The global economy looks on pace to growing in 2018, buoyed by the robustness of opportunities in Europe and emerging markets.
Africa has a tough outlook and a year full of challenges but rich partnerships and strong markets remain attractive to investors who are gunning for new business in the region.
For starters, sports events are firmly on course starting with the 2018 African Nations Championship which is underway in Morocco.
Football is undergoing a renaissance and the continent teems with so much talent. More Africans are signing up for European sides and shining in Major European and Asian leagues.
Later in the year, we expect Africa to put up a good show in the World Cup in Russia. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal are preparing well and have the backing of experienced overseas talent increasing the likelihood that one may progress as far as semi-finals, if not the finals. Besides, global marketing of sports events have the potential of increasing sports tourism.
In athletics, Africa’s dominance in long-distance running, more so Kenya will continue, and we will be cementing our sporting excellence at the global stage. We will shine on the major marathons and stamp our authority on the upcoming Commonwealth Games in April as well as the prestigious Diamond League.
Kenya’s rugby team should continue to strengthen its world-class status and win a medal in the commonwealth games and perform better in the world Rugby series.
Secondly, this year and onwards, we should expect more cross-border trade as more countries implement the visit without visas, or the granting of visas on arrival policy. There is also improved infrastructure, improving political goodwill and trade agreements.
All these efforts have resulted in improved business environment as reflected in the World Bank Group’s annual Doing Business Report whose 15th edition found African countries among the most improved. Nigeria, Djibouti, Zambia and Malawi were among the top 10 reformers.
Of the 264 reforms implemented in 190 countries, 83 were implemented in Africa that is 30 per cent and a positive contribution from the continent. The highest ranking countries were English-speaking and mostly in the common market for eastern and southern Africa(Comesa).
Kenya has made significant inroads in the last three years, moving 30 places to 92nd in 2016. Out of 190 countries, Kenya has the second highest number of reforms.
Last year, Kenya moved 12 places to 80th, becoming the fourth in Africa, and displacing Botswana. In the governance front, a number of African countries are rising to the occasion and performing well in Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) as well as the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index.
Not just among Africans is trade expected to improve. Africa is changing how it is trading with the world and Kenya is at the forefront.
The many bilateral agreements President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed with foreign nations should start to bear fruit. In the last term, 2016 was particularly a busy year of bilateral visits from Korea, Turkey, Ethiopia, Israel and India.
Kenya held high level conferences on trade: UNCTAD and the 6th Tokyo International Conference for African Development (Ticad), attracting more than 35 heads of State. There were more than we can enumerate here.
Thirdly, 2017 was a good year for Agriculture across Africa, producing bumper harvests. Africa has a third of the world’s arable land.
More and more African governments have doubled up their investments in agriculture in the last seven years. The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), says everything points to a good take off in the continent.
Fourth, I expect that the technological breakthroughs in the ICT sector will continue to employ more young people. Access to the Internet will increase with more mobile phone penetration and internet accessibility.
However, recent concerns on privacy issues in Europe and possible repeal of the internet law in the United States may have far reaching ramifications in Africa. Until, then, we can still milk the infinite opportunities that the internet has gifted the continent.
Fifth, politically speaking the continent has remarkably improved in certain nations. We witnessed few succession problems, and this has given the continent a boost of stability that has in turn cultivated a good environment for business.
I expect the elections in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Sierra Leone and Cameroon to be largely peaceful, despite the present problems that have beset the countries in recent times.
China, Hong Kong, USA among many more states, are pushing the ban of ivory trade and with structured long term monitoring plus tough actions in 2018, we may see more elephants adjusting to more visitors and wildlife relationships with humans.
Leadership at all levels should work cohesively to deliver and make the continent great and stimulate more youth development programmes for MotherAfrica!
Chris Diaz is Trustee of Brand Africa and a Director on Brand Kenya board.