Lions were on the move in Manhattan this week as we presented our latest research on Africa’s economic outlook to the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. Key findings from the Lions on the move II report were presented to an audience of heads of state, government leaders, and CEOs by Dominic Barton, our global managing director, and Acha Leke, a senior partner based in Johannesburg.
When the first Lions report was published 6 years ago, almost all African countries were experiencing rapid economic growth. Today, the picture is more complex. Major oil exporters have seen growth slow, as have countries involved in the Arab Spring. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for optimism:
- By 2034, Africa is expected to have a larger workforce than either China or India.
- Africa is urbanizing faster than any other region—which should boost productivity as people move from agriculture to manufacturing or service jobs.
- Smartphone penetration is expected to reach 50 percent by 2020, up from only 18 percent in 2015.
- Although fewer in number than might be expected, Africa’s large companies are growing faster and are generally more profitable than their global peers.
In the words of US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who cohosted the New York forum along with Bloomberg Philanthropies, “The report highlights the positive long-term growth potential of economies across the African continent.”
These positive trends explain why we’ve continued to expand across the region. Our Lagos office opened in 2010, just prior to the publication of the first Lions on the move report. Since then we’ve opened in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, adding to a network of locations that also includes Johannesburg, Luanda, and Casablanca. Our Africa Practice has been serving clients across the continent for more than 20 years.
On the ground, there’s a palpable sense of excitement about the opportunities to help improve the economic well-being and quality of life of millions of Africans, says Paul Jacobson, a consultant in our Johannesburg office who helped lead the research behind the new report. “When we were setting up for this project, I was inundated by requests from colleagues who wanted to be part of the team. Many of them told me they joined McKinsey because they’d been inspired by the first report 6 years ago.”