WASHINGTON, Aug 4 – A leading African billionaire said Monday that “misinformed” US businesses need to study up on the continent’s opportunities, suggesting they start by Googling.
In Washington for the US-Africa Leaders Summit — President Barack Obama’s historic effort to juice up the sagging US economic relationship with the continent — telecommunications tycoon Mo Ibrahim said European and Asian businesses haven’t needed such an event to get going in Africa.
“I’m actually a little bit amazed that all those Africans I met on the plane … are coming all the way here to America to tell the very smart, well-informed American businesspeople that ‘guys, you know what, there is a good opportunity in Africa’. They should do some homework,” he said.
“Everywhere in Africa there are Chinese businesspeople, there are Brazilian businesspeople.”
“None of us went to Brazil, or to Asia or to China to tell them, look, come and invest in Africa. They found out themselves and they come and invest. That’s how basic business people behave.”
He added: “Why do we need to come and inform these misinformed American businesses? You know, you guys invented Google. Use it please.”
Still, the Sudanese-born British-resident, who made his fortune with telecommunications company Celtel before selling it off in 2005, said no one should overstate Africa’s economic emergence, given the diverse conditions across 54 countries.
“I’m uncomfortable, frankly, with the hype about Africa. We went from one extreme … to, like, Africa now is the best thing after sliced bread.”
Some 45 heads of state from Africa have gathered in Washington for the three-day summit, as well as scores of business representatives.