Oxford Business Forum Africa – Redefining the African Consumer

Saturday 10th March 2018 saw Oxford University’s Said Business School and the Oxford Business Network for Africa “bring together distinguished leaders from top companies, innovative start-ups, government and civil society from across Africa with thought leaders, students and alumni to discuss business in Africa”. The phenomenal event instigated important discussions about partnerships, emerging markets, investments and infrastructure. Ideas rotated around a room of hundreds of Africans from the continent and the diaspora, concluding with a sense of enlightenment and excitement regarding the future of Africa. Below is a summary of some gems that were dropped at the conference, which may spark more great ideas…

Yvonne Ike, Managing Director and Head of Sub Saharan Africa, Bank of America Merrill Lynch:

  • 40% of African business lies in the informal economy
  • 62% of the African population is under 25 years-old
  • GDP should harness prosperity and wellbeing, not just growth
  • Cross-border activity is good for prosperity
  • According to The Economist, consumer spending in Africa is set to double in the next decade
  • Businesses and start-ups should focus on digitalisation and tech, which links to Financial Inclusion/mobile money
  • Financial Inclusion is driven by mobile payments, though the necessary services include credit, savings, pensions, insurance etc.
  • East Africa is spearheading financial inclusion via mobile money
  • Rwanda is using drones to deliver medical products in rural areas
  • Economic solutions must come from Africa, then they should partner with the developed world

Dr Martyn Davies, Managing Director of Emerging Markets & Africa at Deloitte Africa:

  • By 2020, the African population will be larger than North America and Western Europe combined
  • Ethiopia has lower labour costs than Bangladesh but better labour conditions for workers

Mark Lamberti, CEO Imperial Holdings:

  • Every business should have a social purpose that justifies its existence


Colin Coleman, Managing Director Goldman Sachs:

  • Nigeria and South Africa are where the largest group of consumers are going online
  • Social enterprises should be looking for ways to provide tech to solve real problems (nutrition, health, financial inclusion etc.)
  • Ethiopia has the development to compete with China and attract Silicon Valley, but it needs legal and infrastructural progress


Lynette Ntuli (Chief Executive Officer, Innate Investment Solutions), Peter Maila (Investment Director, CDC Africa team), Farai Shoniwa (Group Strategy Director, Centum) and Kanini Mutooni (Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee, Global Innovation Fund):

  • The informal economy is not necessarily all informal, but because Africans use the British benchmark, up-and-coming businesses become marginalised as informal, which excludes them from B2B and investment opportunities
  • 90% of investment capitalin East Africa goes to expatriate Africans, so there is potential for businesses from the diaspora to take off on the continent
  • Don’t prioritise investing in land and property, this is dead capital – meaning that it does not create jobs for the next generation
  • Bring convenience and infrastructure to consumers e.g. shopping centres in rural areas so the elderly don’t have to travel
  • Let “service” be at the centre of your business

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