If you have listened to financial analysts, economists, and even spiritual leaders across the globe, 2024 will be a year to be remembered by humanity. On the one hand, we are set to face economic and socio-political turmoil across the globe. On the other hand, people believe that our collective experience will be so significant that we are going to witness a fast-tracked breakdown of old norms and belief systems, as people across all walks of life seek more peace, meaning, community, and authenticity in their everyday lives. This is the context – in a nutshell – that will inform Africa business trends in 2024. Let’s dive in:
Trend 1: Everything ‘intra-African’ will accelerate
As financial services, supply chains, and businesses globally will be up against a wide range of challenges, Africa will continue to look increasingly inwards for products, services, and markets. I believe we will see a significant acceleration of that over 2024 and beyond. The time is now for businesses to adapt their products and services in anticipation of these changes: From intra-African trade to regional tourism, and from spurring investments to diversifying income streams across borders, many industries will experience an increase of business activity and demand from within the continent despite wide-spread inflation and economic challenges.
Price, demand, and supply are overall influenced by specific market forces, but trends may not always be rational. It means that the emotions and the quest for risk reduction, can drive actions among investors, business leaders, and traders across Africa into regional markets. Business owners who seek to reduce the impact of national inflation, for example, may turn towards regional exports or make new investments outside their respective national borders in order to earn some hard currency and mitigate risk.
Trend 2: The global rich are looking towards emerging markets
It’s already happening. Those who can afford it are emigrating from the West in droves. Or at least, they are in a rush to diversify their income streams by investing in emerging economies. While South America and East Asia are among the world’s favourite destinations, more individuals are starting to look across Africa for their Plan B. While overall foreign direct investment may shrink across Africa in 2024, small and medium sized businesses operating on the continent in real estate and construction, tourism, the hospitality industry, meetings and events as well as financial and business services can carve out unique offerings for a new group of buyers including Africa’s immigrating diaspora.
Trend 3: Demand for security services and products will skyrocket
Amidst economic and socio-political turmoil, we have some other rare situation unfolding in Africa in 2024 which may cause mixed emotions for you: According to Bloomberg, a total of 18 African nations will go to the polls in 2024, and over 60 countries will cast their votes worldwide. Couple that with inflation, debt defaulting economies (Zambia, Ghana, and Ethiopia so far), a growth in political extremism, and struggling household economies and you have the perfect cocktail for a surge in crime, unrest, and conflict. As a result, the demand for security products and services is expected to grow significantly. Businesses and investors active in this industry providing a wide array of security services (both commercial and non-commercial) may count great wins amidst a growing trend of mistrust. For everyone else, it does not harm to prepare and increase safety and security around your business and homes.
Trend 4: A growing desire for balance, authenticity, and sustainability will impact Africa’s offerings
Well, there is an antidote to chaos: The quest for peace and balance. This one is a bit of a mixed trend, both ‘public sector driven’ and ‘consumer driven’. I’ll start with the latter. Consumers across the globe in general and Africa in particular, are looking for more peace, authenticity, ethics, and sustainability and we can expect this trend to grow amidst turmoil. This will affect products, brands, and service offerings coming out of Africa including tourism, entertainment, food, fashion, real estate, and mineral industries.
But there are also the looming carbon taxes, plastic tax, and green taxes that will see growing momentum in 2024. Only a fraction of businesses in Africa are actively preparing and adjusting in this regard. Hence my advice to business owners is: 2024 is the year where you should make serious adjustments and focus on your unique positioning in the marketplace to make sure you can compete in 2024 and beyond.
5. Strategic business choices that will turn crisis into profits
For those business leaders who have not yet taken action, 2024 is not a year of staying complacent and going about business as usual. Many businesses across Africa will not survive the year. If your business has a complex structure, operates on tiny profit margins with massive (foreign currency) expenses, or simply has no adaptation strategy in place, you are more likely to struggle or close shop. A lot of businesses in tech, manufacturing, import, transport, and non-essential services may fall into this category. On the other hand, we also know that fortunes are being made during times of crisis: Product and services that have high relevance, such as food staples, renewable energy, safety and security, affordable housing, health care coupled with locally sourced inexpensive solutions may be high in demand. For any business you are in: Adaptation and foresight are key.
So far, it looks a little like Africa finds itself (once more) at the mercy of global trends that no-one really seems to have control over. And all we are able to do is to weather the storms or apply damage control. The most optimistic among us will see profitable opportunity in every crisis.
I want to close this article with a sense of reclaimed power. Africa has everything the rest of the world is missing right now, from vast untapped natural resources to a pool of emerging economic opportunities and a healthy young workforce that can drive economic growth.
I believe 2024 and beyond will be a pivotal time in history and collectively. We, too, can shape the next trend. Will Africa and its people divide across the lines of poor governance, foreign powers, and their respective economic priorities (on either side of the spectrum), or will we be able to pause and look inwards? What possibilities would open up for us, if we used our own resources, our historical experiences, and our collective ancestral wisdom to create a new trend where we make economic unity, peace, and our love for Africa and its people our upmost priority in 2024 and beyond? Let’s get that trending…!
Rwanda-based Dr Harnet Bokrezion has developed a training programme on how to start a business by importing and selling African products in the global market.