Africa’s CEOs seize the opportunities that uncertainty brings

Notwithstanding the current economic and socio-political uncertainty, numerous companies in Africa are still positive about the growth potential of the continent. PwC ( research across the continent shows that 91% of CEOs are confident about their own companies’ growth prospects in the medium term. “This is the highest level of confidence since we started our research on CEOs in Africa in 2012,” Hein Boegman CEO for PwC Africa says.

Boegman was speaking on the challenges and opportunities facing Africa’s CEOs at a press briefing held by PwC at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 in Durban today.

One of the reasons why Africa CEOs are positive is that they tend to look to the upside and seize on the opportunities uncertainty brings. Facing a climate of muted growth at best, CEOs recognise that while they focus on organic growth and cost reductions, they also need to prioritise investment in strategic alliances and joint ventures to expand their markets and grow their customer bases.

Despite the level of optimism for growth, CEOs are concerned about uncertain economic growth and the impact this will have on their business. “The returns for doing business on the continent are high, but so are the risks. Africa’s CEOs are operating in difficult times – infrastructure on the continent remains a challenge, finding and retaining the right talent for their businesses, dealing with many of the hurdles that come with working with governments, and managing growth plans across the continent,” Boegman comments.

Given the major changes we are currently seeing in the world – such as the recent US elections and the UK’s vote to leave the EU – a key feature of the current environment is just how difficult it is to read. A single event can trigger a need for wholesale strategic changes. A case in point is the recent political and policy uncertainty in South Africa, and more particularly the recent downgrade in the country’s sovereign debt to junk status. Exchange rate volatility, an increasing tax burden, social instability resulting from inequality, and corruption remain problems in many countries.

“It is no longer enough for business leaders to steer their organisations through a complicated and challenging environment – they will need to adapt swiftly to change,” says Dion Shango, CEO for PwC Southern Africa. CEOs will need to focus on their business strategies and processes and will be expected to play a part in the broader community. CEOs will also need to consider the changing expectations and demands of current and future stakeholders. “For CEOs, their customers, government and competitors have a big influence on business strategy. Understanding their needs and working towards addressing them can help build trust, maintain reputation and lend a licence to operate.”

Anne Eriksson, Regional Senior Partner for PwC in East Africa, says “regulatory policy can also restrain growth, and in some cases, necessitate cost reduction by the businesses affected.” On the other hand, changes in regulation can also prompt strategic developments in business. Eriksson points out that regulatory change in Kenya has helped the country’s financial services sector to pay more attention to its customers. A number of multinational companies have also committed to building capacity and improving transparency and regulatory frameworks through engagement with government. “Where there has been progress, economies have benefitted and the result is more inward investment, innovation and organic growth.”

Notwithstanding the slowdown, Africa is also experiencing a number of advances economically and socially. There are significant trends that could offer new opportunities and benefits for businesses, governments and the population. In the past year, global megatrends such as demographic change, increase in urbanisation, shifts in global economic power and technological innovation are favourable to development on the continent. Across all sectors, the pace of innovation in Africa is driving greater collaboration and convergence. A number of multinational companies have committed to building capacity and improving transparency and regulatory frameworks through engagement with governments. Where there has been progress, markets have benefitted and the result is more inward investment, innovation and growth. But in order to grow and expand to its potential, Africa will need to face the political and economic repercussions of climate change, as well as safety and political instability in some areas.

“The business leader of today must deliver seamless strategy and operational excellence. Africa’s CEOs will need to overcome a number of challenges to truly transform their organisations. In the process, business needs to recognise and manage its responsibilities and dependencies,” Boegman concludes.

Distributed by APO on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

Media contacts:
Sandy Greaves Campbell: Managing Director, Change the Conversation, South Africa
Office: + 27 11 028 7753/54
Sanchia Temkin: PwC Head of Media Relations, South Africa
Office: + 27 11 797 4470

About PwC:
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Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick to visit Cairo and Beirut

Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick departs for Cairo today to attend the opening of a business forum being co-organized by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and the Greek Embassy in Egypt. In this framework, he will also meet with Egypt’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Tarek Kabil.

Mr. Quick will also meet with the board of directors of the Greek Community of Cairo and with members of the board of the Greek Community of Alexandria.

On Thursday, 4 May, Mr. Quick will depart for Beirut, where, at the invitation of Lebanon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil, he will participate in the proceedings of the “Lebanese Diaspora Energy” conference.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic.

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New EU funding will provide essential nutrition treatment for 130,000 children under the age of five in Ethiopia

The European Union (EU) has given €3 million in humanitarian funds to support UNICEF’s emergency interventions in Ethiopia. The new grant will provide life-saving nutrition treatment for severely malnourished children living in drought-affected areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in Somali, Afar, and parts of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) regions, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services in these areas is critically low. In addition, livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity. An estimated 303,000 children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2017.

“We are grateful for EU’s continuous and generous assistance for life-saving interventions addressing malnutrition at this critical time,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “We believe that the funding will significantly improve the health condition of children affected by the current drought and reduce the long term impact of malnutrition including life-long cognitive impairments.”

The EU humanitarian funding will support UNICEF to reduce child mortality and morbidity associated with SAM. In order to reach vulnerable children in remote areas, UNICEF will support the Government to expand existing healthcare services and provide treatment supplies – including ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), therapeutic milk, and medicines. The intervention will also aim at mobilizing communities’ awareness on preventing malnutrition.

“As devastating drought hits pastoral communities in the south and south-east of Ethiopia, bringing in its wake Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) , food and water shortages, the EU is scaling up funding to provide children with vital nutrition care,” said Ségolène de Beco, Ethiopia Head of Office for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). “Infants and young children are extremely vulnerable to a combination of malnutrition and diseases. To avoid unnecessary deaths and suffering, we need to respond to the needs of these children in time with appropriate treatment and care.”

The concerted efforts of UNICEF with the EU, the Government of Ethiopia and other partners, will relieve the suffering of children while continuing to build long term resilience and strengthening the Government’s capacity to respond to future nutrition emergencies.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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Somalia: Rights Priorities for New Government

Somalia’s new government should ensure that the security forces are accountable and improve protection of the most vulnerable people, Human Rights Watch said today in a 10-point report on human rights priorities. The London conference on security sector reform in Somalia, slated for May 11, 2017, is an important opportunity for Somalia’s leadership and the country’s international partners to make a commitment to address past abuses and improve future responses to the many problems arising from war, famine, and political dysfunction.

On February 8, Somalia’s two houses of parliament selected former prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” as the country’s president following a protracted electoral process. The new government, with support from its international partners, should take concrete steps to remove abusers from the security forces, put a stop to abuses against the country’s over 1.1 million internally displaced people, keep children out of the armed forces, step-up fair prosecutions for sexual violence, and improve media freedoms.

“Somalia’s new political leadership faces many critical problems that urgently need to be addressed,” said Laetitia Bader, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government should act quickly to protect all civilians at risk from further violence by holding rights abusers to account.”

Civilians across the country have borne the brunt of the fighting between government forces and the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab, and politicized clan conflict. Warring parties have all committed serious abuses against civilians during fighting and in areas they control. Given the government’s stated plans to step-up military operations against Al-Shabab, effective oversight and disciplinary mechanisms for the security forces will be crucial for protecting civilians, Human Right Watch said.

Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) has disregarded detainees’ basic rights, holding people for prolonged periods without charge, denying them access to legal counsel, and extracting confessions through coercion. Current discussions around creating a national security structure have so far overlooked the intelligence services. The government should clarify the legal mandate of security forces and provide better oversight to ensure redress for NISA abuses.

In recent years, Somali administrations have relied on military courts to try a broad range of cases beyond these courts’ jurisdiction, such as terrorism-related offenses and cases against civilians, in violation of international standards. At the London conference, the government should make a commitment to respect the fair trial rights of all defendants, prohibit trying civilians in military courts, and impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

All Somali parties to the conflict have used children under 18 in their forces in violation of international law, including government forces, despite public commitments not to do so. The government should establish effective measures to systematically screen the ages of all recruits, including former regional forces and militia members, and cease trying children implicated in crimes before the military courts, which do not apply juvenile justice standards.

With the country on the brink of another famine, the new government has made addressing the humanitarian crisis a priority. As part of those efforts, the authorities should end the serious abuses against displaced people, including illegal forced evictions.

The government should address threats, intimidation, and attacks on journalists that have long posed a threat to a free and vibrant media. It should encourage independent reporting on sensitive issues, such as corruption and security, revise the media law to bring it into line with international standards, and fully and credibly investigate threats and attacks on journalists. The government should also establish an independent and strong national human rights commission.

“Somalia’s international partners should support key reforms aimed at providing justice for serious abuses and bringing meaningful change for Somalia,” Bader said. “They should direct their assistance to ending abuses against civilians, building accountable security forces, and working with the government to assist the country’s most marginalized communities.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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