Keys to growth in the African market: A useful new book examines Africa's economic environment and maps out in a practical manner how to build large, profitable businesses on the continent.

Author:Williams, Stephen
Position:Book review

Africa's Business Revolution

How to Succeed in the World's Next Big Growth Market By Acha Leke, Mutsa Chironga and Georges Desvaux 25 [pounds sterling] Harvard Business Review Press ISBN: 9781633694408

This book follows a well-established trend of celebrating Africa's recent economic trajectory through the prism of the continent's successful businesses.

This trend began with the publication more than a decade ago of Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think by the Indian academic Vijay Mahajan. Mahajan's work was met with considerable, but not universal, acclaim. There were a number of critics who alleged that the arguments put forward in this book were nothing new, but what made Mahajan's book so credible was that he had travelled the length and breadth of Africa to interview many of the entrepreneurs he profiled.

The next milestone in the narrative of Africa's "coming of age" was the Lions on the Move report, published in 2010 by the McKinsey Global Institute, which pointed to the progress and potential of Africa's economies. The authors sought to examine the causes of Africa's economic growth acceleration since 2000 and analyse the prospects for future growth, identifying some of the most compelling business opportunities and how they would differ for Africa's individual countries. The report was greeted with enthusiasm by those who viewed Africa with confidence and saw beyond misconceptions that the continent was solely about poverty, disease, despair and conflict.

Two of the collaborators on Lions on the Move were Acha Leke and Mutsa Chironga. Chironga has since joined Nedbank, but the two teamed up with Georges Desvaux--who was involved with authoring the 2016 follow-up Lions on the Move II--to jointly author Africa's Business Revolution. Indeed, this book could well have been titled Lions on the Move III as it carries many of the report's hallmarks, including an easy reading style, flowing narrative and excellent explanatory figures and diagrams.

It is structured in two major parts--"Why Africa, Why Now?" and "How to Win in Africa". The first part is perhaps the weaker, as it tends to "sell" Africa, overlooking the continent's international context. For example, it considers the case of Nigeria's Dangote Group, one of Africa's foremost industrial firms. Yet Dangote's annual revenues at $4bn are dwarfed by many US corporates. It remains a giant in Africa, but a relative middleweight in global terms.


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