United States-based corporate giant IBM is embarking on an ambitious investment drive in Africa. This follows nine months of research by the company, which concluded December 4 with a conference in New York City. A number of topics were discussed during two different panel discussions, including the acceleration of Africa’s economic development. IBM says the time is ripe for investment in Africa based on the emergence of Africa as an economic partner in a globally integrated economy, as well as the unprecedented sustained annual growth rates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that some African countries are currently enjoying.
During the conference and as part of its commitment, IMB announced it was investing over $120 million as well as donating its super computer to assist in research work in higher learning institutions across the continent.
Nicholas Donofrio is IBM’s executive vice president of innovation and technology. From the company’s headquarters in New York, he tells VOA’s English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey that the company is mostly interested in partnering with Africa as an emerging global economic force.
“The conference was actually a culmination of about nine months of work. And we brought all that work together in this conference in which about three or four hundred showed up from inside of Africa and outside of Africa with a single purpose of trying to understand the opportunity that exists, and talk about, and think about how to deal with some of that opportunity. And of course what we did was simply orchestrate all of these, bring it all together in a very open collaborative, multi-disciplined and global fashion. And by the way, those are ingredients we think are fundamentally important for innovation in the 21st Century. And at the end, made our commitments,” Donofrio noted.
He said most skeptics are unaware about the positive wind that is blowing across Africa, which he said could potentially attract investors.
“It’s very simple. It’s always about change in my mind. Everything that we do is always about change because it’s an incredibly fast changing world, and things are changing very fast in Africa just that most people don’t’ understand how fast things are changing and improving. Africa has approximately one sixth of the globe’s population, almost a billion people. It has the youngest population as a continent on the globe, and it has the fastest growing population as a continent on the globe. Blessed with natural resources, plenty of countries inside of Africa where there is political stability and therefore, the beginnings of economic stability. So, our sense is that Africa is going to emerge faster than most people think. That’s why we did the work,” he pointed out.
Donofrio shed light on some of IBM’s investment commitments in Africa.
“The $120 million was just an improvement next year. So, we are going to invest an additional $120 million in our ability to continue to do business in Africa. We also said we are going to hire 100 new professionals in Africa. We’ve been in Africa, as you know, for well over 50 years. So it’s not like we don’t understand what’s going on there and we haven’t been paying attention. We’ve got a very strong business in a number of countries. We want to grow that to more countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa,” Donofrio said.
He said IBM is also interested in helping among other things educational research work in Africa’s universities and other institutions of higher learning.
“On top of that we want to do some very specific things; we want to improve the infrastructure by giving Africa a world-class high performing computing system. We are giving them one of our blue genes high performance computers, one of our super computers. It’s going to be housed in one of the universities in South Africa, but it’s going to be opened to all of Africa to solve all types of critical, either infrastructure social healthcare, problems and climate, environmental problems and issues,” he noted.
Donofrio said IBM wants to partner but not exploit Africa in its quest to become a significant economic player on the world stage.
“This is not about handout or hand me down. The Africans that we spoke to… they were looking at focusing on being enabled to be their best. Being enabled to make a difference, and that is what we have structured our thinking around. It’s all about enablement, we want to be your partner, and we want to help you be what you want to be and what you can be. We want to work with your education system, we want to work with the infrastructure, we want to work with the government, and we want to work with industry partners in partnership to enable Africa to live up to these expectations, to fulfill itself,” Donofrio pointed out.