Polishing the crystal ball

Four years ago on this website, I wrote, "Here's one you can file away for a 'he told you so' years from now. I believe that Africa will become a hot industrial laser market within 25 years. It will take another generation of trained, skilled and high wage manufacturing employees needed to maintain all those automated laser processing systems."

This week, almost to the day, Adrienne Selko in IndustryWeek asked "Why is GE Investing $2 Billion in Africa by 2018?" She points out that at President Obama's US-Africa Leaders Summit, GE announced it will invest $2 billion in Africa by 2018. The money will go towards facility development, skills training, and sustainability initiatives across the continent. She points out that total GE revenues in Africa in 2013 were $5.2 billion and that in the past year, GE has won more than $8.3 billion in orders across Africa through investments in a multimodal manufacturing facility in Nigeria, Algeria gas turbine manufacturing, and a customer innovation center in South Africa, remaining a committed partner to Africa's sustainable growth.

In 2010, a study by McKinsey & Company on Africa's Path to Growth summarized, ”as many as 200 million Africans will enter the consumer goods market by 2015. Banking and telecommunications are growing rapidly too, and infrastructure expenditures are rising significantly faster in Africa than in the world as a whole. Not that the growth of the extractive industries won't be impressive. The continent has more than one-quarter of the world's arable land. Eleven of its countries rank among the top ten sources for at least one major mineral. Africa will produce 13 percent of global oil by 2015, up from 9 percent in 1998. For many companies, this is a future worth investing in.”

The Wall Street Journal , in a May 15, 2014 article by Peter Wonacott entitled "China Inc. Starts to Move Its Factory Floor to Africa," stated, "Faced with rising labor costs at home, Chinese companies are setting up new factories in Africa, in an attempt to see whether low-cost manufacturing on the continent can match productivity levels in China. And while China used to dispatch thousands of workers to Africa, increasingly, Chinese companies are starting to hire local African workers, as well."

In my 2011 column, I closed with, "unless we keep our eyes on the ball here in the US, the next competitor beating us with better priced laser processed goods will be Africa. So as we walk through our retailers, the goods on the shelves will read 'Made in Africa,' not China or India."

I guess I should look into my crystal ball again to see if my 25-year forecast needs updating.

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