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Excerpt from Victor Kgomoeswana's Africa Is Open For Business: How Much Longer will SA be the Gateway to Africa?

Africa Is Open For BusinessVictor Kgomoeswana’s Africa is Open for Business provides a dynamic and different view of the opportunities available in Africa from what is usually portrayed in the news and other media.

By focusing on the news behind the headlines and delving into his vast personal experience, Kgomoeswana has written a book that is both informative and entertaining.

In the short excerpt below, Kgomoeswana explores the following question: How much longer will South Africa be the gateway to Africa? The author believes that with drastic changes in air travel and banking on the continent imminent, South Africa will have to work hard – and smart – to remain relevant.

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Only time will tell if South Africa’s status as the gateway to the rest of the continent will hold. Already, changes are setting in – owing to rising Sino-Africa ties, the Indian foray into many African markets, as well as the interest of countries such as Brazil, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

Flying from most European cities to Johannesburg easily takes twelve hours. The flight time is more from North America, China and India. Flying into South Africa, then on to other African countries might make sense, but will not make any sense when the international airport in the north of Mozambique (Nacala) comes on-stream (page 231). This will divert some of the Chinese traffic headed towards Mozambique.

Kenya Airways (page 87) and Ethiopian Airlines (page 119) are flying to more destinations on the continent combined than South African Airways. Unless there is some serious code sharing being planned, the African skies will be split among these major players, diluting the dominance of South African Airways.

The South African banks are still commanding a lot of respect worldwide. However, when the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) bought 20% of Standard Bank, it was not eyeing the South African market as much as lining up a springboard to the rest of Africa. Such tie-ups have been done elsewhere in Africa, such as opening the China desk in partnership with Tanzanian banks to cater for the China-Tanzania trade links.

It remains a balancing act for South Africa to remain relevant in the scramble for the rest of Africa. It had a head start, but faster-growing economies, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana, are fast challenging for the gateway status. It will take leadership, vision and execution with transparency to stay ahead. Whatever the outcome, though, South Africa has played the role of setting a standard for other countries.

South Africa somehow has set the standard for most rising stars of Africa. Someone from the Rwanda Development Board joked at a summit I hosted on business integration in East Africa in November 2013 that her country was happier with its improved World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking because finally they had overtaken South Africa. She was referring to Rwanda being ranked 32 according to the World Bank in 2014 (up from 45 in 2013), compared to South Africa’s unchanged place at 41.

Rather than look at the rankings as a form of competition, I am glad that South Africa continues to be a role model for others to emulate or even to beat. At least when other African countries plan their infrastructure upgrades, air travel improvement, stock market sophistication or the globalisation of their legal or financial reporting systems, they have an African standard to aspire towards.

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