Trends and opportunities in Africa

Professor Dr Philipp von Carlowitz gives a keynote speech on the Export Day of the Austrian Economic Chamber

ESB professor und Africa expert Prof Dr Philipp von Carlowitz talks about "Trends and Innovation for Business in Subsahara-Africa" (Photo: ©WKO)

Von Katrin Reil

“Business as usual doesn’t work in Africa. But you can be successful there if you act with new business models”. This is the conclusion Africa expert Professor Dr Philipp von Carlowitz left with the attendees of the Export Day of the Austrian Economic Chamber in Vienna. He gave the keynote speech at the event with 3,000 attendees on the topic of “Africa Innovation Challenge”. 

As part of the Ideas Competition, start-ups and established companies had the opportunity to present their products, solutions and services for Africa. In line with this Philipp von Carlowitz spoke about   ”Trends and Innovation for Business in Sub-Sahara Africa“. He identified three main trends: A fast-growing middle class, increasing urbanisation and ongoing digitisation in the countries of Sub-Sahara Africa. Thus, for example, the telecommunications boom is creating new opportunities in very different areas such as additive manufacturing, shared economy or e-learning, says von Carlowitz. How much potential is there in Africa? “If you would like to do business in Africa, you will have to face quite a few challenges, for example highly regulated markets, a shortage of skilled workers or a lack of available partners and structures on site”, von Carlowitz told the visitors to the Export Day. “But growth and profit are exceptionally high if you adapt to the circumstances.” 

To participate in the opportunities as well tackle the challenges, companies would need to integrate the trends mentioned above into their business models, was the Africa expert’s advice. For example, urbanisation and hence easier access to education can help to overcome the shortage of skilled workers. Digital production techniques such as 3D printing can make local production economically viable even in such small markets as in Sub-Sahara Africa. At the following award ceremony of the Africa Innovations Challenge three companies stood on the winners‘ rostrum whose ideas coincide perfectly with the recommendations of Philipp von  Carlowitz: the awards went to a digital proof of identity, floating solar solutions for densely populated areas and regions with little space and the manufacturer of roof tiles made of recycled plastic with a pilot project in Cameroon.