Africa is not a country (again)

We are not the first to comment on the lazy habit of some of those in the West who accidentally view Africa as a single country. Prominent politicians and other public figures have been called out for this slip of the tongue, and many media articles have described the damage that this mindset causes.

Whilst we’ve been setting up Turntabl, we’ve encountered this habit more than once. Sometimes it shows itself through the seemingly innocuous question, ‘What are you doing in Africa?’ Experience in one of the more than 50 countries that make up this enormous and diverse continent is regarded as experience in Africa. The problem is laid bare when this question is extended to the statement, ‘we don’t do business in Africa because…’ Ghana is conflated with Africa, and Africa is written off for business.

This doesn’t seem to apply in other parts of the world. Ghana has higher international transparency scores than Italy, but business is happy to trade in Europe. Mexico has a far higher violent crime rate than Ghana, but this is not translated to a wider problem with doing business in the Americas. The USA is not judged on the corruption, violence or instability that causes problems in other parts of that continent, but it seems that Ghana is often viewed in light of the problems that face some of the other countries in Africa.

Our concern is that the beliefs that lead to this view are consciously or unconsciously held more widely by businesses in the West. Where it is visible, or overtly stated, we can see how it is stopping international companies from benefiting from the wealth of talent and the youthful demographic that we have found in Ghana.

We’ve chosen to set up Turntable in Ghana because we think that companies all over the world can benefit from working with this exciting country. We have found great engineers here who will deliver benefit to any company they work in. More than 50% of the population is under 24. English is widely spoken, corruption is low and falling, the education system is producing a competent, growing, youthful and enthusiastic middle class. Knowledge-based businesses run off of the quality of the people they can employ. In the coming decades Ghana offers a bright future for any company wishing to operate here.

We are sure that businesses who overcome old habits of mind about the nature of ‘Africa’ will be as excited as we are about the engineering talent in Ghana and will be able to enjoy the huge benefits of doing business here.