Doing business in Africa is much easier today than it was before as Internet penetration increases and as governments build up infrastructure across the continent.
However, according to a report by the UN, trade between African countries stands at just 20% while trade with the EU is at 60%. The total intra-African trade reached 130 billion representing 11.3 percent of African trade with the world.
African countries have generally made modest progress in boosting intra-regional trade. Over the period of 2007 to 2011, the average share of intra-African exports to total merchandise exports in Africa was 11 percent compared to 50 percent in Asia and 21 percent in Latin America and the Caribean while 70 percent in Europe.
Eastern Africa countries lead in the continent by virtue of the fact that their intra-regional exports
stand at 14 percent of total exports well above the average of 11 percent. Western Africa countries assume the lead at 10 percent of total imports compared to the regional average of 12.7 percent.
Amr Kamel, the Enterprise and Partner Group Director for Microsoft in Sub-Saharan Africa says ICT can be used to improve trade between countries in Africa and as well help investors to quickly set up and run shop in Africa.
“ICT can help automate and bring together Africa’s synergy and potential. Innovation harnessing ICT could be the next big thing for Africa. The political will is there and business leaders just need to put it into perspective. Businesses’ biggest challenge is lack of information as it prohibits investors to launch businesses across the continent,” Kamel said.
Microsoft therefore aims to enable information sharing, especially investor related information, use of cloud services to power government and government, government to business and government to citizen services by opening up data to the people to attract and accelerate investments in Africa.
Using its Biz4Afrika portal, the firm aims to bring together information to help investors set up and do business in Africa.
The Biz4Afrika portal is a one-stop-shop for African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) aimed at providing quality content on best business practice and advisory services for SME’s in Africa. The portal aims to create a vibrant online business community amongst listed SME’s, providing them with the opportunity to trade with similar sized businesses through the portal’s online directory, thereby accelerating their individual growth.
Kamel also confirmed that the Africa 4Business concept will support investor services throught the life-cylce of a business establishment. In his presentation at the Connected East Africa Conference Kamel said the portal can avail secure and reliable government to government and government to business collaboration and investor self-provisioning tools and also give info to reduce the complexity, time and cost of complying with business governance and regulations.
Microsoft is also working with various innovations that aim to help unlock data for investors, government and private sector to accelerate business on the continent. The portal was earlier launched in pilot phase in Egypt and was recently launched in Kenya
and South Africa
and will be expanded to other African nations with time.