As keynote speaker at the Aquavision 2014 conference in Stavanger, Norway, Bob Geldof was not alone in urging companies to invest in Africa.
After a passionate and pointed speech about the unfair and broken system under which the world economy operates, he spoke to the event chairman, Intrafish’s Drew Cherry, about investing in Africa.
“The opportunities in Africa are ‘x times’ greater than everywhere else,” said Geldof. “The Chinese see it, they’ve been jumping in there even as the West has tried to go crawling to China.”
African nations make up some of the fastest growing economies in the world (given that they begin at a very poor start), as well as some of the fastest urbanizing. “Yes it will be a mess as the cities grow, but like Victorian London, these places will be centers of ideas,” he said.
“It’s a frontier, you have to go in, treat people with respect, work with them and likely with the institutions as well – but corruption isn’t as bad as people think,” he said, adding he’d never been asked to pay bribes in the time that his investment firm, 8 Miles, had been working in Africa.
It need not be a case of ‘re-branding’ the continent to try and make it more appealing to investors in the West, because fears of upheaval are largely unfounded, he proposed. “The Chinese didn’t care, they’ve gone straight in. Everywhere has it’s share of conflicts.”
He questioned where the real characters, the big capitalists “looking to make a buck” had gone – people who would take some risk for a huge reward.
Advising the aquaculture industry in particular, he warned that working with NGOs might be annoying, but that they were vital.
“Consumers listen to NGOs more than they do the industry, or the government. It’s them you need on your side, to remove that suspicion people have of farmed fish. And you do that stuff NGOs want you to do not to get them on side, but because it makes business sense!”
Fred Formanek of Advance Africa Management Services brought some specific examples of aquaculture in Africa as part of his presentation to Aquavision.
One of these was Highlands Trout, a Lesotho- trout producer, which caters mainly for the Japanese market. Another project is for tilapia farming in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the high food security risk means fish farming can play a key role in helping the local population survive.