Eni and Repsol have evacuated expatriates from Libya in the face of escalating violence in Tripoli, on the heels of Total pulling out its foreign staff as the worst fighting in six months rocked the capital. Ten Chinese construction works kidnapped by Boko Haram in Cameroon in May are still being held in captivity. Attacks by al-Shabaab along Kenya’s coast have left at least 60 dead, and the violence shows no signs of slowing.
The litany of challenges literally overwhelms the daily newscast: from civil wars uncorked by departed past dictators to strife caused by religious extremism, corruption and just plain criminal gangsters. Africa is a continent that is undoubtedly on the rise, and the opportunities that exist to invest in frontier projects are unparalleled. But the economic transformation underway and the influx of foreign capital are affecting political landscapes across the continent, unleashing seismic geopolitical changes. Countries like Nigeria, Somalia, Mali, Kenya, Libya, and others are grappling with unresolved issues of inequality, marginalization, radicalization, and power-sharing that have simmered and remained relatively dormant—until now. From al-Shabaab in the East to Boko Haram in the West, foreign companies and African governments alike are dealing with increasingly complex security environments. Many of these African governments, from Cameroon to Mali to South Sudan, are working hard to continually attract much-needed investment into their burgeoning economies, but the daunting security challenges they face are at times beyond their limited capacity to effectively address.
I fundamentally believe in the nexus between economic development, peace and stability, and security. They are inextricably intertwined: you cannot have sustainable economic development without a stable, secure environment, and sustainable economic development in turn reinforces stability and long-term prospects for peace within a country. The majority of human beings want the dignity of a job, not to be a dependent on aid. Violence and instability have robbed many individuals in the fragile states in Africa of that dignity, reducing them to a dependency that becomes institutionalized and traps them in a future with little opportunity, which breeds resentment and fuels the conditions for extremism that is on the rise in the Sahel and Magreb. These fragile countries in Africa have been historically trapped in a vicious cycle of instability and poverty. Corruption and despair give way to an embrace of radicalism brutality. Giving investors the confidence to break that cycle to the mutual benefit of both their corporate profitability and the socioeconomic development of their host country has been difficult.
Underdeveloped countries are hindered by a lack of necessary infrastructure, transport, and logistics that enable them to not only provide adequate state services but also the kind of supply chain networks and market access companies need to flourish. The infrastructure and logistics in countries like South Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, and others are often unreliable, inadequate, and at times prohibitively expensive. Unless companies can function with the knowledge their assets, operations, and most importantly, personnel, are safe in volatile areas, it becomes difficult to encourage them to be frontier investors in a region. As it exists right now, there are severe gaps in the provision of these kinds of expeditionary logistics solutions that can serve governments, companies, and NGOs in Africa.
FSG was created to be that missing link. It was created to provide a self-supporting ecosystem of services that create the necessary pre-conditions for success in Africa. An expeditionary construction and engineering division that can build anything from roads to ports to airstrips in even the most inaccessible, remote terrains. A safety and security team that provides, among other services, aeromedical evacuations, contingency planning, evacuation and employee field training so personnel and assets can operate safely. A logistics division that uses innovative technologies and operational models tailored to the supply chain challenges of the region to ensure an efficient flow of goods and provision of services. And an aviation division that provides professional transport solutions, enabling the movement of people and assets to anywhere on the continent. We endeavor to be the first into an area and the last to leave. We don’t aspire to be the low cost provider, but ultimately the low risk provider. The most reliable partner a customer can expend upon.
All of this is done with a deep, nuanced understanding of the geopolitical landscape in which we operate. Our research team closely monitors the security and political situation in our areas of operation and the impact of global security events on those areas, and that awareness and analysis informs our understanding of the risks and opportunities that exist in these rapidly evolving, complex environments. The FSG Africa Monitor (www.fsgroup.com/africamonitor) serves as an information-sharing platform curating news and commentary about the continent and providing proprietary analyses via our bi-weekly reports. These reports will not only be a source of news, but aim to ignite a dialogue between the leaders of FSG and other thought-leaders in the private and public space working on these multi-faceted challenges. I encourage you to sign up for the Africa Monitor to be part of the conversation and learn more about my company’s activities across the continent. Going forward, I will inform you through these reports of my ongoing understandings and views on critical developments in the security field.
August 5, 2014