My family has called Africa home for centuries – originating in Spain, their first home in Africa was in Morocco, in the early 17th Century, from where they moved to Egypt and spent over 200 years in the beautiful city of Alexandria. Their daily lives in the community, the many trading trips taken to far-flung corners of the continent and into Asia, and the customary trip up the Nile every year, all made for fascinating stories as I was growing up. Over the years, members of my family have come to call other African cities their home – from Khartoum to Addis Ababa, Dar-es-Salaam to Lusaka, Johannesburg and finally Cape-Town.
From their stories, I have drawn both deep respect for the richness of life on the continent and a sense of opportunity. But behind the stories, I also found deep human connection – the one which enables us to step beyond our familiar lives and venture into new spaces. The human connection which helped establish trust over years of trading in various commodities and helped build the communities which welcomed family members to make a new city their home.
Fast forward to 2022 and I find many of us in a similar transition – to reconnect, to re-establish trust and to seize new opportunities.
Transforming Africa into a vibrant, integrated market of over 1.2 billion people, led by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), requires infrastructure – not only in physical assets but in efficient trade mechanisms. It was encouraging to see Afreximbank’s Pan-African Payment and Settlement System launch this past year, for example. It was built to allow payments for intra-African trade in local currencies, and hence save transfer and settlement charges. This and other enabling systems are being built and expanded on, across the continent. We see similar progress being made in commercialising entrepreneurial ventures, where infrastructure and service gaps become opportunities and solutions to African challenges are developed. Africa’s Startup ecosystem, for example, drew $4.9Bn in estimated funding during 2021, almost double the amount drawn in 2020 and despite almost two years of a pandemic and its socio-economic consequences. Centered around existing as well as emerging innovation ecosystems. In Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya, much of this funding has come from overseas sources, recognising the opportunity at hand.
Connecting Africa is no longer the subject of aspirational speeches – it is drawing some of the best minds and entrepreneurial talent to make an impact and help us realise the opportunity to connect.
Have a good weekend everyone.