The problems in the continent are many and it doesn’t help us to dwell on them, we would rather look for the opportunities they present. Solving our problems involves looking at things like access to finance, cost of capital and utilities, cross border barriers, value addition of our commodities and many other issues. We look at private-public partnerships as forces that can move the needle when it comes to all these issues. Our role is to help governments achieve reform so that it becomes easy for private players to come in and help make a positive impact.
In our quest to solve our problems, we must acknowledge that Africa is dominated by SMEs. If we want to tame unemployment, which is a major problem, we must incorporate SMEs into the value chain. We can’t bring SMEs into the value chain without a plan to upgrade them though. Multinationals may find it difficult to work with SMEs that are lacking in quality and may end up ignoring them or leaving altogether. Too many SMEs want to upscale but not enough want to upgrade. Upgrading always trumps upscaling in any value chain and that must be our focus.
Public-private partnerships are a great solution for infrastructure challenges on the continent. Aside from infrastructure, the digital space offers opportunities for public-private engagements. The digital space is so big for Africa because it presents the quickest solution to integrating the continent as we build physical infrastructure.