Family businesses are rarely viewed as a sector which could influence economic growth, but the Africa Investment Forum is recognising them as important players on the continent.
For the first time at a conference of this nature, families running business empires have been given a platform to share their views on how Africa’s unexplored wealth can benefit all who live here.
The Elnefeidi Group, a family-owned business with more than 80 years of experience in various industries, is run by second and third generation members. It is one of the businesses that believes start-ups can help turn around the continent’s economies if they are supported and nurtured.
“We need to take care of the youth, having money is not enough. Start-ups should be helped with business plans, helped to structure their business model and to position their businesses where there are opportunities,” said Hana Elnefeidi, the company’s representative at the Africa Investment Forum.
Elnefeidi, with businesses including agriculture, automotive, mining and real estate, located in several countries across the continent, believes families should not just share their money with start-up companies, but also their networks, knowledge and expertise.
“We need to take care of the youth, having money is not enough. Start-ups should be helped with business plans, helped to structure their business model and to position their businesses where there are opportunities,” said Hana Elnefeidim, the company’s representative at the Africa Investment Forum.
Foreign Direct Investment flows to Africa rose by 11% to $46 billion in the past year, and several factors, including the realization of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) could boost this further. The past decade has seen African family-owned companies grow quickly.
Different management strategies have been highly successful in Latin America and the Middle East, where family businesses comprise about 70% of the top 100. Family businesses in Africa represent only 20% of the top 100.
The family business session focused on how to build alliances and partnerships in Africa and the Middle East, which could play an important role in stimulating investment in the continent. Family businesses by nature often build lasting relationships, valuable in any investment climate.
Essa Abdulla Al Ghurair is Chairman of Essa Al Ghurair Investment, a family-owned business involved in manufacturing, commodities and trading on international markets. He says that global collaboration in infrastructure development could help grow small- and medium-sized businesses, which will in turn reduce Africa’s high levels of youth unemployment.
Al Ghurair, whose family is a major supplier of agricultural commodities in Dubai, says the United Arab Emirates is small, but has become a hub for international business, “Dubai has a very small population compared to South Africa. There is prosperity for people living there, there are work opportunities which benefit people from all over the world, including South Africa. This is mainly because of visionary collaboration across many business spectrums and countries.”