African Young Professionals Targeted by American Business

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Africa’s burgeoning young adult population promises to be an alluring target market for U.S. companies, policymakers and company executives said Tuesday at the largest-ever gathering of African government officials and American businesses here.

Some of those businesses pledged their commitment to investing in Africa with billions of dollars worth of deals to be rolled out in the coming years. The Obama administration, which put on this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, announced $33 billion in deals at the summit’s business forum on Tuesday, $14 billion in private sector investments and the rest in government financing.

General Electric will funnel $2 billion into the continent by 2018, with investments in infrastructure and skills training. IBM is giving $66 million in technology services to Ghana’s Fidelity Bank. Marriott is investing $200 million across Africa and plans to create 10,000 new jobs and build 36 new hotels by 2020.

Marriott is counting on Africa’s growing middle class to boost travel throughout the continent. More than half of Africa’s population is under age 35, and they’re growing up more educated and wealthier than ever.

“That growth in the future means those folks will be traveling within Africa but also traveling outside of Africa,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson told USA TODAY. “We want to make sure they know our brands.”

Marriott is the largest hotel operator in Africa. In April, it acquired Protea Hotel Group and now operates hotels in nine African countries.

MasterCard, which has been doing business in Africa for more than 20 years, is also hoping to capitalize on the continent’s youth, especially as more countries embrace electronic payments.

From 20 percent to 30 percent of Africa’s people have access to a bank, which means “the majority of the population is outside the banking system,” says Daniel Monehin, MasterCard’s division president for sub-Saharan Africa.



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