Wednesday, October 10, 2007
By: Swallehe Msuya
A Pan-African Trade and Investment Summit panel discussion on models of doing business in Africa conducted by Minnesota businesspersons concluded that contrary to negative publicity about Africa, the continent was safer, friendly investment destination that has a lot to offer.
Africa’s “vibrant developing middle class will help stabilize the economies and the governments,” said Brad Gniffke, the founder of Praire Wind International, Inc. and one of the three panelists who participated in the discussion.
He said Africa may have a shortage of jobs, but its capacity to improve on its human capital through trained manpower was impressive.
The other panelists were Dr. Trevor Gunn, of Medtronic, Inc., and Poldi E. Gerard, vice president of Lemna International.
Poldi spoke of Africa as a vast market for technological products where challenges of trade, investment and cultural barriers were being addressed. Expressing the need for growth in Africa, she wondered why a country like Nigeria, Africa’s leading oil exporter, had only three operating refineries. Poldi said foreign investors had to learn local culture in order to be able to work with local personnel.
Issues the participants said were impeding foreign investment included infringement on intellectual property rights and pirating as well as technological transfers for processing raw materials for value addition and recycling of products hostile to the environment like plastic bags and containers.