Thursday, 26 May 2016

Invest in our African future

The word “investment” generally makes us think of financial interventions and opportunities. So when we are encouraged to invest in our continent we may wonder what we have to offer, if not money.

If we think about it for a while we realise that investment can mean anything that we put in towards building up the continent on which we live: economically, socially and ethically.

So let’s put our heads together to come up with different ways in which we can invest in #YourEduloanFuture, and in the future of Africa.

Buy African

One of the best ways to make a financial investment in our country’s economy, and by extension, the economy of the continent, is to support local businesses.

It’s really easy to do as well – it’s simply about choosing products that have been produced locally when you do your shopping. Of course, some of our favourite products and brands come from overseas, but with just a little shopping around it’s usually pretty easy to find locally manufactured alternatives, which often offer better value for money and are of equal quality.

Educate yourself

There is no better investment than education. It’s an investment in the most important asset of all: human capital. It’s a pretty straightforward equation too – more and better education produces people who are more skilled, who have more knowledge, and who are better equipped for the world of work and other endeavours that benefit the economy.

An educated continent is a healthy continent, filled with people who have the skills, abilities and knowledge to make valuable contributions in whatever careers they pursue.

Teach others

Education and learning are lifelong activities. We never stop growing, never stop accumulating knowledge. One of the best ways of acquiring knowledge is to learn directly from other people.

Educating each other by passing on the skills and knowledge we have gained is a very important way in which we can invest in our continent, through the people who live in it. If we look around we’re sure to find plenty of opportunities to do so. We can teach junior colleagues the deeper details of our jobs or professions. We can share information we’ve gained from reading or from television documentaries. We can join online discussion forums; there a plenty of ways to spread knowledge and information.

Look after what we have

Africa is a continent with an ancient history. Tradition plays an important role in our cultures, and we often look to our forefathers for guidance, wisdom and knowledge.

In the same way, we need to look after what we currently have: our cultures and their symbols, our heritage, our way of life and our shared values. This can range from preserving historical buildings and artefacts for the benefit of future generations, to making sure that we pay our taxes on time so that money is available to fund the many initiatives that preserve and further our cultural values. 

Environmental awareness

Possibly the biggest challenge facing our continent at the moment is the threat of environmental destruction. We’re constantly being reminded of the damage we’re doing to the earth and its atmosphere with what we consume and dispose of – with our cars, technology and need for sources of power to keep everything up and running.

Africa is particularly susceptible to the effects of environmental change: the continent is already very vulnerable to catastrophic events like drought and famine. This means that we need to be extra careful to live in ways that are as kind as possible to the environment. A little reading up online will give you plenty of ideas for how to do this.

Any investment is a good investment

There are plenty of other ways to invest in your future and in a bright African future for all of us who live here, and our children to come. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to do it – as long as we are all making an effort.

I’m sure you have your own suggestions on how each of us can invest in Africa through how we live our lives. Give us your ideas here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A continent of opportunity: what it means to be African

It's Africa Month – a time to highlight the opportunities that lie on our continent. It's also a time to celebrate everything that makes us who we are. In fact, it's also a good time to evaluate what it means to be African. And the best way to do this is to find out from our fellow Africans. How do our fellow Africans see themselves?

If we talk to the people around us about what it means to be African, you'll usually end up with clusters of similar answers. Each person has his or her own individual idea of their African identity, and they express these in a bewildering variety of ways. However, they all tend to agree on a few broad characteristics.

The most common feelings that people have about being African relate to a deep sense of opportunity. The types of opportunities that people see vary from one person to the next, but the common thread is that they all feel privileged or empowered by the opportunities they see around them.

A continent of opportunity

They describe a sense of having the opportunity to create their own identities, to pursue their own goals in life and to shape their lives in their own ways. They feel free to express themselves as fully as they can – to self-actualise. They experience this as a special feeling, and the more sober-minded among them will usually say that they feel it is a privilege.

Their sense of opportunity extends beyond their personal lives; something that is especially true among the so-called millennials, who have a well-developed sense of social responsibility. They see the opportunity to shape the destinies of their countries and of the continent as a whole. They also appear to have a deep understanding of the opportunities they have to influence future generations in ways that are more beneficial to human relations, relations between countries, our relationship with animals and our sustainable coexistence in the environment.

A pan-African vision

The traditional, even ancient, pan-African vision is that African people, whether on the continent or overseas, have a common history and share a common destiny.

Fortunately one generally finds that this is mirrored in the attitudes of people in the street. They are strongly disposed towards the idea that cultural diversity is a central aspect of life in Africa. We all know this is true – we only have to look around us every day as we interact with our fellow countrymen here in South Africa.

There is also a deep sense of tolerance. Africa has seen more than its fair share of war, genocide, poverty and other miseries, but its people remain unbreakably tolerant, not only of others, but of the very hardships of life. It is this endurance that can be seen in everything from the woman who walks 5 miles before dawn to fetch water, to world champion Ethiopian long-distance athletes.

Along with this is a flexibility that permeates all aspects of society. As a continent almost entirely made up of developing countries, there is vast flexibility to still shape the places where we live, the values we share and the ways in which we interact.

Hope founded on ancient foundations

Being African is also characterised by a feeling of connectedness to powerful, almost primordial, forces. This is expressed in many different ways, from music to art and fashion, from our spiritual rituals to character traits like humility, empathy and respect.

One of the ways in which this connectedness is most strongly felt is in the way Africans describe themselves as embodying the struggle of their ancestors – how this is etched into their souls. They are naturally aware of the long journeys that previous generations undertook to reach the point where we now are.

It is this foundation of resilience and of overcoming through struggle that has produced an African outlook of hope, at an personal level, and applied to broader society and the continent as a whole.

Let's start a conversation. Tell me what you feel makes you African - right here or connect with me on

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Africa 2016: our time is now

The world is getting more excited about Africa. Dozens of countries are making meaningful investments in the continent, in everything from infrastructure and telecommunications to mining and manufacturing. We only have to look at the sheer size and number of projects currently underwritten by China to get a fair idea of how the world is becoming increasingly enamoured of Africa as development arena.1

But the excitement really ought to start with us – the ones who actually live here. We experience and understand the potential of this place we call home.

This is one of the main principles of the African Union's African Agenda 2063. It adopts a pan-African vision of "an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena".2

In other words, it's up to us.

Why is Africa the new land of opportunity?

To answer this one could simply observe that the International Monetary Fund has predicted that 11 of the top 20 fastest growing economies in 2017 will be African. The oppportunities that this growth is and will continue creating are myriad and widespread.

We can dig deeper, however.

We can look at the underlying reasons for this rapid growth. Of course there have been surges in commodity prices – something which always benefits African countries. This is something well beyond our control, though; instead we need to focus on deliberate approaches and actions that have been successful.

Primary here are governmental initiatives to provide more friendly investment environments. These have mainly targeted corruption and armed conflict. In tandem with these have come regulatory reforms to make investment and the doing of business easier.

Countries have also begun placing a more pressing emphasis on the nurturing and development of what could be called "home-grown talent". This of course means improving the knowledge and skills of local populations, which has had a stimulating effect on the workplace.

Education unlocks the necessary potential

Knowledge is at the heart of everything. It underpins and informs our mindsets, our approach to life and the actions we take. Knowledge breeds understanding, which is the key to both creating and recognising opportunity. The more you understand, the more you can achieve.

Of course the obvious way to impart this knowledge is through formal education. Much of Africa has long had effective education systems, but a more recent development has been the emergence of many more tertiary institutions, offering everything from university degrees to short courses designed to impart specific skill sets pertinent to particular career and workplace requirements.

Allied to this has been an expansion of the concept of education - from something that stops at a certain age or point in our lives, to a lifelong journey of ongoing knowledge acquisition, career advancement and personal development.

Access to education is crucial

Given the pivotal role that education plays, continued economic growth and development depend on providing access to education for as many people as possible. This is one resource that never becomes exhausted, no matter how much it is exploited, so to speak. Any meaningful investment in education always brings a guaranteed return in human development terms, which in turn drives positive societal evolution.

It becomes clear then that in developing countries like ours, a carefully planned and committed effort must go into ensuring that those who want to study can do so, at any point in their lives. This is the duty we have as education finance providers.

Let's start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on

1. World Bank: %20Africa%20Forum/2015/investing-in-africa-forum-china-and-africa.pdf
2. Agenda 2063: