on October 28, 2008
The strength of this book, which is my reason for giving it four stars, is that provides a positive perspective on Africa that stresses just how much innovation is underway there, a valuable counterbalance to the general bleak evalations of its economic growth, and that it adds to a major and, for me, vital shift in thinking about development and aid. It has a lot of weaknesses when it moves beyond its largely consumer market focus, however.
This is a marketing expert's book, written by someone with first-rate knowledge and a wealth of experience and corporate contacts. It challneges the old development community assumtions about the population in the undeveloped world being largely helpless, ignorant and adrift. That community mostly views its own capabilities as being wiser, knowing better and being more qualified to define plans and investments than they. Its priorities have been grand schemes, infrastructure projects and close collaborations with governemt and international agencies. I strongly recommend Easterley's demolition of this perspective in his book The Whte Man's Burden. Like Africa Rising, he argues for a bottom-up focus on giving local entrepreneurs the tools and limied help they need and will quickly exploit. There is a huge pool of entrepreneurial energy among small business owners, farmers, taxi drivers, entertainment providers and many others. Far from being lazy or ignorant, they are street-smart and energetic. Africa Rising shows plenty of instances, and also points to such multinationals as Unilver and Coca-Cola in stimulating demand and meeting widespread needs. The exammples are interesting and often striking. Nollywood, the rapidly expanding Nigeria-based (hence the "N")is a major producer of films, for instance, and the equal of Bollywood as a social force. Many of the book's examples come from the FMCG field -- fast moving consumer goods -- and the book shows many specific instances in beer, washng powders and househld items. As in all parts of the world, local mobile phone services are another growth area. New airlines are popping up around the region. The total market is an estimated $900 billion economy. The author argues, like Easterley, for Trade not Aid as the driver for growth.
Here, the book achieves its main goal: to provide a picture of Africa as opportunity and Africans as innovators and enrepreneurs. This is the four star element of the book. It is positive and changes how a reader sees Africa.
The weaknesses are when it moves to broader topics. There are too many cases that are really just claims, often from central government, that just do not hold up. For example, one comapny, RGC of Sierra Leone, is reported as having implemented a city-wide Wifi/Wimax service in Freetown (the other two cities are Taipei and Philadelphia. The evidence for this is the much-repeated and often word-by-word inclusion in articles of an RGC press announcement. It's more than dubious, as are the use of comparable paeons to intelligent campuses for software development, favorable comparisons with Singapore and Dubais infrastructure deveopments, examples of major successful government programs in education and many other modernization claims. These do not hold up to detailed exploration and a weakness of the book is its use of scattershot references from magazines and newspapers. The author frequently argues that Africa is in many areas ahead of and richer than India and China. This is not convincing without far more detailed analysis and statistical rather than anecdotal evidence. Many relevant topics are ignored especially the wider social realities of the rural/urban divide. It is a book with no real economic analysis. So, for instance, much is made of Highladd teas, a Kenyan estate that has built up its production and sales of tea. Well.... Kenya is the largest exporter of teas but the prices have halved wordldwide and machnes have displaced thousands of workers. Tea is produced by poor peasants -- the average daily wage is $1-2 in Kenya, China and India. So, yes, the HIghland example is a nice one but it is just that; it doesn't add up to anything beyond the story. While the author mentions in passing the problems of civil war, AIDS and governement corruption, they are the vague background in his opimistic portrayals. Zimbawe includes many small and resourceful entrepreneurs but what is ignored is the mass starvation that is part of the same street scenes and the hospital system is in collapse. The data presented on the wealth of Arica seems very skewed by aggregate figures that seem to be heavily weighted by oil revenues. Very, very little of that income gets passed to workers and to funding of real programs.
Overall, the book presents just a tiny part of a complex picture but it does present it well. It's heavily marketing-centered. It's weak on data and social/political/education/health issues. I disagree with at least half of its analysis and conclusions, which makes it useful in challenging me to shift my own picture and assumptions. This is why I recommend it. It offers a very different focus from alnost all the books I read on international development and my own writing on the topic shares his Trade not Aid viewpoint. This makes it a valuable contribution to the debate and a useful contribution that I wish my World Bank, UN and academic colleagues read.
So, four stars and a thank you to the author for shedding a new light on a topic critical for the future of us all. May Africa continue to rise!
on November 6, 2015
Others have gushed over this book's enthusiastic take on the "African" market. It seems to me that the pendulum has swung to the other end of its arc on whether Africa is a disaster needing charity or the biggest business opportunity for the 21st century. The real answer depends on a) where you are in Africa's 54 countries, b) whether you are urban or rural, c) what kind and size of business you are running, d) your expected time horizon, and e) what kind of risk you can assume. One size does not fit all, and if there is an underlying weakness to the book, it may be that it uses the lens of big Western corporate business to appraise Africans. Risk though mentioned is hardly balanced with opportunity in this book. Failed states, corruption and lack of basic civic infrastructure in many places are real problems that won't disappear for some time, no matter how many consumers are generated by exposure to Western (or Chinese) goods.
I think a great deal more care and nuance needs to be taken in approaching market development there if some of the more negative consequences of our consumer society are to be avoided. For example, Mahajan is excited about the segment of the potential market represented by Tier 3 consumers--those who are employees of the very rich. These people see the conspicuous consumption of their employers and aspire to the same gadgets though they cannot afford them. Advances in the banking system aim to create a consumer lending (debt) market. By leapfrogging the development process instead of allowing time for proper wealth accumulation structures in this Tier, he essentially advocates slavery to American-style consumer debt as the basis for market exploitation. The Market Tier 3 Africans I know lead a tenuous financial life, much more so than Americans, so debt is likely to be very dangerous in the long run. Should business try to sell Africans what they don't need? What is the impact of cheap Chinese goods flooding the market on the development of indigenous industry? It is these kinds of wise, ethical, systemic questions that are missing from this book and others like it. This does no service to Africans looking for solid long term economic and social development or to Western investors looking for decent risk-adjusted returns. Africa is changing in some fundamental ways. This book goes about halfway in helping Western audiences understand how.
on November 26, 2008
Vijay Mahajan, author of The 86 Percent Solution: How to Succeed in the Biggest Market Opportunity of the 21st Century, and eight other titles brings us a wonderfully balanced view of Africa.
Decades ago, Mahajan, a US marketing professor from India predicted his home country's future success that we see today. Now, he does the same with "Africa Rising."
The author discusses how much of the world views Africa as a charity case, rather than a market opportunity with more than 900 million consumers. Various market segments are explored in this text, including: food, clothing, medicine, shelter, cell phones, bicycles, automobiles, education, water, and more. Colorful photos are also included. Such areas like the media, advertising, and entertainment [and Nigeria's booming film industry, termed, "Nollywood"] were also outlined with detailed examples of growth sectors.
This book is highly recommended for Africanists, Marketers, Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, Students, and more. Some large firms, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Guinness, have already taken full advantage of the African arena, with not only their products, but with clever advertising systems for repeat business and culturization.
As a Master of Business, I found this text to be truly enlightening, and hope that others will take part in the growth and sustainability of Africa's economy.
on October 13, 2013
"Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think" was a finalist for the American Marketing Association's Berry-AMA Book Prize for the Best Book in Marketing in 2010. The book reveals why many analysts recommend that companies make investments in the continent. The author points out that even though there currently are some challenges to doing business in Africa, there are also many opportunities for businesses to make money by targeting the many consumers who are not yet wealthy, but are striving to make a better life for themselves. I now want to read some of the other books that have been written by the author.
This book has a great way of giving business a new perspective on how Africans are perceived in the consumer driven world. On one hand it is good to see Africa and Africans being recognized as more than third world hardship cases. On the other hand by putting them in the category of consumers, like this book does, are we really giving them a better life. The US has become a nation of consumers and now we are faced with failing economic numbers that haven't been seen in three decades and a collapsing economy that can easily rival the great depression. Africans need to be thought of as more than dollar signs and it should be looked as the potential of being a grand social experiment that extends far beyond the playground to commit the same mistakes of the first world nations surrounding her.
This is a very useful book if you're interested in exploring the business opportunities in Africa. Mahajan makes a convincing case that Africa is an overlooked market that could be the next new frontier in business. While everyone else is obsessed with India and China, those countries are looking to Africa. Indian and Chinese investors have seen the rise of their home markets, and expect the same to occur in Africa. This alone makes the book - and Africa - worth paying attention to.
The point of the book isn't so much to systematically analyze Africa's economy or business opportunities on the continent, but rather to generate awareness and excitement over the investment opportunities in Africa. In this purpose, it succeeds brilliantly. He provides compelling examples of successful African businessmen and foreign investments in Africa.
The book is written in the style of many marketing books, which is generally a collection of exciting anecdotes but little thorough analysis. This can be fun and exciting but also misleading. I'm not always convinced that the anecdotes always translate into the broader reality. For example, he compares the investment potential Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa (NEKS) to the Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRICs). However, there are real concerns about political stability in the NEKS that simply aren't present when dealing with the BRICS (except perhaps Russia). For example, in Nigeria there are occasional terrorist actions against oil pipelines; in Kenya, election violence in 2007 and increasingly frequent mob lynching; and in South Africa, serious doubts about the new president Jacob Zuma. Imagine if India had elected an alleged rapist as prime minister rather than a former finance minister! I think Mahajan is right to point out the positive trends in the African market, but he should also have addressed some of these concerns to make his analysis more solid.
After reading this book, I invested in an Africa fund, which has already gone up 30-40% over the past few months! There are opportunities out there, even in this bear market.
on February 1, 2009
I read the first few chapters with eager anticipation and then skimmed the rest. The author does Africa justice by highlighting that Africa does have some interesting investment or business opportunities given it's myriad of problems. He does however treat Africa as largely a single entity which it clearly is not, while many countries suffer from similar problems, such as extreme poverty, over population, war, disease, lack of infrastructure, etc. the circumstances in each country are different. He does not even discuss the length of time to license a business (in the formal economy) this varies from a couple hours in South Africa to months in Egypt, and years in Angola. His grounding in basic economics is weak, on the one hand he compares the GDP of Africa, a continent to countries, to imply that Africa is the 10th largest economy. Well on a continental it is 2nd last only to Australasia and Antarctica combined. It is not even a single jurisdiction. What point is he trying to make? One the other hand he states that the GNI of 10 African countries is higher than that of China. Is also does not make much sense. If he is demonstrating "evidence" for Africa's merit, well I guess he has done that. Though to be fair to China and India, it would be more reasonable to compare African countries to Chinese and Indian states, which are in both cases, in many respects, semi-autonomous entities. My final criticism is that he almost completely ignores the political factor that will and does affect foreign investment.
Sure there are similarities between India and China from 20 or 5 years ago to Africa today, but these are mostly superficial.
The books sole merit is to highlight that Africa could prove to be a compelling investment ground for new comers as it has for long established players such as Coca-Cola.
Working with NGO's, poverty and with key issues like HIV/AIDS in Africa I was so encouraged to read Africa Rising. Most of what one hears from the African continent in the press and media or the perception of Africa is one of war, disease, pessimism, corruption and general bad news. Vijay Mahajan, the Indian author, said that this was the same, bad /negative press that India was getting 20 years ago and now look what is happening and where India is going. In this perception, it is easy to overlook the business opportunities that are occurring. He predicts after multiple visits that Africa is moving already in a serious change for the future. He states, "that if Africa were one country, in 2006 according to World Bank data, it would be the tenth largest economy in the world." It is not but it is much richer than you think.
Page 18 --" The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Africa. Entrepreneurs solve problems. Take away electricity, and they sell generators and inverters. Take away a stable financial system, and they make their money on speculating on foreign currency. Take away their employment, and they set up kiosks in the street. Entrepreneurship and the development of consumer markets may be a more clean, stable, and powerful driver of long-term progress than political reform. " Mr. Mahajan gives ample examples throughout the continent why this is not only the future, this is the present.
We tend to emphasize how politics affects business but even in this global economic environment, how does business affect politics. Entrepreneurs are constantly looking for opportunities and are the primary engine in creating wealth. Mr. Mahajan gives many examples like Uganda of businesses that were forced out under Idi Amin but that have come back and are some of the largest businesses and corporate social responsibility shareholders in the country. Or like Rwanda, once known for genocide but now for a President that is seriously moving this country in another direction.
Another example is the CelTel founder Mohamed Ibrahim. He says Africa has gotten a lot of bad press but there are 53 countries and 4-5 of them have severe problems but this is a BIG continent. "Even with this negative perception, when there is a gap between perception and reality, there is business to be made." page 21 - This company is now operating in 15 countries and has invested at the writing of this book USD 750 million in Africa. Ibrahim has consistently refused to pay bribes and has created systems of good governance. He has been giving back to Africa with a 200 million joint venture fund for African entrepreneurs. This Sudanese born entrepreneur says, " We are apart of the fabric of Africa. This money I have made in Africa, and it is really their money." He has also established an annual USD 5 million prize, plus $200,000 for life, for retired African leaders who rule well and then stand down. This award is larger than the Nobel Peace Prize. He is showing demonstrating the impact of business upon political and social development.
Optimism is growing. Africa is indeed rising. Some of the best trained Africans are returning home to countries that have created positive and stable governments where there economies are flourishing. Even in countries of war like the western province of Darfur, Khartoum is being compared with Dubai. In Mogadishu which is still of international concern, in the north, Somaliland is thriving and stable. China is investing seriously into this continent. In fact, direct investment in Africa doubled in 2006 from the 2004 levels.
The continent has been further connected through under water fiber optic cables and broadband internet will make an even more significant impact financially as communication increases radically next door and globally. 2/3rds of African countries have populations bigger than Singapore --if you cannot afford to miss markets like Singapore -- you cannot ignore these African countries.
You get the gist of this book -- If you are in business and looking for opportunities, this book is a must --- I think it is also a must for Churches, NGO's, MicroFinance organizations to see how they can better partner for poverty alleviation and corporate social responsibility for the benefit of all. If you have been pessimistic about Africa, read this book.
With just under a billion consumers, Africa is among the world's fastest growing markets. In "Africa Rising", global business consultant and University of Texas marketing professor Vijay Mahajan tells the detailed story of this unusual and often misunderstood marketplace in all its nuanced diversity, and the enormous opportunity for growth that it presents.
The author tells the stories that Western marketers are almost never privy to: stories of how African entrepreneurs and executives are identifying potential market opportunities and how global companies are overcoming Africa's until-now devastating political, economic, infrastructural and social challenges. In an era where new growth is more difficult to achieve and truly rewarding opportunities difficult to find, Professor Mahajan's work identifies what may be the largest growth opportunity in the world today. He argues that Africa is far richer than usually assumed and presents his readers with a market with the potential to become the next China or India.
The author relates the story of the "Black Diamond" - a group consists of 500 million Africans (over half the continent's population) who are newly at or near a middle-class income. The remaining population is comprised of the truly destitute who, the author points out, must still buy staples like rice, soap, and cooking oil. The first group is ready for traditional consumer purchases such as televisions, refrigerators, and automobiles. The second group, he asserts, is primed to have small profits leveraged through modern organization and distribution methods.
The author concludes that Africa today is where China and India, now attractive markets, were two decades ago. Mahajan introduces his readers to Africa as a place of remarkable optimism and ingenuity with entrepreneurs and businesses working to create a better future for the continent. Crossing thousands of miles across many countries, Mahajan shares the lessons that Africa's businesses have learned about succeeding in such an environment, showing how global organizations are succeeding despite Africa's many challenges. "Africa Rising" presents a picture of Africa as opportunity and Africans as innovators and entrepreneurs.
The book takes its readers on a tour of the economies of several important countries, including the continent's two largest economies of Nigeria and South Africa, illustrating the variety of the economies and the universal desire for better lives that characterize this overlooked economic powerhouse.
What emerges is a dynamism on the part of the people, often in spite of underdeveloped infrastructures, grinding poverty and plutocratic governments beset with neglect and corruption.
"Africa Rising" will surely change how readers perceive Africa. I recommend it unhesitatingly for students of Africa and those interested in its untapped potential.
on February 14, 2009
"I am not a political scholar. I am not an economist. I am a marketing professor, so my focus is on the market opportunity. There will soon be a billion consumers on the continent of Africa, and this is one of the fastest growing markets in the world...they need to eat. They need shelter. They want education for their children. They would like to have soaps to wash their clothes... They celebrate marriages, births and religious holidays and commemorate death...
"The market landscape that is Africa is every bit as marvelous and surprising as its geographic landscape. It presents as big an opportunity as China and India..."
University of Texas at Austin
From the Introduction
How 900 Million African Consumers
Offer More Than You Think
It is painfully obvious that the standard media presentation of Africa and its banal images of hopelessness are not only destructive to the African continent, but to the hearts and minds of investors, entrepreneurs and the common person hungry to believe in the power of human beings to transform their lives under any circumstances. This book, AFRICA RISING, by Vijay Mahajan is a powerful corrective to that.
From Irish beer, to Egyptian cell phones, to medicine and infrastructure, to Nigerian films, Vijay Mahajan shows that Africa is not a success story that is waiting to happen. The entire continent of Africa--the tenth largest economy in the world, growing as fast or faster than India or China--is a success story that is already happening.
Written in easy to understand plain English, this is as much a primer for someone like me, unfamiliar with the language and perspectives of marketing and economics, as it is for a fascinating new look at how an American mostly ignorant to the situation in most African countries like myself can make a difference on both sides of the world.