I think I should begin this article with a disclaimer that it does not purport to provide answers. It is not a 5 steps to some success or other. Instead I may leave you with questions. Questions, because I believe these are things we should think and talk about.
For many, if not all, multinationals one thing that is clear more than anything is if they still want to not only survive but thrive, is that Africa is the last frontier. Africa is where opportunities for exponential growth lie. Of course this also depends on the industry in which the companies operate, but one way or another, this is true for all businesses. One question then that jumps to mind is why then do multinationals act as if Africa needs them more than they need Africa? Is my question presumptuous? The inverse of that question is why Africa behaves like multinationals, or foreign direct investment (FDIs), are needed more than Africa needs them. You see, Africa is not coming to the table only with an empty belly. In fact, Africa is the table filled with all sorts of delectable delights. In most cases, the packaging, because of historical and other reasons, does not seem that way, but that is the truth.
This is not a call to some action, but questions I want to put out there to get some thoughts to process. What does Africa lack that it fails to call the shots, and place its terms, to investors that need the “last frontier” in order to stay in business? Corruption is one bit, as it makes it easier for multinationals to place unrealistic demands in exchange for benefits to key decision makers. And this points a finger directly at our so-called leaders.
This is just a side note: the corruption, that is. My opinion (a humble one) is that corruption benefits the corruptor more than the “corruptee” for if the opportunity and the appetite by the corruptee never existed, what would that mean to the corruptor. In as much as Africa is perceived as a haven for corruption and a ripe student to be taught on how not to be corrupt, the truth is that the practice is as old, if not older, as slave trading when slave traders “bought” slaves from their own rulers. But that is a side note for discussion on another day. One fascinating thing about it is that in most studies, it is presented as if it is a unilateral conduct, ie the corrupt Government official and the honest entrepreneur that just wants to create opportunities for the greater good, while it is a bilateral affair (it takes two to tango) involving both the public and the private sectors. In many corruption presentations, it is our continent that is flagged as red almost as if it us who are driving corrupt activities.
To move forward, the difficult things have to be addressed, the seemingly offensive words have to be spoken, and unpopular decisions have to be made.
That is the only piece of advice I will offer.