Failure shows SA Companies should reconsider African strategy

An edited version of this article appeared in the daily weekday ed of Business Day (South Africa) on 18/10/2021:

There has been a flurry of activity by South African companies on the continent recently.  From Vodacom’s successful bid as minority partner for the Ethiopian telecommunications license to the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) between South African Airlines (SAA) and Kenyan Airways (KQ) that is intended to sow the seed for a pan-African airline.   In fact, South African companies have made great inroads into Africa over the last two decades or so and seem to dominate the African business space.  According to a 2018 report by the Boston Consulting Group, South African companies make up 32 out of the 75 African multinationals active on the continent.  And according to a recent 2021 fDi Intelligence report, a leading research agency and a division of the Financial Times, South Africa is the second biggest investor on the continent from Africa or the Middle East, behind only the UAE. 

But there is another side to this unquestionable success, one punctuated by regular missteps and blunders that have been repeated to the great detriment of a significant number of South African companies in Africa. 

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SA must clean up its act in Africa – Its future depends on it

This article appeared in Sunday Times Daily (South Africa) in the Opinion and Analysis section on 31/08/2021:–sa-must-clean-up-its-act-in-africa-its-future-depends-on-it/

It has certainly been an active 18 months or so for President Cyril Ramaphosa and his foreign policy pivot to Africa.  As Chairperson of the African Union (A.U) last year and at the G20 summit in November, he championed decisive measures to counteract the impact of the pandemic on Africa as a whole.  Seeking debt relief, increased vaccine procurement and waivers on vaccine patents to encourage domestic African production.

And just last month, South Africa deployed 1500 South African troops making up the bulk of the multinational force under SADC command to counter the growing threat of an Islamic insurgency in northern Mozambique.  

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A New Chapter in Greek-African relations or just a flash in the pan?

An edited version of this article appeared in Greek Business File (July/August 2021 issue):

A new chapter in Greek-African relations or a flash in the pan?

When Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias heralded a new chapter in relations between Africa and Greece to a gathered host of African ambassadors for Africa Day to mark the establishment of the African Union late last month, it hardly made waves.  Statements of good intention towards the oft-neglected continent are nothing new.  But a flurry of recent diplomatic activity, including a new diplomatic mission in Dakar, Senegal and the announcement that Greece will contribute to the French-led peacekeeping mission in the Sahel, would suggest that Dendias’s assertion might this time actually be backed by action.

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Where have all the Greeks gone? The story of Greeks in Africa

A shorter version of this article appeared in the Sunday Cyprus Mail on 4th April 2021 and was re-published in Economia – the Greek business and finance media group on 27th April 2021

Today there remain only a few Greeks in Africa, mainly in the metropoles of South Africa. These last remnants only hint at a rich past that tied generations of Greeks to the vast African continent. There are some who still remember this prosperous past. Minis Papapetrou, a retired engineer who grew up in Sudan and now resides in Athens describes how he and around 200 members of the ‘Greek Community of Sudan’ still meet periodically in the Greek capital. Before covid disrupted life, they regularly gathered for Christmas and Easter, even though most, including Mr Papapetrou himself, left Africa almost 50 years ago. So powerful is the memory of the place that bonds them. “When we get together, or go to the club, our conversations are all about when we were back in Sudan,” he sighs. “Do you remember that? Do you remember when we went there? It’s a nice feeling to remember the country you were born.” Mr Papapetrou represents the last in a line of three generations of Greeks whose fortunes ebbed and flowed with those of the continent.

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Smart Cities in Africa. The Smart Move or another White Elephant that brings crushing debt

A shorter version of this article appeared in Business Day, South Africa on 23rd March 2020

Last month President Ramaphosa in his SONA heralded the forthcoming construction of a new 5G-ready smart city around Lanseria Airport in the next decade.  With it, South Africa was belatedly thrust to the front of a Continent-wide rush to establish so-called smart and eco-friendly cities, seen as a means of jump-starting the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution powered by digital technology.

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