February 9, 2014


A Healthier, Wealthier Africa (Joseph Jimenez, 2/06/14, Project Syndicate)

The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) have long been the focus of emerging-market investors. But it is in Africa, a region with the world's second-fastest growth, where the next big business opportunities lie. In about one-third of the continent's 55 countries, annual GDP growth is above 6%, and Sub-Saharan Africa grew at an estimated 5.1% pace in 2013.

Foreign investors report that their return on investment in Africa is higher than in any other emerging region. By 2040, the continent's working-age population will total an estimated 1.1 billion people, providing businesses with a larger labor pool than even China or India. Moreover, economic expansion is taking place not just in urban centers, but in small towns and villages as well.

Africa has witnessed some remarkable technological leaps. A decade ago, telecoms infrastructure was almost non-existent. Today, one in six people owns a mobile phone, the benefits of which go far beyond easy communication. Africa has pioneered the use of mobile banking, with local players like M-Pesa and global corporations like Citi demonstrating how new technology can provide vital financial services to the unbanked population. Mobile money and digital wallets accessed on cellphones eliminate the need for physical cash in rural areas, where financial services are limited and carrying large amounts of cash is risky.

Joining this mobile-phone revolution, Novartis is working with five African governments and private-sector partners to improve drug distribution and monitor the supply of anti-malaria medicines in rural areas, using text messaging and electronic mapping. Previously, patients would travel to distant health clinics only to find that the medicines that they needed were no longer in stock. Now, thanks to the SMS for Life project, vital medicines can be quickly redistributed to where they are most needed.

Posted by at February 9, 2014 7:15 AM

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