Africa: a new world on an age-old continent – with 54 countries, almost 12 million square miles of surface area, close to 2,000 languages and a population of more than one billion. Some people associate the “cradle of mankind” with unaccustomed cultures and a chequered past; others espy enormous potential for growth and economic development – and they’re becoming the first movers in cleverly capitalising on those opportunities.

Over the past decades, Africa has metamorphosed into a continent of hope; one where modernity, entrepreneurialism and self-initiative have gained a solid foothold. The domestic growth rates are higher than the global average and a middle class has emerged that encompasses one-third of Africa’s entire population. The degree of prosperity of course differs between regions and economic sectors, but it nevertheless is evidence of the continent’s tremendous developmental vitality. And digitisation is also poised for a quantum leap: already 650 million mobile telephones have been registered there.

The European Union and Africa are bonded by a steadfast partnership, albeit one that – due to the colonial past – was not always without its problems. The relationships between Africa and Switzerland are also deeply rooted and portend interesting potential: in 2014, 1.3 % of Switzerland’s trade goods went to Africa, whilst 3.9 % of Africa’s exports made their way to Switzerland. 21,500 Swiss citizens established their new home in this part of the world, and 86,700 Africans today reside in Switzerland.

With this current issue of ceo Magazine, we want to bring you up to speed on the multiplicity, richness and potential of Africa. To that purpose, we’ve interviewed representatives from the fields of art, commerce, music, film and digitisation and asked them to relate their success stories as well as their interpretations of the relationship between Africa and Switzerland.

For instance, we talk with Jürgen Steinemann, Vice Chairman of Barry Callebaut, about the challenges involved in the production of raw materials in such a complex continent. Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the WEF, explains how she intends to create jobs in Africa by encouraging the key players to join forces. And Anat Bar-Gera describes her own role in bringing high speed to the Black Continent.

We wish you a fascinating read that provokes new thoughts and offers promising perspectives.

Urs Honegger

Urs Honegger

CEO PwC Switzerland