Made in Africa

February 25, 2014

Africa’s risks are mainly perceived and not real. Unfortunately for us in Africa we are not really very good at telling our own story. But things are changing and people are beginning to understand that things are going very, very well.
– Aliko Dangote

By now everyone knows Africa is taking advantage of its brainpower and the explosive growth in mobile and internet access to get its creative industries of film, fashion and software onto the world stage. But slowly, quietly, Africa also is industrializing, driven by forces both at home and abroad.

Within Africa, the drivers of industrialization are the strong growth of consumer markets, improvements in roads and energy access, more investment friendly policies and falling intra-African trade barriers. Abroad, rising wages and currencies in Asia are providing opportunities for manufacturing jobs in Asia to migrate to Africa. In addition, preferential access to the U.S. market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act and to European Union markets provides job opportunities for millions of Africans.

Many African countries are starting to take advantage of their natural resources to competitively meet the needs of growing domestic markets and, increasingly, global markets. We are witnessing the rapid growth of a range of industries from footwear, furniture and construction based on low cost labor and the abundance of raw materials—skins, wood, stone, timber and concrete—to agribusiness using Africa’s abundant land resources.

Kenya Airways is one African company using GE technology.

Companies world-wide are learning that Africa is open and eager for business, and a growing number of U.S. firms are riding this wave. For example, GE is deepening ties with Africa, basing senior managers on the continent and partnering with governments and the private sector to supply technologies that meet the needs of Africa’s industrializing economies. Power generation for hospitals in Ghana, engines for the fleet of Kenya Airways and locomotives in Nigeria are some of the diverse ways GE advances Africa’s growth.

GE is active with philanthropic initiatives on the continent, but with their operations in Africa generating billions in annual revenue, GE is demonstrating that supporting African industry is good business. GE’s long-term plans include further infrastructure investment and workforce training, as evidenced by their planned $250 million assembly plant in Nigeria. GE has committed to hire Nigerian engineers and to train young Nigerians for employment in the plant that will locally manufacture hospital equipment, power plant turbines and other technologies the country is seeking to build upon their economic and developmental successes.

Perhaps less well known than the stories of foreign direct investment are the stories of Africans investing in Africa. There is perhaps no better example of this than Aliko Dangote, who has built the continent’s most prosperous business conglomerate and is now one of the world’s richest men.

Aliko Dangote has become one of the world's wealthiest individuals by investing in Africa.

There are three things that make Dangote a game-changer. First, his wealth is not just self-made but entirely African-made. Dangote was born in northern Nigeria, went to Nigerian schools and studied business in Egypt. Second, he built his stake not by extracting money from, but by investing money in, Africa. Today, with operations in numerous countries, his companies manufacture essential products such as concrete, sugar and flour for individual consumers and businesses across the continent. Third, Aliko Dangote is himself a game-changer. When confronted with a limitation, he addresses it by putting his money where his mouth is. For example, he is investing in major infrastructure projects, including power plants and thousands of kilometers of fiber-optic telecommunications cables to overcome binding development constraints. The Dangote Group also is now building a $9 billion oil refinery in Nigeria rather than rely on imports of expensive refined oil products.

This year, the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C. will be followed by Africare’s CODA, a dinner uniting major private sector actors who are Creating Opportunities for Development in Africa. At the event, Africare will honor Mr. Dangote and GE for their leadership and their commitments to investing on the continent. By investing in infrastructure and industry, GE and Mr. Dangote are fueling Africa’s economic transformation and are ultimately recasting Africa’s role on the world stage.

For more information on CODA, please contact Africare Deputy Director of Development Katelyn Brewer at


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