by Nick Harriss, Founder and Chairman
Just like Asia 30 years ago, Africa offers the outstanding business opportunity for the next quarter of a century. The UK is superbly placed to participate in this opportunity for a number of reasons:
- Historic links with much of the African continent;
- The same or similar time zones;
- Good transport links;
- London’s established position as the key financial and professional services centre for Africa; and, most importantly,
- A large population of well-educated African diaspora who have family and cultural ties with both their homelands and the UK.
Many of this young and talented diaspora find that despite their education and enthusiasm that their opportunities in the UK are limited; however this is not about apportioning blame or undertaking some sociological research, but instead about offering a solution.
The African economy is developing rapidly due to a combination of:
- The harsh medicine of Washington Consensus development aid imposed from the 90s onwards having taken effect;
- Large infusions on Western and Asian capital targeted at certain areas, in particularly mining, oil and gas and commercial agriculture;
- Increasing numbers of Africans who have lived/been educated in the West returning to start businesses;
- The internet and mobile phones having a transformational impact on the behaviour of many African businesses and entrepreneurs;
- Western countries, businesses and individuals finally realizing that Africa and Africans should not be treated like a rather slow learning child, but as a place of opportunity; and
- Globalization slowly eroding some of the tradition approaches to society that impeded entrepreneurial activity.
There are great opportunities for business, trade and investment within Africa, but as an individual or small business, where do you start?
With many multinational corporations seemingly dominating world trade, how do you participate effectively in this international trade?
The Anglo African Co-Operative Society (the “Society”) has been established to provide a mechanism to allow individual businesses to compete on a more equal footing, creating a virtual multinational that operates for the benefit of its members.
As a co-operative society there are no external shareholders profiting from the hard work of the members; the shareholders are the members and only individuals or businesses who wish to participate in business, trade or investment between the UK and Africa are eligible to become members. Instead of customers, suppliers and employees being squeezed for the benefit of shareholders and a few top executives, all members will benefit in an equitable fashion based on their level of activity with the Society. Each member has one vote, however many shares they may hold in the Society.
The primary objective of the Society is to encourage, assist and facilitate business, trade and investment between the UK and Africa for the benefit of its members.
As a secondary objective the Society will look to improve the economic situation of both Africa and the UK based African diaspora by the encouragement of business, trade and investment between them.
Benefits for Members and Activities
It is the intention of the Society to develop a growing number of services for the benefit of the members, particularly through the provision of collective purchasing power across a number of products and services.
- Marketing and PR services on behalf of members;
- Liaising with and lobbying of governments and other official bodies both in the UK and African countries;
- Freight forwarding and other trade related services;
- Local agent representation in key African business hubs;
- The provision of an internal market facility linking together members so that they may trade with each other more effectively and efficiently, including lead generation; and
- Bulk purchasing of an increasing variety of goods and services for the benefit of the members.
Membership Goals (Long-Term)
Membership will eventually be open to any person (individuals or corporate bodies) who wish to engage in business trade and investment between the UK and Africa. Each member has to subscribe for and retain at all times at least £100 of share capital in the Society.
The share capital of the Society is withdrawable and non-transferable. It will not appreciate in value, but will attract annual interest, currently expected to be around 7.5% per annum. The Society intends to apply for the initial offer of shares to be eligible for tax relief under the Enterprise Investment Scheme.
In addition, in order to benefit from the other listed services of the Society, each member has to pay a service charge of £25 per month or a discounted £250 per annum if paid in advance.