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The Gulf closes in on Africa

The Gulf closes in on Africa

Africa may not be the easiest of places to do business, but with 900 million consumers it’s well worth the effort for GCC companies.

May 7, 2010 10:25 by

Last year Africa’s population passed the 1 billion mark, according to the UN Population Fund, and is estimated to nearly double to 1.9 billion by 2050.

With an urban population of 38 percent across 61 countries and territories, Africa is a promising market for business investment, increasingly so as urbanisation continues.

A handful of GCC-based companies have ventured into Africa and seen some success. Kuwaiti telco MTC was in Africa even before its rebrand to Zain.

More recently, Etisalat opened networks in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal. It has also started in Nigeria, where two million subscribers joined in its first year.

Both examples are from the telecoms sector, which has been leading the way in exploring new markets. There are, however, three other sectors that are exploring opportunities in Africa.

First is tourism and hospitality. While the global tourism market declined by 8 percent this year overall, Africa’s saw a rise of 4 percent, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation.

Despite this growth, there has not been much investment in hotels in Africa, even with the increasing frequency of business travel to and from the continent. The likes of Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Emirates already serve a number of destinations across Africa, but there are very few five-star hotels to book into (83 are recommended by the global Five Star Alliance).

Another sector is higher education provision. According to Africa Rising, a US-based non-profit organisation working in Africa, millions of students can’t find a place in institutions of learning. This is most evident in Kenya, Nigeria and Sudan, where even middle class families are obliged to send their children to study abroad for lack of available seats. Investment in undergraduate studies and vocational training is critical.

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