Stories

SFA Insights: The politics of a chocolate bar

Ahead of WEF Africa, we take a look at the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and how greater collaboration between nations could lead to greater bargaining power. SFA works extensively in developing markets, with several projects on the African continent, and we are always looking out for developments at the intersection of business and politics that shape the environments in which we advise. When political and business leaders meet in Cape Town for the World Economic Forum on Africa, in programmed events in the Harbour-side convention centre and offsite chatter in Camp’s Bay, much time will be committed to discussion on how to make a success of the new Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). In May 2019, 54 nations across the African continent reached an agreement to launch the world’s largest free-trade zone. Within the new economic area, member countries will initially benefit from tariff cuts for good traded...

SFA Insights: How much does a smart phone really cost?

In 2018, Apple sold more than 850,000 iPhones every day. Creating each one required upward of 20 individual raw materials, each supplied by at least 50 countries and each drawn from every continent on earth except Antarctica. So, if you are reading this on a smartphone, laptop or tablet, you are holding the end product of one of the longest and most complex supply chains in the world. Yet we know virtually nothing about it. It is tempting to blame the complex web of secrecy and security that characterises modern business practices, and especially business practices in the developing world. There is also a fair argument to be made around the lukewarm embrace of additional scrutiny within mining and minerals sector itself. But when considering the long path that takes raw materials from the deep-red earths of Central Africa into the eager hands of consumers, the problem isn’t just transparency....

SFA Insights: A Coalition to Re-Examine War Crimes

In some instances our work in emerging markets meets our work in international disputes, but rarely has any project been as rewarding as the support we provided last year to a group of women that suffered sexual violence during the Vietnam War. This recent long read from the BBC is tough reading, especially when one remembers the war ended in 1975 and the women are still fighting for justice and an apology, some 45 years on. Governments around the world have tried to sweep atrocities, including sexual violence, under the carpet, but the reality is that no matter how big the carpet, this is an issue which will not go away. Rwanda is an example of how to heal old wounds; it can be done and must be done, because only then can you genuinely move on as a nation. In spring 2019 we helped a number of women tell their...

SFA Insights: Real Issues with Fake News

The death of Prince Philip; injecting disinfectant; 5G originating the virus. These are just some of the myths that have spread as fast as COVID-19 itself through news channels and WhatsApp groups alike over the past 8 weeks. But not all are so easily dismissed as fake news. Take food security. As eggs, tinned tomatoes and flour disappeared from supermarkets in a puff of hysteria, governments worldwide took steps to sure-up food supplies. And for many exporters, this included the unlikely option of banning the export of staple goods. In this febrile media environment, it doesn’t take long for an off-hand comment from a government official to make headlines and set alarm bells ringing in regions like the Gulf where 80% of food is imported. Our work with a major grain exporter in Ukraine led a programme that helped bring balance to the narrative and provide some calm. What’s been clear is...

SFA Insights: Domestic Legislation, International Trade

Effective communications from ambitious companies can be an excellent driver of investment, growth and opportunity in emerging markets. But what role can effective private sector communications play in building confidence abroad? This is a question we have been asking in Ukraine recently, where the business environment is seeking to benefit from the passage of two significant legislative changes – one in finance, the other in farming. The new laws on banking resolution and land reform have already paved the way for a crucial IMF loan package, but systemic issues like corruption, rule of law and the impartiality of the courts may yet keep foreign investors at arm’s length if unaddressed. We recently worked with Chatham House to develop this discussion by focussing on legislation around land reform and the steps still required to take Ukraine from IMF support to FDI success. https://www.chathamhouse.org/events/all/research-event/virtual-roundtable-land-reform-ukraine-zelenskyys-government-getting-it

SFA Insights: The Politics of Counterfeit PPE

You’ll have read about the fake news bubble around the COVID-19 pandemic, but did you know that there has also been a spike in fake products too? Since the start of the year, counterfeit and sub-standard personal protective equipment (PPE) has flooded the global market as hospitals, schools and workplaces scramble to sure-up supplies. With fakes posing a significant risk to healthcare professionals and the general public at large, one leading German business has been leading the fight back in Germany, turning their considerable expertise in testing and certification to create pop-up centres to test the quality of the masks, and eliminate substandard products. We worked with Bloomberg’s Prognosis podcast to explore a testing programme running 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, and analysing more than 800 million masks. With countries across Europe beginning to open up once again, and face masks becoming mandatory in many places, the prevalence...

SFA Insights: Food Security & COVID-19

COVID-19 has shed light on the fragility of many of the things we have come to take for granted. Restrictions on travel and open offices may be two of the most obvious ones, but perhaps you’ve noticed some of the more subtle ones too? The effects of the pandemic on global food systems has forced us to rethink the structures, policies and investments needed to build resilience, rather than efficiency. But if we’ve learnt anything from this year’s disruption, it’s that innovation and collaboration remain the most powerful catalysts for change, particularly in the agricultural space, and particularly in regions where the pandemic isn’t even the biggest issue facing farmers. Next year is going to be significant for how we think about food systems, and as we look towards the UN Food Summit, and hopefully a greater semblance of normality, we have the opportunity to boost efforts to transform agricultural production...