Andrea Vogel

Africa is hot in more ways than one. But it will really heat up in Cape Town, 7–8 March when more than 300 CEOs, leading entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts and government officials come together at the EY Strategic Growth Forum® 2013 to discuss how companies can capitalize on this diverse continent’s growth opportunities.

We caught up with Andrea Vogel, EY’s Strategic Growth Markets Leader for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, to preview the opportunities and key challenges facing business pioneers and governments.

Q: What do you see as the global perception of Africa’s economic opportunities and challenges?

A: Africa is very exciting. With 10 to 15 years of sustained economic growth, profitability levels and rates of return are among the highest in the world.

Still, a perception gap exists for many investors who have not yet ventured into Africa. There are lingering concerns about political risk, corruption and the challenges in general of doing business across a very diverse continent. But those already there know that many African countries actually benchmark well against their emerging market peers. They find the risks can be managed and that the rewards are good alternatives to the ultra-competitive Asian and other rapid growth markets.

Q: What is the business climate today in Africa?

A: Our experience is that those investing in African markets are more and more shifting their mindset from one of “why” and “where” to “how”. No wonder competition across the continent is intensifying. Investment into Africa, while still relatively low in global terms, is picking up, with strong growth from emerging economies in Asia and the Middle East, as well as a resurgence in investment over the last few years from developed markets like the US and UK. We see remarkably strong growth in intra-African investment, led by South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. EY’s Africa attractiveness survey provides evidence of the growing interest in the African continent

Infographic: Africa by numbers

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Q: The Strategic Growth Forum in Cape Town gets under way 7–8 March. Who are you most eager to listen to?

A: There is a great line up of speakers for this event, including:

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Personally, I am excited to hear from Miles Hilton-Barber, a blind adventurer and explorer, about seizing opportunities in Africa and stretching the limits. Also, Xavier Luc Duval, the Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius, will talk about the opportunities for companies who are considering creating an African business hub on the island – certainly one of my favorite destinations.