Africa’s economy is showing great promise in recent years. While the continent is vast and difficult to generalize, 2019 saw growth stabilized at a 3.4% average, and it is expected to pick up to 3.9% in 2020 and 4.1% in 2021, little under historic highs. Still, The African Development Bank Group mentions that only about a third of African countries achieved inclusive growth, reducing both poverty and inequality.
The World Bank does not fully concur; setting Sub-Saharan Africa economies at 2.6% in 2019 from 2.5% in 2018 (0.2 percentage points lower than the April forecast), it blames global uncertainty, poorly managed debt, inflation, deficits and political and regulatory uncertainty for below prediction performance. Excluding the slow to recover countries of Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa brings the growth average closer to the ADBG stats.
Investors have been wary to come to Africa; relatively high risk, murky business practices and instability are still prevalent. Still, opportunities seem unlimited in the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2 billion-person market.
Many businessmen, including many from Eastern Europe, have taken their business to Africa since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia’s trade with Africa almost tripled from US$6,6 billion in 2010 to US$18,9 billion in 2018, and many are taking notice; in 2019, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa and over 40 other African leaders flew to Russia, hoping to take a bite out of that country’s growing commercial interest on the continent and lure its investors.
One such investor, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is a Russian businessman and close associate of President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin, owner of fine dining restaurant and caterer Concord, was reported to have significant activity in Africa based on companies linked to him and business jets’ movements.
Prigozhin is operating in Sudan, Kenya and Central African Republic, where he owns several companies, including Wagner Group and a gold and diamond mining entity, Lobaye Invest. A restaurateur in Russia, the businessman has had several initiatives, including trading tea, coffee and pasta in Africa and dispatching political consultants. Dubbed the man behind Russia’s push into Africa, Prigozhin has also caught some fire over the years; the US Treasury announced sanctions against him on several occasions.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, another businessman has been making headlines; Dan Gertler, a citizen of Israel, has been linked to President Felix Tshisekedi. Gertler has mining and oil deals In DRC and has also worked closely with ex-President Joseph Kabila. Just recently, Gertler was accused of bribery and corruption in DRC, but nothing has been proven so far.
Another businessman working in the continent is Belarussian Alexander Zingman. Zingman is Zimbabwe’s honorary consul in Belarus, after a solemn ceremony attended by Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was placed under US sanctions, in 2019. His business activity includes agriculture equipment, mining and construction, arms and military equipment and financing of projects.
The businessman, also a citizen of the United States, has been linked to several African leaders, including Zambian President Edgar Lungu. Zingman has 2 companies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and has brokered several deals in Tanzania and Chad. Starting in 2017, he has arranged meetings between Zambian and Zimbabwean delegations and Russian arms dealer Rosobornexport (which has been under US sanctions in recent years), with the company’s President Alexander Mikheev. Following this meeting, on July 22, 2017 Zambia acquired two Mil Mi-17 helicopters and five Sukhoi Superjet 100 planes (SSJ100).
While the area continues to be unstable and despite the global Coronavirus crisis, 2020 is set to be a good year for the continent of Africa. If growth continues to rise, hopefully reaching close to 4%, local economies will benefit greatly. The continent, which has seen corruption and bribery for decades, can be expected to align itself with global regulations to assist its economic boom, supported by international businessmen such as the aforementioned.