Africa isn’t always on the short list as a frontier for global business and innovation for many people. It should be. Home to 17% of the world’s population (that’s 1.2 billion), the African continent is rapidly evolving as I write. A young, tech savvy, and entrepreneurial generation in cities like Lagos, Cairo, Nairobi, Johannesburg, and many others are applying their ingenuity to change archaic systems and persistent inefficiencies. The mobile phone revolutionized business and innovation. New digital innovations are helping the flow of goods and money. A new regional trade agreement is opening up borders and accelerating growth.

To better understand business dynamics in Africa, Signal360 spoke with Aubrey Hruby, who has advised many companies on investments in Africa and is a senior fellow at the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. She provides a compelling picture of how Africa is developing into a dynamic region that is young, urban, connected, and economically resilient. The mobile phone has opened up a whole new world of startup investments focused on fintech, commerce, telehealth, education, and gaming.

Often companies approach Africa as one market. It is actually a continent made up of 54 different countries with a highly diverse population. To set up a successful business in Africa requires leaving your assumptions at the door and learning about people and the countries they live in. Seyi Siffre, P&G Director of Analytics & Insights, explains how understanding consumers and their nuances were key to success for P&G’s laundry business in Africa.

Working in a global business requires understanding differences across cultures, combined with agility and flexibility to adapt. Sometimes this involves expanding your business model to remove growth barriers, like Mercado Libre’s expansion into logistics and fintech. It also comes to life in how global companies invest in evolving hybrid work environments that provide their employees around the world a choice in how they do their work. 

The world is a big place. You can learn a lot from exploring new frontiers of global business. And you might just find a next opportunity for growth. Until next month!

Stan Joosten & John Battelle,
Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G