Aspiring Africa

africa-economyPride in Africa’s achievements should be coupled with the determination to make even faster progress

Never in the half-century since it won independence from the colonial powers has Africa been in such good shape. Its economy is flourishing. Most countries are at peace. Ever fewer children bear arms and record numbers go to school. Mobile phones are as ubiquitous as they are in India and, in the worst-affected countries, HIV infections have fallen by up to three-quarters. Life expectancy rose by a tenth in the past decade and foreign direct investment has tripled. Consumer spending will almost double in the next ten years; the number of countries with average incomes above $1,000 per person a year will grow from less than half of Africa’s 55 states to three-quarters [Source].

Samsung Sets Up Shop on Sand Hill Road, Launches $1.1 Billion in Venture Funds

The company logo is displayed at the Samsung news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las VegasSamsung Electronics said on Monday that it is launching two venture funds worth a total of $1.1 billion as well as a strategy and innovation center on Menlo Park’s Sand Hill Road.

A $100 millon Samsung Catalyst Fund will focus on early-stage companies while a $1 billion Samsung Ventures America Fund will target companies of all sizes.

In addition to the Menlo Park office, the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center will have offices in Korea and Israel and be led by Samsung Electronics’ newly installed president and chief strategy officer, Young Sohn [Source].

A Banking Giant Makes a Mobile Payment Bet

Backing from JPMorgan Chase will speed a startup’s rise in a crowded field.

Paying for something from a mobile phone still isn’t an option in most U.S. brick-and-mortar stores. But that reality is obscured in San Francisco. The Bay Area has been an early testing ground for a future full of smartphone-based transactions, with all sorts of companies, from Starbucks and PayPal to Google and startups like LevelUp getting involved [see "Battle of the Electronic Wallets"].

Into this crowded field comes GoPago, a startup that began widely marketing its own payment app in San Francisco this April after expanding from a smaller pilot program in the region.

The 70-person company has built a network of about 300 active merchants in the city so far, but it is a startup worth watching for another reason—one of its investors and strategic partners, as of February, is JPMorgan Chase, one of the nation’s largest banks and card issuers.

Organizing for an emerging world

The structures, processes, and communications approaches of many far-flung businesses have been stretched to the breaking point. Here are some ideas for relieving the strains.

As global organizations expand, they get more complicated and difficult to manage. For evidence, look no further than the interviews and surveys we recently conducted with 300 executives at 17 major global companies. Fewer than half of the respondents believed that their organizations’ structure created clear accountabilities, and many suggested that globalization brings, as one put it, “cumulative degrees of complexity.”

However, our research and experience in the field suggest that even complex organizations can be improved to give employees around the world the mix of control, support, and autonomy they need to do their jobs well. What’s more, redesigning an organization to suit its changing scale and scope can do much to address the challenges of managing strategy, costs, people, and risk on a global basis [Source].

Asia Grows, but Holds Its Breath

Emerging economies such as China, India and Indonesia have been on a roll for the past few years. Today, however, the pace of their growth is beginning to slacken, and trepidation is the dominant mood.

This special report (PDF), prepared to coincide with Wharton’s Global Alumni Forum in Jakarta, features an analysis of the fast-growing Indonesian economy as well as trends in consumer spending and commodities trading.

In addition, the report includes previously published Knowledge@Wharton articles on what a slowdown in China might mean for the world economy, the key issues facing China’s financial system, and the lessons Microsoft’s growth strategy in India holds for companies seeking new opportunities in emerging markets [Source].

BRICs Biggest Currency Depreciation Since 1998 To Worsen

The largest emerging markets, whose economies grew more than four-fold in the past decade, are making losers out of everyone from central bankers to Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) as their currencies post the biggest declines since at least 1998.

For the first time in 13 years, the real, ruble and rupee are weakening the most among developing-nation currencies, while the yuan has depreciated more than in any other period since its 1994 devaluation. P&G, the world’s largest consumer-goods maker, cut its profit forecast for the second time in two months last week in part because of currency losses. Brazil’s Fibria Celulose SA (FIBR3), the biggest pulp producer, asked banks to loosen restrictions on dollar loans as the real hit a three-year low.

Investors are fleeing the four biggest emerging markets, known as the BRICs, after Brazil’s consumer default rate rose to the highest level since 2009, prices for Russian oil exports fell to an 18-month low, India’s budget deficit widened and Chinese home prices slumped. Investors are bracing for more losses as economic growth slows [Source].

Nissan Says Ghosn May Step Down Before Next Business Plan

Nissan Motor, Japan’s second- largest carmaker, said Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn is considering stepping down before the company’s next mid-term business plan begins in about five years.

The current business plan, which began last year and lasts through March 2017, is Ghosn’s fifth multiyear campaign at Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan since his arrival 13 years ago. The current Power 88 plan calls for Nissan to generate operating profit margins of 8 percent and grab market share of 8 percent globally, including 10 percent in China. It also calls for Nissan to churn out a new model every six weeks and reduce costs 5 percent each year.

When Le Journal de l’Automobile named him Man of the Year at an awards ceremony in Paris in 2002, hundreds gathered in a receiving line.His popularity also grew in the corporate world. He twice turned down overtures from Ford Motor Co. (F) to join as a top executive, people familiar with the matter said in 2005, the same year Ghosn also became CEO of Renault.

In 2009, President Barack Obama’s administration invited him to run General Motors Co. (GM), a job Ghosn said he declined with “no hesitation.” In 2010, he began staking Nissan’s future on electric vehicles, and has since said that 1 out of 10 cars sold in 2020 will be electric vehicles. He pledged to spend $6 billion on EV technology from 2007 to 2011 — an amount equal to the combined annual research and development budgets at Nissan and Renault [Source].

Brics nations to increase contribution to IMF resources

The Brics economies have said they will increase their contribution to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Brics refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, five of the fastest growing emerging economies in the world.

The move comes as the IMF has been looking to boost its finances to help prevent any future financial crisis. The Brics nations have also asked for a greater say at the fund.

“These new contributions are being made in anticipation that all the reforms agreed upon in 2010 will be fully implemented in a timely manner, including a comprehensive reform of voting power and reform of quota shares.” the Brics economies said in a statement on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Mexico [Source].

DoCoMo Aims To Recoup Lost Mobile Share With Older Users

“Growth for a consumer business in the coming decade relies on cultivating the elderly market,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Research Institute in Tokyo. “They tend to be affluent and loose on their purse strings.”

Japan’s biggest mobile-phone company is counting on software and handsets tailored for older subscribers to regain customers from Softbank Corp. in the $110 billion wireless market after consumers flocked to the iPhone. Two million users have downloaded DoCoMo’s app called Shabette Concier, which, like Apple’s Siri, lets users control their phone by voice — a selling point among elderly consumers who struggle with keypads.

To stimulate demand among the growing demographic, DoCoMo is holding seminars and offering discounts on models targeting elderly users. The company held 1,100 training sessions in the year ended March 31, said Saori Yoshimatsu, a spokeswoman [Source].

How Starbucks is turning itself into a tech company

SourceThe coffee was brewing as usual, and patrons were as caffeine-crazed as any other day, but something curious was happening behind the scenes at beloved and bemoaned coffee giant Starbucks on March 9, 2012.

On that date, Adam Brotman, formerly senior vice president of Starbucks Digital Ventures, was named to an entirely new executive role, chief digital officer. With the creation of the CDO role, all of Starbuck’s digital projects — web, mobile, social media, digital marketing, Starbucks Card and loyalty, e-commerce, Wi-Fi, Starbucks Digital Network, and emerging in-store technologies — were packaged together and placed under Brotman’s care.

Not just another executive promotion, the move signaled something bigger and far more profound: Starbucks is turning into a tech company [Source].