Africa

Piracy drill off Africa larger than ever

As piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off west Africa soars, professionals from over 20 nations are taking part in Obangame Express, a naval-exercise aimed at improving maritime safety and security in the region.

The issue of piracy and enforcement is one that needs to be tackled due to the fact that it’s a growing problem. This is mainly due to lack of ships and trained personnel which is required since large areas of water need to be patrolled and watched over. The more training done with various nations and navies, only helps in curbing the problem. More cooperation and training is needed, and such exercises will only help.

Rwanda’s health insurance as a model for Africa

Proper health and nutrition is key to good living no matter where you are in the world. That isn’t always the case though, especially throughout Africa but Rwanda is highlighting what can be done as a model throughout the continent in this video report.

Africa’s Cowboy Capitalists


Great documentary from VICE about the untapped potential of Africa, and individuals whom are making the journey throughout the continent to create their own success stories. Photographer and filmmaker Tim Freccia followed around Ian and the guys he hired for this job. Cowboy Capitalists” documents their attempts to navigate the continent’s dangerous roads and bureaucratic chaos. Though some of their methods are unorthodox, none the less, they give great insight and understanding no matter how much or little you know about Africa.

The African Miracle

On every important measure, life throughout Africa is getting better

There has been a sustained surge in economic growth across Africa. There is a strong link between economic and political progress, and the two tend to be mutually reinforcing. For decades, bad economics and bad politics fed off each other in Africa. The continent appeared to be trapped in a vicious circle of decline. Now it looks to be in the early stages of a virtuous cycle as the institutional, political and security underpinnings of economic growth strengthen.

A foundation stone for the African renaissance has been greater security in a region that has been plagued by violence since wars of independence began in the middle of the last century.

Now the continent is becoming less bloody. In the 1990s, there were 328,000 fatalities in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Conflict Data Program at Sweden’s Uppsala University. In the 2000s, fatalities were down by between a half and two-thirds.

Another indicator of the declining propensity to violence is the frequency with which political leaders are overthrown. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, there were 17 coups in the 1990s, but just six in the 2000s – the lowest for any decade since independence.

Fears that the sudden death last August of Ethiopia’s long-standing leader, Meles Zenawi, would unleash violent political turmoil have proved unfounded.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the most conflict-prone regions of the world, but it seems to be becoming less so. The bedding down of democracy in many countries is one reason for this.

Elections
Elections are held more frequently and in more countries. And those elections mean more. In the last century, only three African leaders walked away from power after losing elections. Since 2000, it has been very different. Since Abdou Diouf accepted his rejection by Senegalese voters in March 2000, peaceful transitions have become almost commonplace, at least in western and southern Africa. MaliGhanaBeninCameroon, and Nigeria have all enjoyed peaceful transitions, as have NamibiaSouth Africa,Botswana and Zambia in the south.

Elections mean little if the politicians who win them then misuse and abuse power but here again improvements are taking place. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, established by a Sudanese entrepreneur with a loathing of corruption (and on whose board Mary Robinson sits), measures the quality of governance in all African states. It finds that in a big majority of countries the state is serving citizens better now than when the foundation first started measuring such data in 2000.

One link between politics and economics is the middle classes. They have long been associated with political stability. When people have a stake in society, they are less inclined to want to tear everything down. Middle classes not only provide democracy’s ballast, they are the drivers of economic growth via their entrepreneurial dynamism. With more middle class households in Africa now than in India, the rise of Africa’s bourgeoisie augurs well for the future.

By almost every measure – of health, wealth and education – and for most of its people, life in Africa is getting better.

Just slightly over a decade ago, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared “The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world.” Times have changed since then. Africa is now the go-to continent. Africa is no longer gloom and doom. Africa today is alive with rising urbanization, ever expanding consumer-middle class, and foreign invest business deals.

Investment, growth in Africa is similar to that of China at the beginning of the 2000s. Like Asia, Africa was one of only two regions where GDP rose during 2009’s global recession. Inflation fell to an average of 8 percent in the 2000s after a decade during which it hovered at 22 percent. African countries have lowered trade barriers, cut taxes, privatized companies, and liberalized many sectors, including banking. Africa now has more than 100 domestic companies with revenue greater than $1 billion. Capital flows to the continent which were $15 billion in 2000, are now slightly over $100 billion in 2012. All this leads to Africa offering the highest rate of return on investment of any region in the world.

Revenues from natural resources, the old foundation of Africa’s economy, directly accounted for just 24 percent of growth during the last decade; the rest came from other booming sectors, such as finance, retail, agriculture, and telecommunications. The fastest-growing demand for these raw inputs comes from the world’s emerging economies, with which sub-Saharan Africa now conducts half its trade. Africa’s production of oil, gas, minerals, and other resources is projected to grow at 2 to 4 percent per year for the next 10 years. At current prices and depending on how commodity prices rise, value of resource production will be $540 billion by 2020 or higher. Not every country in Africa is resource rich, yet GDP growth accelerated almost everywhere. New data on Africa shows Sub-Saharan African countries continue to grow at a strong pace

Africa’s urbanization is also increasing demand for new roads, rail systems, clean water, power generation, and other infrastructure. In 1980, just 28 percent of Africans lived in cities. Today, 40 percent of the continent’s 1 billion do, a portion close to China’s, larger than India’s, and likely to keep growing in the coming years. The number of households with discretionary income is projected to grow 50 percent over the next 10 years to 128 million. Already, Africa’s household spending tops $860 billion a year, more than that of India or Russia. And consumer spending in Africa is growing two to three times faster than in the wealthy developed countries and could be worth $1.4 trillion in annual revenue within a decade. The African middle class stands over 300 million. Thats about the size of the Indian middle class.

Multinational companies have already shifted their mindsets, even if the political world is still used to thinking of Africa as a charity case. Telecom firms have signed up 316 million new African subscribers since 2000, more than the population of the United States. Walmart recently bid $4.6 billion for one of the region’s largest retailers, confirmation that global businesses think Africa holds commercial potential on a scale not seen since China opened up more than 20 years ago. Those prospects will only grow as Africa urbanizes; already, the continent is home to 52 cities with populations of at least 1 million, as many as in Western Europe today.

Contrary to the pessimistic predictions of French agronomist René Dumont in his 1962 book “False Start”, Africa, with its prime geopolitical position and access to raw materials, seems well on its way to becoming the future granary and workshop of the world, with one billion workers and consumers. The continent is home to 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. So if farmers brought more of it into use, raised the yields on key crops to 80 percent of the world average, and shifted cultivation to higher-value crops, the continent’s farmers could increase the value of their annual agricultural output from $280 billion today to around $500 billion by 2020. Africa also has unique comparative advantages, which means considerable room for growth. It possesses half the unused arable land in the world, and its low yields, less than a metric ton (2,204 pounds) of cereal per hectare (1 hectare = 2.47 acres), mean that production growth could put an end to the food insecurity and malnutrition that currently affects one-third of all Africans.

The future looks bright for the African continent whether, it is political, economic or social. The best is yet to come. More people are being educated, adventuring around the world, meeting new people, trying-experimenting with new ideas, which only lead to better outcomes. This runs counter to the usual reporting in the news about famine, military coups, political instability and economic malaise, which is true to some parts, but does not paint the whole picture. With government reforms, greater political stability, improved macroeconomics, and a healthier business environment, it is hard to not feel a sense of optimism. Yes, challenges do remain but overall the continent and it’s people are doing better and future looks bright.

India’s growing presence in Africa

India has two reasons to take an interest in Africa – it’s deeply concerned about China’s forays into the continent’s strategic and economic space, and it’s also mindful that it requires the support of its 54 nations if it is to realize its ambitions to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. India is a latecomer in Africa, but as a demonstration of its pro-active engagement with the continent, the government this week announced that its trade target with the continent has now been revised upwards to $90 billion by 2015, up from the previous target of $70 billion. The announcement came on March 17, when the India-Africa Business Council met in New Delhi for the first time. The second meeting of India-Africa trade ministers took place the same day. The growing ties between India and African nations has seen bilateral trade soar over the past decade, and India has established a number of pan-African institutions under the umbrella of the India-Africa Forum Summit for capacity building and human resource development across many areas, including the India-Africa Institute of Foreign Trade, the India-Africa Diamond Institute, the India-Africa Institute of Educational Planning and Administration and the India-Africa Civil Aviation Academy. Yet another institution, the India-Africa Business Council, was launched on March 17, with a brief to put in place a vibrant mechanism for enhancing economic and commercial relations between the two sides, especially in areas including agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, railways, energy and petroleum and natural gas. As of now, India is in no position to take on China in Africa. But the Indians are clearly making a concerted pitch to win friends and influence people there.

Flying high in the sky: Morocco’s aviation Industry takes off

The Aircelle plant makes large components for planes.

Morocco’s aviation industry has taken off and spread its wings.

Nassima Boukhriss has never set foot on an airplane, but soon she will be helping wire up some of the world’s most advanced jetliners.

The 22-year-old vocational student is participating in one of North Africa’s most ambitious economic-development efforts: starting an aerospace industry. Across Morocco, millions of people lack jobs, basic education and even running water. Manufacturing remains a small part of the economy compared with agriculture and tourism. Low-skilled textile work is one of the biggest sectors.

At a school near Casablanca, students are learning skills that they hope will win them high-paying jobs in Morocco’s growing aerospace industry.  Yet over the past decade, Boeing Co.,Safran SA of France and other leading aviation companies have built increasingly sophisticated factories in this kingdom.

As revolutions swept neighboring countries last year, aerospace giantsUnited Technologies Corp. andBombardier Inc. unveiled investments of more than $200 million in new Moroccan factories.

To ensure they have qualified staff, the government and an industry group in May opened the Moroccan Aerospace Institute, or IMA, the vocational school Ms. Boukhriss attends.

The result is that the aviation industry now employs almost 10,000 Moroccans who earn about 15% above the country’s average monthly wage of roughly $320.

Moroccan officials are betting that by leapfrogging into advanced manufacturing like aerospace and electronics, the country can attract more basic industries in their wake.

Morocco’s Aerospace Gambit

Over the past decade, leading aviation companies have built increasingly sophisticated factories in Morocco, as local officials hope this push into advanced manufacturing can attract more basic industries in its wake.

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Workers at Le Piston Francais. The French aerospace component producer was one of the first contractors to arrive in Morocco.

“When you succeed in aerospace, you can succeed in other industries,” said Hamid Benbrahim El-Andaloussi, president of Morocco’s aerospace trade group, Gimas.

That hasn’t happened yet. Manufacturing’s share of Morocco’s economy has shrunk over the past decade. The country has joblessness of roughly 30% among both young and well-educated people—the same groups that helped lead revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

The upheaval of the Arab Spring has put new urgency on showing Morocco’s aerospace gambit can deliver. King Mohammed VI last March neutralized protests by offering a more democratic constitution and fresh elections, which proceeded peacefully in November. But for Morocco to remain calm, analysts say, it must create jobs.

“High unemployment is at the center of what’s going on in the region,” says Karim Belayachi, a private-sector development specialist at the World Bank.

Morocco’s push into commercial aeronautics is unusual among developing economies. Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa in the last century developed military aerospace companies, but only Brazil’s privatized Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica SA successfully shifted to building passenger planes. Today, it is a national bellwether. Mexico has recently drawn aerospace component producers, but they remain a small part of its economy.

Many more countries have expanded with technology and automotive investments, as Morocco is also attempting. Taiwan, South Korea and Slovakia relied on foreign or state-supported investments, mixed with entrepreneurialism, for economic growth. But those countries fostered regulatory climates more friendly to start-ups than Morocco has achieved and could tap skilled work forces. Education in Morocco lags behind its economic peers, according to the World Bank.

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Morocco’s aerospace development started in 1999 with a nudge from Mr. Benbrahim at Gimas, who was then a senior executive at Boeing’s longtime customer Royal Air Maroc. He and other officials at the national carrier urged the U.S. giant to invest in Morocco as a sign of good faith.

“There was push-back within Boeing,” among executives who deemed an investment unnecessary, recalls Seddik Belyamani, who was then Boeing’s top airplane salesman and was born in Morocco.

But the Moroccan links and a desire to fend off rival Airbus prevailed. Boeing, the airline and French electrical-wiring company Labinal SA in 2001 opened a small operation preparing cables for Boeing 737 jetliners, named Matis. Staff painstakingly prepared wire bundles and shipped them to Boeing plants in the U.S. for installation.

The labor-intensive work entailed no technical background, yet Boeing managers still initially expected to achieve efficiency of only 30% of industry norms. To their surprise, staff hit 70% efficiency within two years, recalls Mr. Belyamani, who retired from Boeing in 2002 and recently was appointed chairman of Matis.

The results impressed executives at Labinal, which in 2000 had been acquired by the French aerospace group now called Safran. Managers saw that as Matis grew, job openings attracted floods of highly educated applicants. More than 80% are women, who have limited job opportunities in traditional industries.

The only foreigner among 700 Matis staff today is the French general manager, Sébastien Jaulerry, who previously worked for Labinal in the U.S. and France. Walking through the spotless plant recently, he said employees achieve “exactly the same standard” of quality as at his previous plants.

Around him, Matis staff prepared wires not just for Boeing but also for General ElectricCo. engines, Dassault Aviation SA business jets and even Airbus jetliners. The most visible difference from more established aviation shops was the large number of women in head scarves.

Safran, encouraged by results at Matis, expanded into more advanced manufacturing. In 2006, its Aircelle division opened a plant making jet-engine housings. The work, which includes machining advanced plastic composites and assembling safety-critical structures, mirrors operations at Aircelle plants in France and Britain. Product quality is also comparable, say Aircelle executives.

Today, Moroccan officials highlight aerospace as a success within the country’s larger economic modernization drive, dubbed “Emergence.” Other projects include a giant Mediterranean port complex and tax-free zone at Tangiers, where French car giantRenault SA recently opened a big factory.

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Yet despite Morocco’s big push to create export-oriented jobs, manufacturing’s share of the economy is shrinking, says Lahcen Achy, an economist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Morocco’s capital, Rabat. He calculates manufacturing now stands at roughly 15.6% of gross domestic product. The World Bank pegged it at 19% of GDP in 1995.

Moroccan manufacturing growth hasn’t kept pace with tourism and other service businesses. A major reason, economists say, is the headaches that domestic entrepreneurs face. Mr. Belayachi at the World Bank notes that Morocco’s judicial system reports to the royal palace and isn’t an independent arm of government, which undermines its reliability. “Enforcing a contract is lengthy and difficult, which has a big impact” on small businesses, he said.

Moroccan officials say they have made other efforts to help business, including recent anticorruption legislation and the creation in 2009 of a Central Authority for Corruption Prevention.

Analysts say that as a result of impediments to business, local entrepreneurs haven’t piggybacked foreign investors as extensively as domestic producers in developing countries of Asia and Eastern Europe.

Ahmed Chami, a member of parliament who served as Morocco’s minister of industry until recently, said foreign investments are starting to bear fruit and “spillover will happen.” The lack of local aerospace businesses is “the weakness in the picture today and should be the next focus,” he conceded.

Boosters of Moroccan aerospace say the growing number of foreign suppliers indicates the sector will go local. One of the first contractors to arrive was Le Piston Français, an aerospace component producer based in Toulouse, France, near the Airbus unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. Director Vincent Fontaine says the company was drawn to Casablanca in 1999 by sales opportunities and government incentives, such as tax breaks.

The plant has grown to 110 employees from about 25 and is adding new customers, such as Bombardier, Mr. Fontaine said. Aerospace materials, like advanced alloys, are also getting easier to buy locally, marking “a big step for industrial development,” he said.

But other investors have faced a bumpier ride. Baccarat Precision, a French family-owned aerospace contractor, started making pistons for jetliner brakes near Casablanca in 2007. Soon after, it landed a giant order for explosive devices that blow open airplane doors in emergency evacuations. The complex cylinders, made of 40 precisely machined elements, must be assembled in a clean room to keep pressurized nitrogen from escaping.

When production began in 2008, managers rejected every second cylinder due to production flaws. “Machinists in Morocco have never seen pieces like this,” said local manager Giancarlo Zanfonato, holding one of the hand-size metal devices. He eventually realized that compared with seasoned French workers, his Moroccan staff needed twice the documentation, including pictures detailing every production step.

After intense efforts to educate machinists, the rejection rate has shrunk below 10%, yet remains far above the target of 2%, Mr. Zanfonato said. The project, which was expected to break even within one year, remains unprofitable. “We are a small company and this project was much too ambitious for us,” he said.

Mr. Zanfonato sees a hopeful sign in the creation of IMA, the vocational school, which will graduate several hundred students annually. The center is a partnership between the government, which contributed the land and buildings, and the industry group, Gimas. Its members organize and sponsor training, modeled on French standards, for their new hires. Students spend up to 10 months alternating two-week stints at IMA, where many live in dormitories, and on their new jobs.

Demand for graduates is so strong that companies are pressing for two shifts of classes, said IMA Director Annie Lagrandeur recently, as students practiced wiring and machining in the school’s shop. Nearby, others attended lectures given by veteran aerospace workers whom IMA hired from local plants for their expertise.

Before IMA, foreign aerospace investors were paranoid about rivals poaching their few skilled employees, Ms. Lagrandeur recalled. Some companies even forbade their local staff from riding together on shuttle buses out of fear they might try to recruit each other.

IMA and similar industry-led vocational schools that Morocco has established in the automotive and other industries are “leading-edge in the region,” says Anthony O’Sullivan, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s private sector development division in Paris. Morocco’s overall educational development lags many of its neighbors, and he says “one of the best ways to fill the gap is to have companies involved in training.”

Within three months of IMA’s opening in May, roughly 1,200 aspiring students had delivered resumes to the front gate, and more sent in applications, said Ms. Lagrandeur.

“It’s a great opportunity because we learn very technical skills in electronics,” said Ms. Boukhriss, the student. Classmate Said Ouchen added he is proud Morocco is developing an aerospace sector and has remained stable over the past year. “Morocco is an example,” he said.

Africa needs more manufacturing.  Morocco should be applauded for crafting such an industrial policy. Not only is the policy attracting foreign investment, workers locally are being trained and gaining valuable experience in the highly skilled profession of aerospace.

Australian special forces in Africa

Australian special forces have been operating in several African countries over the past year gathering intelligence on terrorist activities. Australian special forces have been operating in Africa for some time.

Australian special forces have been operating in several African countries over the past year gathering intelligence on terrorist activities, a report said on Tuesday.

The Sydney Morning Herald said 4 Squadron of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) had mounted dozens of clandestine operations in places such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya in a role normally carried out by spies.

Citing a government source, it said the missions by the previously unknown squadron were believed to involve terrorism intelligence gathering amid concerns about the threat posed by the Islamist al-Shebab militia.

They are also aimed at developing rescue strategies for evacuating trapped Australian civilians while assessing African border controls and exploring landing sites for possible military interventions.

The information gathered flows into databases used by the United States and its allies, it said.

The Herald added the operations have raised serious concerns among some sections of the military and intelligence communities that the troops do not have adequate legal protection or contingency plans if they are captured.

“They have all the espionage skills but without (Australian Secret Intelligence Service’s) legal cover,” said one government source.

According to the newspaper, ASIS officers are permitted under Australian law to carry false passports and, if arrested, to deny who they are employed by.

Defence Force members, such as the SAS, on normal operations cannot carry false identification and cannot deny which government they work for.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith refused to confirm the group’s existence “because we don’t want to put at risk either operations or our national security”.

But he insisted that all Australian operatives overseas did their job within the law and had proper protection.

“People would expect from time to time the SAS, ASIS, and department of foreign affairs and trade are involved in making sure Australians overseas are not at risk,” he told Sky News.

“Whenever we have our people in the field they have the proper and appropriate protections.

“Whether someone is working for ASIS or someone is operating for or with the SAS, we ensure they operate in accordance with domestic and international law and that they have appropriate and proper protection.”

Ever since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, numerous nations have expanded their special forces and or created such military units to deal with possible events. With the case of Australia, given its geographic location, one would think that it is isolated from conflicts but that isn’t the case. Here’s a video news report about the revelation.

Twitter grows in Africa

2011 was a landmark year for social media in Africa.  The growth and use of Twitter took off.

Twitter came of age in Africa in 2011, according to a study by Portland Communications and Tweetminster of geo-located tweets from the continent.

It found there were 11.5m African tweets recorded in the last quarter, with 57 percent sent from a mobile phone.

Of these, 40 percent were in English and the rest in other languages, dialects or slang.

Africa’s twitterati are largely young and middleclass, with 60 percent of users aged between 21 and 29 compared with the worldwide average age of 39.

Mark Flanagan, a partner at Portland, said his team noted that of the 4-5 million users, 81 percent used Twitter for social conversation whilst 68 used it to monitor news.

‘Revolution’ and ‘elections’ were the big hashtag trends of 2011.

Young activistsin Egypt used Twitter and Facebook to coordinate protests, while in South Africa the country’s ‘secrecy bill’ was a long-running  trend on Twitter towards the end of the year.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @EdmundBalina, LinkedIn and like our Facebook Page. The growth of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, etc shows the growing use of social media for a variety of uses such as networking.

According to the research:

– South Africa is the continent’s most active country by volume of geo-located Tweets, with over twice as many Tweets (5,030,226 during Q4 2011) as the next most active Kenya (2,476,800). Nigeria (1,646,212), Egypt (1,214,062) and Morocco (745,620) make up the remainder of the top five most active countries.

– 57% of Tweets from Africa are sent from mobile devices.

– 60% of Africa’s most active Tweeters are aged 20-29.

– Twitter in Africa is widely used for social conversation, with 81% of those polled saying that they mainly used it for communicating with friends.

– Twitter is becoming an important source of information in Africa. 68% of those polled said that they use Twitter to monitor news. 22% use it to search for employment opportunities.

– African Twitter users are active across a range of social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The research findings reveal that more public figures have not joined Africa’s burgeoning Twittersphere, although with some notable exceptions.

According to Mark Flanagan, Portland’s Partner for Digital Communications:

“We found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent. As Twitter lifts off in Africa, governments, businesses and development agencies can really no longer afford to stay out of a new space where dialogue will increasingly be taking place.”

The survey also found that Twitter is helping to form new links within Africa and the majority of those surveyed said that at least half of the Twitter accounts they follow are based on the continent.

The infographic below shows a comprehensive map on the use of Twitter in Africa.

Africa is a mobile-first continent. There are more people with phones than PCs.Twitter is widely used for social conversation, with four in five of those polled saying they mainly used it for communicating with friends. But more than two in three of those polled said they use Twitter to monitor news. More than one in four uses it to search for job opportunities.How Africa Tweets found that Twitter is helping to form new links within Africa. The majority of those surveyed said that at least half of the Twitter accounts they followed were based on the continent.But the companies behind the research said few African business and political leaders have joined the continent’s Twittersphere.

Mark Flanagan, Portland’s partner for digital communications, said: “One of the more surprising findings of this research is that more public figures have not joined Africa’s burgeoning Twittersphere.

“With some notable exceptions, we found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent. As Twitter lifts off in Africa, governments, businesses and development agencies can really no longer afford to stay out of a new space where dialogue will increasingly be taking place.”

Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame is a notable exception when it comes to leaders’ Twitter abstinence, as is South African president Jacob Zuma, although his most recent post was on 8 January. “It feels good to be here in Mangaung,” it reads. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. The ANC is great.”

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @EdmundBalina, LinkedIn and like our Facebook Page.

Turkey increases reach and investment in Somalia

Turkey has been showing unparallelled interest in Somalia, starting with a visit from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, in August last year. Turkey has been steadily increasing its links throughout Africa these past few years.

Standard Bank intends to take advantage of China-Africa trade-economics ties

With growing trade between Africa and China, Standard Banks aims to take advantage of the growing economic links between both sides.

Standard Bank Group Ltd. is seeking to benefit more from the growing trade and investment between China and Africa, expanding its Africa business and looking for ways to cut spending outside the continent, it said Thursday.

“The biggest opportunity, the fastest growing opportunity, is the burgeoning Sino-Africa trade and investment relationship,” Deputy Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala said in an interview.

Standard Bank, Africa’s largest lender by assets, said earlier this year that it would realign the bank to put more resources in Africa while reducing businesses outside the continent that don’t feed into the Africa growth goal.

In 2009, China passed the U.S. to become Africa’s biggest trading partner. In 2011, Standard Bank estimates merger-and-acquisition activity from China on the continent totaled $5 billion, of which the bank said it advised on about 30%. Mr. Tshabalala said he expects investment from China to grow further in 2012 with a number of deals already in the pipeline that should be announced this year.

The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. is a 20% shareholder in Standard Bank, with the latter aiming said to benefit more from that relationship.

Reducing balance sheets outside the continent will be “gradual,” said Jacko Maree, the bank’s group chief executive. In 2011 Standard Bank sold a majority stake in its Argentina operations to Industrial & Commercial Bank of China for $600 million. The sale is still in progress and subject to some regulatory approvals. The bank also completed a stake sale in Troika Dialog Group in Russia, for which it received an upfront consideration of $372 million.

“Where we get opportunities to shed investment bank or universal opportunities outside Africa, we will,” Mr. Tshabalala said.

As part of the bank’s aim to grow business with Chinese companies doing deals in Africa, it said it would increase its presence in Beijing and downsize in Hong Kong.

Recent Africa-China deals that Standard Bank advised on include the $1.3 billion Africa-focused miner Metorex Ltd. sale to Chinese nickel company Jinchuan Group Co. The bank also advised on the 25% stake sale of South Africa’s Shanduka Group to China’s sovereign-wealth fund China Investment Corp. for 2 billion South African Rand ($263.4 million), completed in December.

On Thursday, Standard Bank reported that net profit for 2011 rose 23% to 13.27 billion rand from 10.77 billion rand.

With the emergence of China as the worlds economic growth engine, there many opportunities to take advantage of. This is another sign of the growing importance that Africa will have economically.