One Entrepreneur’s Plan to Transform Africa – Knowledge @ Wharton

One Entrepreneur’s Plan to Transform Africa – Knowledge @ Wharton

Katherine Klein: Is Africa a good place for business today?

Fred Swaniker: I think that Africa is the most exciting place for business in the world. It offers the second-highest rate of return globally in terms of investments today. But more importantly, I think that there are certain long-term trends that are taking place in Africa which provide fantastic opportunities for investors and business leaders to actually not only have impact and feel good about investing, but also to really make a lot of money as well.

Klein: This is not the image that we are likely to get of Africa on the front page of American newspapers, for example.

Swaniker: No, not at all. And I think it’s also quite different from the way, for example, Chinese investors are seeing Africa. And I think the way I look at it is that the average American business leader never remembers a time when the USA looked like Africa does.

If you think about it, the U.S. has been fairly developed for the last hundred years, right? So your parents or your grandparents never remembered a time when this country looked like Africa.

But if you think about how fast China has developed, and where China was 30 years ago, for the average Chinese business leader going to Africa, they look around and [they say], “Oh, this looks like what China was like 30 years ago.” They don’t think, “This is a place I come and do charity and give to people who are in need.” They think, “This is a place for me to come and do business, because I actually get to do what we did in China all over again.”

And I think that this is the block that most investors in the U.S. have — it’s just difficult to go there and imagine that what you see could actually be any different.



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