It is important for the media to paint an accurate picture of Africa’s business environment, both the opportunities and risks, says Nick Blazquez, president of Diageo Africa.
While Blazquez is positive about the future of the continent, he believes that there is a need to be aware of the risks and challenges. “We share this optimism about the future growth of Africa, [but] there remain some difficult challenges to overcome. Infrastructure is still underdeveloped. There is a need for good communications . . . [and] access to affordable and reliable energy. The regulatory environment remains bureaucratic and somewhat unpredictable in many areas, leading to . . . volatile legislative and tax and tariff agreements. This is compounded by a shortage of skills and talent. But despite all of that, it is improving, and there are plenty of opportunities for growth,” he noted.
Blazquez was speaking at the recent Diageo-sponsored 2011 Africa Business Reporting Awards ceremony in London.
He said that as the financial crisis has taken hold of the global economy, so there is a surge of interest in Africa, with increased attention, focus, and investment from across the world. “The fundamentals are strong. African economies are predicted to outpace their Asian counterparts in the next five years . . . creating business and investment opportunities that are among the best in the world.”
Diageo’s Africa business comprises primarily beer and spirits brands that are sold in more than 40 countries. The company’s brands include Guinness, Tusker, Senator Keg, Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky, Smirnoff vodka, Baileys and Gilbeys gin.
According to Blazquez, Diageo Africa has witnessed accelerating momentum on the continent. “Not only have we [seen] great growth in our businesses, but we also experienced significant increased interest in what we do and are also experiencing a lot more competition from other companies coming into our markets. We welcome all of this. Africa is a great place to do business.”
He, however, warned that perceptions about Africa remain fragile. “The conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, inflation, escalating food prices, as well fear that the [political turmoil] in North Africa and the Middle East could spread to sub-Saharan Africa, have raised caution among some investors. This creates an even greater need for this balanced reporting,” he noted.