Archive for November, 2008


Balance the view and opinion on Africa

Originally from Europe I have traveled and worked 5 continents over the last 32 years but nowhere have I found any characteristic to be as intense as in Africa.

The climate, the distances, the opportunities, the smiles and tears, the differences, its people and the list goes on.

Every day I meet people who like myself live and work in Africa. Some are new to the region, others have been around for many years, like me.

More often than not, when I ask if the picture people had in mind before arriving to the continent corresponds to the picture they see with their own eyes, the response I get is NO!

The most positive things people can think of when talking about Africa are some Safari images that they recall from a holiday brochure.

Overall the picture has a strong negative disposition fueled by what the commercial media presents on a daily basis to millions of people around the world.

This unbalance has a very serious impact on many fronts.

Some do not like Africa for various reasons and decide to return after a while and when I ask why the bottom line is the intensity of the conditions.

When I ask those who do like Africa to the extend that they have decided to stay and call Africa their new home it is interesting to hear that it is because of the very same intensity of the conditions.

Those who return to their countries of origin will often confirm the public opinion out of discontent with their experience. Having been there of course the weight of these stories is significant and if there were people in their circles considering to explore Africa the chances will dim after an evening listening to friends who came back. All the positive experiences that they had as well seem to have been forgotten.

When visiting friends and family often those who decided to stay in Africa get skeptic ears from their audience who are being overwhelmed with negative news by the media.

The media treats Africa in general as if it was one large country where in reality Africa consists of 54 nations. When something therefore happens in one corner of the continent, it is presented to the world as if 54 nations are affected. This has become a pattern with very negative consequences.

I think it is fair to say that Africa is probably one of the most resource rich continents on the planet. In any case rich enough for the US and China to currently compete in securing their shares of it.

Collectively, those who came from overseas and those who are native have a chance and a responsibility to tell the untold about Africa in order to create a more balanced view of Africa.

Investors, business men, tourists and anybody that can make a positive contribution to trade and commerce in general and therefore add to the economies in Africa are very sensitive to the public opinion and the perception of the region.

I have decided to create this blog to open the floor to those who would like to share their positive experiences in working and living in Africa.
Today the internet offers a wonderful tool to tell the untold, on a voluntary basis, non commercial, unfiltered, uncensored, directly from the source.

Hopefully this will trigger the curiosity of potential investors and business men and women to explore Africa and start to consider it a serious opportunity.

In case you are interested to know about my own activities in Africa:

I work for an American Software Company and on a day to day basis I am responsible for our operations in Africa.

I am a member of the board of Directors of the Corporate Council on Africa. This organization promotes trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

I am an adviser to Africa Investor, a UK based organization that promote trade and investment in Africa.

I am a member of the Regional Board of Directors and Vice Chairman of Junior Achievement. This organization helps children around the world with their education efforts.

In one of my capacities I have asked one of the former Presidents of the World Bank at one point to ensure that the results of World Bank funded projects would be published on their Websites.
Both successes and failures but than at least one of the largest funding institutions operating in Africa would start telling the world.

The African Development Bank has implemented this good practice. I hope the World Bank will soon do so as well.

What I found is that like everywhere else in the world, customers in Africa expect value and service from their business partners.

If someone comes with an open mind and with respect for the individual it does not matter where in the world one is to do business or enjoy ones stay in a foreign nation. This is not different in Africa.

If you apply this common sense in doing business in Africa, you will find that the opportunities are immense.

The majority of the people in Africa are very young and eager to learn. With today’s new technology it is possible to reach out faster and to larger numbers of people using available resources from the diaspora or from other partners in the world to build local capacity, which in my opinion is the number one priority to accelerate wealth creation.

I invite you to share your successes for others to follow. It might be helpful for those considering Africa to learn from our experiences.

What works, what to plan for that one would not consider in other parts of the world.

Please come and see for yourself, rely on your own judgment and decide if Africa is the place to be.

© Desi Lopez Fafié

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November 2008