Whose Success in Africa?


Jonathan Berman

“It is Africa’s ambition and no-one else’s that leads Africa. Africa is not a place that success is landing on; it is a place creating success for itself and others.”

I was glad the team at Gong plucked this phrase from my book Success in Africa as the banner for their upcoming event in London. For in London, as in my native New York and my current home, Washington, I find many understand that Africa is succeeding. Few understand why. Almost none acknowledge it’s mostly because of Africans.

In March of last year, a general election campaign was underway in Kenya. Western leaders urged the people of Kenya to refrain from violence. It seemed reasonable, as Kenya experienced horrific violence in its 2007 elections. But no one knew that better than Kenyans. They didn’t need foreign heads of state to tell them about it.

At their best, successful managers of global capital and global businesses do much better in this regard. Their practices allow them to transfer skills, networks and corporate cultures that work in the African context, and are welcomed there by capable partners and stakeholders. I asked some of the CEOs who lead those global companies to participate in Success in Africa, and they shared their perspectives alongside mine.

Of course, no one knows better how to succeed in Africa than Africans. That may seem an obvious point, but consider how often, in any medium, you hear management wisdom from an African? I have worked with corporate leaders in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa. In my view, some of the most visionary and accomplished business men and women anywhere are the ones leading the current transformation of Africa. Emerging continents have been the wellspring of transformative business leaders before. Rockefeller. Carnegie. Tata. From the US in the 19th century to Africa today, frontier markets have given rise to business leaders uniquely capable of managing uncertainty, generating disruption, and leading breathtaking growth.

Those are skills in demand not just in Africa, but the world over.


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” (gov.uk).

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.