For many years Africa was recipient of overseas finance and investment – now African firms are beginning to spread their wings and look abroad for opportunities. From Nigeria, Dangote Group an industrial conglomerate owned by Africa’s richest man (who I witnessed give a stirring speech on the future of African entrepreneurship), has expanded across Africa, recently investing $400 in Zambia and has now started building cement factories in the super frontier markets of Iraq and Myanmar. These fast growing, yet volatile markets are arguably an excellent match for a company founded in a quintessential “frontier Market” – Nigeria, where political corruption, failing infrastructure and poverty and violence are the norm.
South African firms have ramped up their presence across Africa since the end of Apartheid, becoming the single biggest investor (ahead of China) and a major factor (largely unheralded) in the continents’ revival. Now the country’s firms are looking further afield, Naspers is a cutting edge multimedia company that started overseas operations in China as early as 2001 and since then has gone global, investing in a Brazilian media group, moving on to develop Russian and Polish messaging services and most recently a Romanian online payment platform. We can expect to see more South African firms making a splash in Africa and other emerging markets in the near future.
While the world’s attention will be focused on Brazil’s two mega events, the World Cup and Olympic Games, Brazilian companies are looking abroad to expand and broaden their operations. Itau Bank recently set up shop in London looking to tap into a growing Brazilian trade presence in Europe, this follows the Bank’s successful push into other parts of Latin America, including Mexico and Uruguay. Alongside the Inter-American Development Bank, Itau pioneered the financing of green energy projects, including wind farms, energy efficiency measures and urban transport in the region, as well as promoting lending to low income groups in an attempt to tackle poverty. Itau looks set to be part of a new wave of outward looking, innovative firms from a newly confident country which look set to capitalise on the “Brazilian moment” of the next decade.
Brainly.com is a Polish educational social network which is popular across Eastern Europe and Latin America, it connects students who want to learn together and solve problems , it raised half a million USD in 2012 to help its worldwide expansion and is a neat example of a socially useful, tech startup from an emerging market that has found appeal in diverse international markets.