“We celebrated out 90th year of manufacturing here in South Africa this year , and what we’ve done recently is reorganised to put all of the Middle East and Africa into a new business unit. It’s our fifth business unit, and the first new one Ford motor company’s had in 50 years,” Jeff Nemeth, CEO of Ford South Africa, told CNBC Africa.
“It’s really because we believe there’s a lot of opportunity in Africa, and it’s the next economic frontier. All of the things that are going on with infrastructure development, government stability, governance, it’s area we think there’s a lot of opportunity [in].”
Carlton Jones, head of economic development and competitiveness practice in Africa for Monitor Deloitte, added that investors are now realising that there’s a tremendous growth opportunity on the continent.
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“It really just depends on where people want to play. In West Africa, we know that there are powerhouses there. In East Africa, there’s also a concentration of excellence, and then here [as well] in Southern Africa. I think what investors are realising is that it doesn’t really matter across the industries,” Jones explained.
“There’s ’infrastructure, there’s opportunities in some of the extractive industries, there’s tremendous opportunity for consumer goods and consumer markets because of the rapid urbanisation that’s taking place around the continent. The time is now.”
The continent is however non-homogenous, and one business model might work in one country but not the other. There are nevertheless an abundance of different opportunities in different places.
Citi, which has been Africa for over 100 years, is evidence of the long-term terrain of opportunity available in frontier markets.
While numerous international entities within the banking industry tend to be concentrated in either English or the French-speaking countries, Citi has had a legacy of presence across the continent. This, according to Donna Oosthuyse, chief country officer and MD of Citi South Africa, has been essential to offering diverse products to a diverse people.
“In terms of globalisation, Africa’s share of world GDP is increasing, and so is trade, but the big opportunity that we see is really within the continent, intra-Africa trade. That’s where this differentiation between countries is going to become really important,” said Oosthuyse.