Some of the key trends emerging in Africa over the last year have focused on how the continent is finding uniquely African solutions to African challenges and opportunities:
Climate change and the enviroment
The agriculture sector is the main driver of much of Africa’s growth and contributed about 39 percent of East Africa’s average real GDP growth, followed by industry.
Cape Town was affected by its worst drought in over 100 years, and taps nearly ran dry. Other cities in Africa await a similar fate as a result of broken or aged infrastructure, increased demand, unreliable rainfall, encroachment on water sources or lakes drying up.
This water crisis is a warning that we need to take urgent action to safeguard protected areas which are key sources of water. If rainfall is the Plan A for our drinking water, the past 3 years have taught us how fragile it is.
Forestation is a vital part of water conservation, and without forests, we need a Plan B….
Mabati Rolling Mills in Kenya has embraced this sentiment and its “Eye in the Wild” has taken the issue to heart Now in its third year, this year shines the spotlight on Trees, Forests and deforestation with the theme “Stop the Chop”. Next year, the initiative rolls out to more companies in the Safal Group.
The Safal Group is also launching new products which minimize or reduce the impact of buildings on the environment. These include Building Solutions Products in the form of pre-engineered buildings and gazebo’s which use fewer resources to construct, take less time to construct and creates less wastage on site. And the Safal Group’s Saftherm insulation range will create buildings which use less energy to heat or cool.
Population Growth and Urbanisation
The current population of Africa is 1.2 billion; it is likely to nearly double by 2045, meaning that around 20 per cent of the world’s total population will live on the continent.
Also, city populations in Africa are likely to grow 45 per cent faster than in rural areas, with 60 per cent of people in Africa likely to live in cities by 2050.
Households are proliferating, and household consumption is a key driver of growth. Strong domestic demand from a growing middle class remains an opportunity for growth.
The Safal Group has invested in capacity to cater for the needs of an ever-more discerning middle class. A new colour coating line in Kenya will produce the coils to make roofing products like DumuRangi which provide fresh new roof sheeting colour choices to the next generation of customers as first time home builders.
And commercial customers are buying entire buildings from us in the form of pre-engineered buildings, complete to the last fastener and ready to assemble on site, offered by Safal Building Solutions.
Technology and new ways of doing business
On a vast continent that is still developing much of its infrastructure, drones present a solution. Some projections see drones accounting for 10 per cent to 15 per cent of Africa’s transport sector in the next decade.
Rwanda, working with Silicon Valley firm Zip Line uses drones to deliver medical supplies such as blood and vaccines to remote areas. It has done over 1,400 similar deliveries since October 2016. This year, Tanzania will roll out medical supplies on a scale nearly 36 times bigger than Rwanda. This will offer useful insights on how to use them on a larger scale.
Whilst our products are too heavy to be delivered by drones, we are using this new technology in fresh ways in our own business.
We are photographing buildings for our engineers to calculate wind and corrosion zones, our draughts-men and women to provide roofing plans, and our sales and marketing teams to identify where best to support our customers from our show rooms and service centres countrywide.
Internet connectivity enabling communication and service delivery
Urbanization and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) development can support structural transformation at all levels of business.
Over half a billion people in Africa are subscribed to mobile services, internet use rose to over 300 million last year, and Africa is expected to become the world’s largest consumer of mobile devices in less than 5 years.
The Safal Group has a multitude of projects which use this connectivity to build relationships both within and beyond our traditional audiences.
Using Customer Relationship Management systems allows us to connect to our customers as never before, wherever they are. Digital marketing is enabling us to interact with our customers and industry partners one on one. Strong networks are being built with installers and professionals who are vital routes to market. The Safal Group is a pioneer in its field in e-commerce, which is playing an increasingly important role for Africans around the continent and the world. And within the Safal Group, communication technology is used to forge virtual teams which are centres of excellence and deep experience.
An increasingly pan-African identity creating pride of place
With the promise of a more inter-connected and mindful Africa, with a youth engaged on the big issues of our day, we are arguably creating one of the greatest African social movements of the 21st Century, a force to address political and economic legacies...and social change. Together, new business entrants are already creating a new generation of African-centred thinking that celebrates the continent’s uniqueness, exploring a different philosophy and approach that can alter our thinking on the arts, business, politics, science and society.
The MRM Cornell Kiswahili Prize is the only award of its kind worldwide which celebrates writing and poetry in the Kiswahili language, spoken by more people in Africa than any other. This award spans both Mabati Rolling Mills in Kenya and ALAF in Tanzania, where Kiswahili is the de facto Lingua Franca.
When Safintra Rwanda sponsored the ‘Special’ Olympics for “differently abled” contenders, it was done in the same African spirit of celebrating a shared destiny with all other Africans, no matter our differences. The Safal MRM Foundation invests in local Kenyan communities which are socially disadvantaged and through the Mabati Technical Training Institute, teaches practical skills which enable local youth to sustain themselves and their families with dignity and pride.