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German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki on Oct. 31 in Berlin. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

African small businesses face an uphill battle attracting equity investments and are constrained by a funding gap of as much as $140 billion, according to a new report from the London Stock Exchange Group.

Why it matters: Small businesses account for nearly 90% of companies in Africa and provide nearly 80% of the continent’s employment, a much higher percentage than the United States' 53%. With Africa’s population set to double to 1.6 billion by 2050, these enterprises will play a critical role in creating local, sustainable jobs.

Recent commitments from the U.S., Germany and South African technology company Naspers have the potential to create a cascading effect that could attract more investors.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently announced the creation of a 1 billion euro fund that would offer equity financing to African small businesses as well as loans and equity financing to European and German firms. African companies could use these funds to access new technologies and build joint ventures to support international expansion.
  • The U.S. also stepped up to the table when President Trump signed the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, establishing the $60 billion International Development Finance Corporation to invest in lower-income countries. Replacing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, this new agency will have the ability to make equity investments and give technical assistance grants, critical to early-stage success for small businesses.
  • Naspers, Africa’s most valuable company, announced a plan to invest $314 million in South African tech businesses over the next three years, including local startups. While Naspers' success owes largely to its early (and lucrative) investment in Tencent, a renewed commitment to South Africa has the potential to attract more players to Africa’s startup scene.

What to watch: African countries continue to rank at the top of the list of most-improving business environments tracked by the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators. To support this growth, African countries will need to couple new investments with pro-business measures, including encouraging the movement of people, goods and capital across borders.

Aubrey Hruby is a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.

Go deeper

24 mins ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal complicates Big Tech regulation

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Microsoft's surprise $68 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard is adding a fresh twist to the heated debate over which tech companies have monopolies that need to be reined in.

The big picture: The deal could force a question the company has happily ducked for a decade: whether its size and power make it just as deserving of regulatory scrutiny as its Big Tech rivals.