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Q & A: Driving sustainable economic growth in Africa

It’s about businesses, entrepreneurs and others coming together to create job opportunities.

Nairobi showing Fedha Towers, ICEA Building, the Nairobi Safari Club and Anniversary Towers. Image by afromusing , CC BY 2.0
Nairobi showing Fedha Towers, ICEA Building, the Nairobi Safari Club and Anniversary Towers. Image by afromusing , CC BY 2.0

What are the most effective measures for driving sustainable economic growth in Africa? According to Isayas Desale Berhe, CEO of Heran Group this is through the power of infrastructure and job creation. Berhe outlines his strategy to Digital Journal.

Digital Journal: How do you define “sustainable economic growth” in Africa, and how can businesses ensure longevity in places like South Sudan, Kenya and Angola?

Isayas Desale Berhe: Sustainable economic growth in Africa involves strategic investment in high-opportunity sectors, such as manufacturing, real estate and hospitality, and equitable resource distribution to meet the current needs of the people of Africa without compromising the future. It’s about businesses, entrepreneurs and others coming together to create job opportunities that positively impact communities, and then putting processes in place to retain those employees long-term.

Right now, there is a shortage of skilled workers across Africa, and for businesses to thrive, access to education needs to be improved. That way, as we create more employment opportunities, those skilled workers choose to stay and strengthen our economies while achieving their own financial freedom. The current state of the economy also poses challenges in achieving sustainable growth and longevity – especially in places like South Sudan, Kenya, and Angola – but there are many ways to be successful. That’s what we’re focused on at Heran Group. We believe that out of these challenges comes promise, opportunity and the potential for transformative growth.

Companies should look to invest in human capital while embracing innovation to drive efficiency. They should seek out ways to contribute to meaningful and sustainable infrastructure, practice environmental responsibility and engage with local communities to determine where the gaps are and how they might be closed. And finally, they should navigate political and regulatory challenges, and diversify risks.

DJ: What industries are poised to provide the greatest opportunity for sustainable economic growth, including job creation, in Africa in 2024?

Berhe: 2024 shows great promise for many sectors in Africa, including agriculture, infrastructure development and real estate, healthcare, education, renewable energy, technology and innovation, hospitality and financial services. All of these industries, if invested in wisely, have the potential to transform the continent as a whole. At Heran Group, we’re investing in many of these areas, including a new pharmaceutical manufacturing plant that is creating more than 100 jobs, leveraging advancements in technology and making medical products more widely available in Angola with an opportunity to export to other countries in the future. All of our investments are thought of in this way: job creation, community impact and opportunities for longevity.

DJ: How can companies balance the use of high-tech equipment for productivity and human talent for job creation?

Berhe: Now more than ever, it is crucial that companies find this balance. It starts with strategically integrating user-friendly and innovative technology, investing in employee training and fostering a culture of collaboration between humans and machines. Without the proper training, companies will fall short of maximizing their investment in technology, and they will discourage their workforce. The latest innovations only work well if the employees working with them are fully trained and motivated.

To ensure staff remain motivated, companies need to consider offering flexible work arrangements, redesigning jobs to play to employees’ strengths and investing in employee well-being. And of course, open communication is key to maintaining balance. Other considerations include taking into account the ethical implications of technology and, once implemented, measuring its impact on both productivity and job creation. All of these elements ensure a harmonious integration of technology and human talent, promoting sustainable growth.

DJ: Can you share real-world examples of industries or projects that are setting the stage for economic growth and development in Africa?

Berhe: Several noteworthy examples illustrate the transformative impact businesses and initiatives can have on economic growth in Africa. For example, M-Pesa in Kenya is revolutionizing mobile banking and has significantly improved financial inclusion by enabling users to transfer money, pay bills, and access financial services through mobile phones. In addition, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is contributing to fostering a skilled workforce capable of addressing challenges in research and industry.

From a transportation perspective, the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor is an ambitious project that aims to develop transport and infrastructure links connecting Kenya, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, facilitating trade and economic development in the region. Looking at sustainability, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in Morocco — one of the world’s largest solar power plants – harnesses solar energy to generate electricity, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and contributing significantly to sustainable development. In addition, Rwanda’s tourism initiatives, particularly gorilla trekking, have not only contributed to economic growth but also emphasized conservation and sustainable tourism practices.

For the healthcare sector, Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) aims to provide affordable healthcare, contributing to improved health outcomes and enhanced workforce productivity across Ghana. These are just a few projects that indicate the current opportunity for sustainable economic growth across Africa. It’s a really exciting time to be investing in the continent.

DJ: What role do business partnerships play in driving sustainable economic growth?

Berhe: Business partnerships play a pivotal role in driving sustainable economic growth by fostering collaboration, sharing resources, and addressing complex challenges. By collaborating, businesses collectively innovate, transfer technologies, and expand into new markets. Partnerships also mitigate risks, promote supply chain sustainability, and foster engagement with local communities. By working together, businesses build long-term relationships, advocate for sustainable policies, and contribute to economic inclusion and capacity building. Ultimately, collaborative efforts contribute to the development of resilient, environmentally responsible, and socially conscious business practices that support sustainable economic growth.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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