Standard Bank expects more Chinese investment
Africa remains a very important and strategic investment destination for the approximately 2,000 Chinese companies operating on the continent even as the Asian economic powerhouse shows signs of an economic slowdown, according to Standard Bank.
Dr George Fang, Standard Bank’s Beijing-based Head of Mining and Metals in Asia, said: “When Chinese firms consider investment destinations around the world, Africa is always top of mind.”
“Africa is usually among the first destinations that are considered by Chinese companies that are looking to expand internationally, not only because of its abundant natural resources but also because of its rich cultural heritage, which in many ways is more similar to Chinese custom than that of the Western world.”
China is still unquestionably Africa’s largest single trading partner, with Standard Bank research estimating Sino-African trade to have reached USD210bn in 2013, up six percent from the USD198bn figure that prevailed in 2012.
Chinese imports from Africa, which largely comprise hard commodities, reached approximately USD115bn last year while Chinese exports to Africa totalled about USD94bn, according to Standard Bank data.
Despite China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slipping to a six-month low of 50.5 in January, Standard Bank still expects the Chinese economy to expand by seven percent in 2014. That follows economic growth of 7.7 percent in each of the preceding two years.
Dr Fang says that this slowdown is partly due to China’s government placing greater emphasis on more sustainable economic expansion, rather than simply chasing growth for its own sake.
Although the global economy has undergone a fundamental paradigm shift since the 2008 financial crisis, Africa remains an important strategic partner for China going forward, he argues.
“The economic ambitions of Africa are ultimately the same as those of China – to open up new worlds of opportunity for its people,” said Dr Fang.
“When China visits countries in Africa it creates partnerships and investments, it doesn’t leave a vacuum behind.”
Data from the Information Office of the Chinese State Council shows that China’s cumulative investment in Africa more than doubled from USD9.33bn in 2009 to USD21.23bn in 2012.
Standard Bank estimates that China has loaned African governments between USD30bn and USD40bn, the bulk of which has been used to improve infrastructure on the continent.
Some recent examples of China’s involvement in Africa include China National Petroleum Corporation’s acquisition of a stake in Mozambique’s offshore natural gas fields, China National Gold Group Corporation’s investment in the Republic of Congo, China National Nuclear Corporation’s acquisition of a stake in a Namibian uranium mine, and the Chinese-invested iron ore project expansion in Sierra Leone.
China also played a very active role at last year’s BRICS Summit in Durban, which saw the establishment of the Multilateral Infrastructure Co-Financing Agreement for Africa, thereby paving the way for the establishment of co-financing arrangements and investments for infrastructure projects across the continent.
“The economic futures of Africa and China are fundamentally intertwined,” said Dr Fang. “Africa’s rich natural resource base coupled with its emergence as one of the world’s fastest growing economic regions suggests its importance to China is only likely to increase over the coming years.”
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.