Africa on the move
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Awolowo Road has long been a destination for enterprising Nigerian traders. In the 1990s, Kola Karim became one of them, setting up shop on the road that links the plush neighbourhood of Ikoyi to the tumult of the Lagos Island business district, selling shirts and jeans to the throngs.
Today, Karim has been propelled by ambition, friends in high places and a string of well-timed investments to the status of “minigarch” – one of an emerging tier of tycoons flying private jets, driving fast cars and playing polo. This new elite has prospered on the back of a decade-long boom fuelled by soaring oil prices and market reforms that together have helped shake Africa’s most populous nation out of commercial torpor.
Over the next decade, he and other cosmopolitan business people – “Afropolitans” using Asian, European and US capital to invest in African opportunities – have their sights on expanding their businesses across the continent. Nigerian, Kenyan and South African companies are moving faster across borders, tapping into neighbouring growth markets. The perception that the sum of the continent’s many moving parts is now greater than the whole, is taking root in multinational boardrooms, even if many Africans have yet to see the benefits.