chapter  3
20 Pages

Managing complexity and uncertainty in the African environment

There is no doubt that sub-Saharan Africa has suffered from a bad press. Perceptions in the West are mostly based on journalistic reports of humanitarian disasters: famines, civil war and genocide. Bad news always makes good news. Afro-pessimism seems to abound, with the opening quotation from The Economist being typical. Unfortunately this is often accompanied with an implicit suggestion that there is something inherent within sub-Saharan Africa, or within Africans, that makes the sub-continent unstable and unmanageable (often forgetting the recent history of Europe), rather than attempting to understand the different forces that have shaped, and are shaping the environment and indeed understand many of the positives, not to say opportunities, that exist in Africa. This is realized in part by more far-sighted comments such as the opening quotation from Fortune. Yet this is perhaps missing the point. Africa cannot now just be seen as a business opportunity. This has been its history, and now its

legacy. President Thabo Mbeki’s comments in the quotation at the beginning of this chapter underscore the need for a wider view, particularly of business organizations operating in Africa.