is $1-2 in Kenya, China and India. So, yes, the HIghland example is a nice one but it is just that; it doesn't add up to anything beyond the story. While the author mentions in passing the problems of civil war, AIDS and governement corruption, they are the vague background in his opimistic portrayals. Zimbawe includes many small and resourceful entrepreneurs but what is ignored is the mass starvation that is part of the same street scenes and the hospital system is in collapse. The data presented on the wealth of Arica seems very skewed by aggregate figures that seem to be heavily weighted by oil revenues. Very, very little of that income gets passed to workers and to funding of real programs.

Overall, the book presents just a tiny part of a complex picture but it does present it well. It's heavily marketing-centered. It's weak on data and social/political/education/health issues. I disagree with at least half of its analysis and conclusions, which makes it useful in challenging me to shift my own picture and assumptions. This is why I recommend it. It offers a very different focus from alnost all the books I read on international development and my own writing on the topic shares his Trade not Aid viewpoint. This makes it a valuable contribution to the debate and a useful contribution that I wish my World Bank, UN and academic colleagues read.
So, four stars and a thank you to the author for shedding a new light on a topic critical for the future of us all. May Africa continue to rise!Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think OverviewProfit from the World's Largest Untapped Market: Africa's MORE THAN 900 MILLION Consumers! "This book lays out a powerful portrait of the growing opportunities in Africa. It is clear to us that any global firm interested in growth must see Africa as an essential part of its portfolio." --E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,The Coca-Cola Company, USA "While we consider Africa one of our most important markets, we are very aware that it is often overlooked as a place to conduct sustainable business. This book shows that Africa offers opportunities equal to other developing regions that receive more attention. Through the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards, we have committed to promoting high-quality coverage of the business environment in Africa. This book makes an important contribution in providing a vivid picture of the African market opportunity." --Paul Walsh, Chief Executive Officer, Diageo, UK"This book presents a compelling argument for waking up to the potential of a continent with a population of over 900 million and a high rate of growth. The African continent is rich in natural resources and presents opportunities across a wide cross-section of industrial and commercial areas for companies with appropriate business strategies and a genuine commitment to improving the quality of life of the local population." --Ratan N. Tata, Chairman, Tata Group, India"Unilever has invested in Africa for over a century and is committed to building strong market positions in the region by meeting the needs of African consumers. As this book highlights, the opportunities for consumer goods companies are considerable and the potential to do business in Africa is much greater than many companies realize."--Patrick Cescau, Global CEO, Unilever, UK"Bravo. The timing of this book is perfect. It will be much quoted. I especially like how Professor Mahajan uses the voices of Africans to bring it to life, alongside the research." --Barbara James, former Managing Director of the African Venture Capital Association and founder of the Henshaw Funds, the first independent pan-African private equity Fund of Funds, Nigeria/UKWith more than 900 million consumers, the continent of Africa is one of the world's fastest growing markets. In Africa Rising, renowned global business consultant Vijay Mahajan reveals this remarkable marketplace as a continent with massive needs and surprising buying power. Crossing thousands of miles across the continent, he shares the lessons that Africa's businesses have learned about succeeding on the continent...shows how global companies are succeeding despite Africa's unique political, economic, and resource challenges...introduces local entrepreneurs and foreign investors who are building a remarkable spectrum of profitable and sustainable business opportunities even in the most challenging locations...reveals how India and China are staking out huge positions throughout Africa...and shows the power of the diaspora in driving investment and development. Recognize that Africa is richer than you thinkAfrica is richer than India on the basis of gross national income (GNI) per capita, and a dozen African countries have a higher GNI per capita than China.

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