Are you considering investing in Africa?


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

According to the World’s leading forecasters, the African economy is expected to grow by approximately 6% during 2013/14, while its total GDP is expected to reach USD 2.6 trillion by 2020. The Nigerian stock market alone returned 47.2 % in 2013.

This is great news, but where should one invest?

Let me quickly state the obvious; Rapid urbanisation on the continent means that priority needs to be given to infrastructure (mostly power and transportation). Africa has a growing population of young, globally minded people who increasingly use mobile phones and the internet. The banking industry is expanding with growing income levels, as is consumer demand, and a population explosion requires more schools and hospitals. The African continent is also said to be on its way to become the world’s low-cost manufacturing hub.

A CNBC news reporter recently stated that sub-Saharan Africa, which was once seen as a pure commodity play (or as a part of the world to avoid entirely) is now the place to get big returns on relatively small investments.

The key issue is of course the risk/reward balance. Investment-grade countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia might offer lower returns than countries with higher risk like Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya. The bottom-line is that Africa offers numerous opportunities and that they are as varied as the 54 countries of the African Union.

The overall buzz resounding around the globe however, is that the time is now!

A new era in retail banking?


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

More than half a decade after the financial crisis began in the summer of 2007, regulatory reforms, intended to make financial institutions more transparent, are still in the stages of being implemented. As a result, banks are being pulled in many directions at once; the regulators want banks to be prudent, customers want lower banking costs (yet more innovation) and shareholders want them to be profitable.

The number one issue facing retail banks today, however, seems to be the uncertainty that the new regulatory reforms will create once fully established due to loss of revenue. Numerous regulatory changes are already apparent in Europe, with the aim that a single, competitive market for financial services can emerge, with strengthened financial stability and improved efficiency. Governments want to make sure that when banks fail, or make losses, “retail customers aren’t excessively affected and taxpayers’ money isn’t used to bail banks out” (

However, these reforms, which put pressure on profits, are naturally expected to create more competition, at the same time as the 21st century customer is becoming more demanding.  Banks therefore need to be continuously on the ball regarding new technologies and trends shaping the industry. In a nutshell, Europe’s retail banks are entering a period of regulatory reform that looks certain to put pressure on revenues, profits and margins.  They may even alter banks’ core business models.

This wide range of views is being pursued at The Economist Events’ European Retail Banking Summit, for which Gong Communications is handling the PR. The Summit will bring together over 150 leaders of the retail banking industry, with policymakers, regulators, investors and customers. Together they will explore how European retail banking is on the edge of revolutionary change and how organisations must adapt in order to survive.

You can follow @GongComms and #EUretailbanking for updates from the event.