South African businessman Christo Wiese says he is an Afro-optimist and sees great potential in the African continent.
“Africa has been called dark and hopeless, but today it is neither of these,” Wiese said in a keynote address at a networking breakfast with Singaporean business people in Cape Town today.
Wiese said in an age where global food security was a concern, it was important to note that Africa held 60% of the world’s total amount of uncultivated arable land. It also had nearly double the amount of cities with populations of over million people than in the US.
He noted that by the year 2040 it was projected that more Africans would be of working age than in China and India combined. Quoting former UN secretary general Kofi Annan who said that Africa was held back most significantly by poor political governance, he said there was cause for optimism in the young post-colonial electorates in Africa who were starting to hold their leaders to account. This was good for the free market, which is turn was again good for democracy.
Wiese owns a large stake in the continent’s biggest retailer, low-price supermarket chain Shoprite. He also owns a stake in discount clothes, shoes and textiles holding company Pepkor. Forbes recently ranked Wiese in position 782 in its annual list of the world’s billionaires.
Wiese added that South Africa had a lot to offer foreign investors who were interested in the African continent. “In South Africa over past few decades, we have looked beyond our borders, and have also been turning our faces to the East. We hope you as Singaporeans will respond to our turning to East,” he said.