Doing Business in Africa: Challenges, Opportunities and Innovation

Africa is home to extraordinary innovations and some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The continent is at the beginning of some of the most important supply chains on the planet, with vast reserves of oil and gas, agricultural products, and critical minerals—including the metals that power the green economy. It is the world’s youngest region, with a median age of less than 20 and a growing market of early adopters. Yet Africa is also racing to grapple with some of the most pressing challenges of our time, including inequality, governance challenges, the impact of debt and macroeconomic volatility, infrastructural needs and vulnerable global supply chains, the need for sustainable development, and ways to manage the implications of climate change. The African continent will likely hold increasingly significant business and investment opportunities in the coming decades, and some understanding of it is likely to become more and more important for global companies. Even if they never work in or with Africa, understanding these broad issues in an African context will provide global executives and business leaders with a window into new ways of seeing opportunities and risks—and thinking about the impact that firms and individuals can have—in developed, emerging and frontier markets around the world. This course is designed to help students develop a deeper understanding of how politics and economics shape the complex business environments in Africa and beyond. It will bring together applied tools and concepts from economics, political science, history, and ethics to understand the business environment and discuss issues of environmental and economic sustainability, corruption, institutions, and the role and responsibilities of the private sector—particularly in emerging markets. Throughout the course students will see examples of real businesses and how they have managed both risks and opportunities in these settings. These cases, visits and guest lectures are designed to provide real examples of how firms have successfully (and, sometimes, less successfully) navigated the uncertainties and challenges of these environments, and they will provide both on-the-ground illustrations and generalizable insights. A combination of required pre-readings, optional asynchronous material and class discussion will ensure that students can learn or review key economics and other concepts as necessary, and the course is appropriate for all students—including those with extensive experience living and working in Africa and those who have little knowledge of the continent. Faculty: Dr Catherine Duggan, Director (Dean), UCT GSB