It’s time to bet on Africa, rather than the dollar.

Posted by Flux on 

21 August 2023

This article was previously published in the Brainstorm Magazine.

“Always bet on yourself, no matter what the odds are. It means more to be in the race than to watch the victory laps from the stands.”

~ Pete Wentz 

I recently spent some time visiting Morocco (highly recommended). In my conversations with the locals, I was a bit taken aback by their generally negative sentiment towards South Africa. For a start, just getting into the country on a South African passport was more difficult and more expensive, requiring a visa, than visiting on a European or British passport. However, listening to them, it made sense. South Africa requires visas for Moroccan tourists, so Morocco responded in kind. This sort of passive-aggressive tit-for-tat is unfortunately all too common between African nations, and it is holding us back as a continent. We treat foreign capital and foreign citizens better than we do our own neighbours, and to our own detriment. Furthermore, South Africa, as one of the stronger economies on the African continent, needs to accept a fair portion of the guilt here.

Take food delivery services for example. In South Africa, Uber Eats is a household name. In contrast, how many of us have even heard of, let alone used, Jumia, the Nigerian-based African e commerce and delivery success-story? I used the app while in Morocco and the service was fast and impeccable – with the delivery person even walking the last mile through the tiny uneven streets of Marrakech’s Medinam, and still arriving faster than Uber Eats would bring you a pizza in Johannesburg on any given Friday night. (Yes, Jumia has been available in South Africa since 2020, it’s just not nearly as well known or popular as it is across the rest of the continent. My point being, that South Africans are faster to adopt and accept international brands than African ones.)

Here’s the thing; if we want our continent to grow and thrive, if we want Africa’s economy to lead rather than lag world affairs, we have to start betting on ourselves. 

That is we have to start investing in and backing African rather than American or European businesses. Every time you use Uber Eats instead of Jumia, a rich American, rather than an African business gets even richer. It’s as simple as that. And, right now, as America’s record breaking “helicopter money” drops have resulted in world-wide price increases as that made-up money finds its way across the global economy, I for one am not hugely inclined to support unfair foreign interests that are against the interests of my own neighbourhood, when there are local alternatives available, if we can just get over our anti-local biases. For the more cynical among us, it is sadly obvious how the result of powerful economies’ money printing is effective colonisation of real African goods and prime real estate via exported inflation. This behaviour should not be encouraged. 

It’s time that we as consumers and as citizens, start to realise that shopping, and commerce in general, is a political act. 

That is, every time we purchase anything we are effectively voting with our wallets to support the businesses, business models and business owners we are paying. Should we not, therefore, think a bit more about who we are supporting and why? Should we not consider that if we want our own economies to thrive, we have to support them, and that every time we choose an American business over an African one, we are effectively casting a vote of no confidence in our own people. 

If we don’t bet on ourselves, who will?

By Bronwyn Williams – Foresight | Futurist | Strategist | Economist | Trend Analyst

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