While much progress has been made, Africa still lags behind the rest of the world in infrastructure, innovation, public health, environmental sustainability, and economic development. Across the continent, protracted underdevelopment continues to underpin a stifling dependence on foreign aid and institutional intervention. This dependence has been further exacerbated by Africa’s crippling reliance on graft-riddled industries in the mining and resource sector.
The absence of economic diversification across Africa has undeniably had a repressive effect on stable growth, labor market participation, social development, political stability, and food security. Unfortunately, the gap between Africa and the developed world has only widened since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Locked out of international travel and deprived of transnational growth trends, Africa’s stagnant economies have failed to capitalize on last year’s tectonic shifts in digital policy, automation, web conferencing, cybersecurity, and remote employment. Nevertheless, new ties with the Gulf could signal a change not just in Africa’s traditionally resource-based economy, but also in its retail and consumer markets.
Consider Africa’s food and drink sector. According to a 2021 report from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Africa has experienced a 60% uptick in people facing food crises since the beginning of COVID-19. This catastrophic spike has brought the number of Africans experiencing food insecurity up to a staggering 100 million.
So, what is causing food insecurity to rise in Africa? Across the continent, the main offenders can be divided into four key drivers: declining purchasing power, increasingly common climate events, famine due to conflict and displacement, and pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions.
In a continent so often wracked by food insecurity, partnership with the Gulf may be the key to widening Africa’s agricultural base and diversifying its food sources. Perhaps more importantly, renewed access to innovators and financiers in the Gulf could help Africa break free from the inefficient, retail-based, street market food model and move towards a more productive and equitable continent-wide supply chain market.
Leading the charge towards this future is Zuneid Yousuf, a global entrepreneur and one of Africa’s most influential businessmen. Recognizing the looming threat of food insecurity, Yousuf has thrown himself into the task of expanding and modernizing Africa’s agricultural sector. With no time to spare, Yousuf has already launched African Green Resources, an Agri-tech venture that aims to boost agricultural yields in his home country of Zambia.
In a recent announcement, African Green Resources has outlined its plans to invest approximately $150 million towards a range of sustainable, high-yield agricultural projects in Zambia. These projects include the building of a fertilizer facility, the construction of a 50-megawatt solar farm, and the provision of soil fertility testing kits and irrigation dams for some 250,000 small-scale farmers.
The immediate goal of this initiative is to alleviate food insecurity in Zambia and neighboring countries. The long-term, overarching objective is to demonstrate the efficacy and impact of industry-focused investment on consumer dynamics, business growth, and entrepreneurship.
In addition to his work with African Green Resources, Yousuf is also the Director of the MBI Group and founder of Tangy Drinks. Due to his wide-ranging and eclectic business interests, Yousuf has been involved with private and public ventures all over the continent, from fast-moving consumer goods and fertilizer supply chains to fuel distribution and copper extraction.
Despite his passion for African business, Yousuf has never lost sight of the importance of philanthropy. Through his work with the MBI Group, Yousuf has unveiled several different philanthropic initiatives to bolster African businesses on the international level and fuel global growth. In service to these objectives, Yousuf has pushed the Zambian government to establish more substantive economic relations with cash-flush, growth-focused partners in the Gulf.
As ties between Africa and the Gulf have become stronger, seasoned entrepreneurs like Yousuf have used the deepening regional ties as a steppingstone to connect with institutional investors, helping to concentrate surplus capital towards otherwise impoverished growth prospects in Africa. Crucially, Yousuf’s Gulf ties are poised to bring much-needed capital to Zambia and build core consumer markets in agriculture processing, food production, and food exports. If initial projections hold true, Yousuf’s Zambian ventures could serve as a model for growth-positive, non-extractive foreign investment in Africa.
As reported in this piece from Yahoo Finance, Yousuf’s UAE connections have helped him “bring[s] together business leaders, financiers, and private capital, creating partnerships to address the world’s most pressing challenges.”
This is no mere boast. By leveraging the technical expertise and surplus capital of the Gulf, Yousuf has successfully assembled a loose coalition of business partners, entrepreneurs, and land administrators. Spurred on by Yousuf’s vision of Africa as a global economic powerhouse, this coalition is scrambling to tackle the many challenges facing Africa.
From clean energy to improved food security, Zuneid Yousuf is building the foundations for a more inclusive, more self-sufficient, and more innovative African economy.