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Top business stories of 2014

Top business stories of 2014

Here are some of the highlights of African Business’s year, and its viewpoint on Africa’s industries and its personalities. Africa is changing fast, and once again African Business revealed throughout 2014 the huge potential within the continent and also, at times, the difficulties in achieving it. Review by Alexa Dalby.

January

  • Governance: African Business joined the universal tributes and paid its homage to Nelson Mandela, the icon of our time, who died towards the end of the old year, on 5th December 2013.
  • Special Reports: Our special reports looked at China’s continuing influence in Africa and – perhaps in contrast – at corporate social responsibility. Some companies in Africa have good records, but the concept is yet to entrench itself.
  • Fast foods: Our cover story examined one interesting result of the growth in Africa’s middle classes – the growing craving for fast foods and the growth of chains to supply them. Other issues have looked at the concomitant obesity problems.

February

  • Creative industries: Our cover story asked why Africa is not exploiting its vibrant pool of creative talents in art, music, dance, film and other industries as fully as it should, both within Africa itself and globally.
  • Economy: We discussed the impact of Nigeria’s rebasing of its economy, which turned it into Africa’s economic powerhouse, leapfrogging South Africa.
  • Resources: We looked at two crucial industry sectors for Africa: oil and gas, weighing exploration against instability; and mining, tracking developments amid concerns for China’s continued demand.
  • Finance: African Business looked forward to an exciting year for Africa on the investment front, in particular in resources and infrastructure projects.

March

  • Food security: Could GM crops save Africa? This was the question African Business asked and looked at their risks and rewards.
  • Investigative Report: Several countries apart from Nigeria were in the process of rebasing their economies upwards in 2014. How good are the available figures? Is Africa really richer than we thought?
  • Finance: We looked at which countries were investing in Africa and analysed the dramatic exit of Nigeria’s central bank governor Lamido Sanusi.
  • Energy: Our Special Report gave a comprehensive guide to Africa’s various sources of energy, traditional and renewable, and how current projects are financed.

April

  • Auto industry: Africa’s roads are jammed but where do all those cars come from? Who is manufacturing the vehicles and where are they doing it? Our cover story examined the auto market.
  • Profiles: African Business interviewed two key international figures in relation to Africa – economist Nouriel Roubini and investment entrepreneur Rob Hersov.
  • Nigeria: Our Special Report took an in-depth look at what was now Africa’s biggest economy – Nigeria.
  • Thinker’s corner: African Business pondered the results of a new growth prediction system, according to which, Africa had the choice of becoming complex or staying poor.

May

  • Top companies: Our cover story was our annual survey of Africa’s top 250 companies, revealing a ‘bedding down’ of growth.
  • Thinker’s Corner: We discussed whether the demographic boom meant that Africa’s youth surge was a boon or a time bomb.
  • Country Focus: Rwanda came under the African Business spotlight, which looked at its remarkable progress 20 years after the genocide.
  • World Economic Forum: African Business editor Anver Versi previewed the WEF Africa meeting in Abuja, the 24th edition of the event and the first time it was held in West Africa, and reported back on the big questions that were up for discussion.

June

  • Economy: Our cover story, ‘The Two Faces of Africa’, assessed the sobering report by the Africa Progress Panel, which revealed the stark contrasts of Africa’s pockets of growth and stagnation, but also showed that its weaknesses could become strengths.
  • Regional: Our focus this month was on Lusophone Africa, Brazilian investment and, in particular, the fortunes of Angola and Mozambique, as well as Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde.
  • Construction and Infrastructure: African Business’s focus on this sector both this month and throughout the year reflected its pervasive importance in Africa’s development – it doesn’t just mean just billion-dollar projects, such as cities and railways, it’s also as down to earth as providing homes for people to live in.
  • Governance: We reported on the South African election results and the re-election of President Zuma.
  • Awards: At IC Events’ awards for Africa’s top bankers, women scooped the honours.

July

  • Innovation: African Business’s cover story explored that ‘light-bulb moment’ – looking at the outpouring of innovative ideas that are changing the continent.
  • International: We contrasted the approaches to investment in Africa by Japan and the US.
  • Infrastructure: And in our ongoing focus on infrastructure, we also examined China’s investment.
  • Aviation: Africa’s skies are changing as new airlines take off. We looked at the effect this is having around the continent.

August/September

  • South Africa: How is the country coping with playing second fiddle to Nigeria after its rebase? Our cover story asked whether the former economic superstar could recover its mojo.
  • China: We analysed whether China was changing its attitude towards Africa.
  • Singapore: A special supplement gave the lowdown on Singapore’s success and its growing involvement with Africa to coincide with the Singapore-Africa Business Summit.
  • Finance: We assessed the progress of Nigeria’s new central bank governor Godwin Emefiele after his first few months in office.
  • Countryfiles: Malawi celebrated 50 years of independence and we looked at what it expected from the future.

October

  • Finance: African Business’s comprehensive annual survey and ranking of Africa’s top 100 banks reported a steady year. Continuing the money-making theme, our cover story looked at the rise of Africa’s millionaires – and billionaires.
  • Oil and gas: The exploitation of shale oil is impacting on West Africa’s exports of crude. However, LNG and new finds in East Africa may redress the balance in the long term and we looked at how revenues from hydrocarbons should be managed.
  • Agriculture: Africa is not exploiting its rich agricultural resources as it should. We looked at agriculture’s relationship to climate change, the Green Revolution, and how it could transform itself into a business.
  • Governance: We reported on the race to Nigeria’s elections in 2015.
  • Countryfiles: The impact of Ebola was starting to make itself felt.

November

  • Policy: Our cover story looked at the world-class African think-tanks that have come to the fore to provide African solutions to African problems and we reported on the ECA forum which brought together policy makers, researchers and the private sector to discuss new forms of development.
  • ICT: Africa’s telecoms market is growing faster than anywhere in the world and we profiled Liquid Telecom’s Nic Rudnick, who is taking a lead in connecting up Africa.
  • Leadership: We ranked Africa’s top 100 young business leaders and identified new faces to watch.
  • Infrastructure: Successful and sustainable urban infrastructure is a key plank of sub-Saharan Africa’s development strategy, and we looked at how Angola is constructing a new country after years of conflict.
  • International: We looked at Africa’s relationship with Canada and examined whether the ties could go beyond just mining.
  • Finance: With Africa’s populations living longer, pensions are becoming more important and provision is booming.
  • Energy: At a time when the West is scaling down its reliance on nuclear power and increasing its investment in renewable energy, paradoxically, South Africa, the continent’s renewable energy leader, is scaling up its nuclear investment.

December

  • Marketing: Our cover story looked at why successful brands are important in conveying Africa’s image to the rest of the world and gave comprehensive rankings of the most admired and valued brands in Africa and globally.
  • Urbanisation: We reported on the celebrations for the first ever World Cities Day and considered why cities are important for Africa’s future.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Our Sector Focus asked whether the industry was fit for purpose. With changing demographics and income levels, the need for medicines for chronic conditions is growing, yet Africa is at the mercy of international drug manufacturers. How can governments solve the problem?
  • E-commerce: We examined this fast-growing sector, which is surging ahead in Nigeria.
  • Art: Another look at the creative industries bookended the year. Prices achieved at auction for traditional sculptures and modern paintings have rocketed, and in Africa itself, art works are getting their due recognition with the opening of new galleries.
  • Ebola: However, we could not end the year without serious consideration of the future effects of Ebola in 2015, in both human and economic terms.

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Written by Alexa Dalby

Alexa Dalby is a freelance arts and business journalist, with over 20 years varied experience of writing and broadcasting about Africa, and is currently assistant editor of African Business and African Banker magazines. She is a film critic and a specialist in African and Middle Eastern cinema.

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