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Developing Africa's Private Sector

On Monday, Africa Business Direct (ABD) was officially launched, a Webventure with the stated aim of "Expanding African Business Globally."

A joint venture between two American entrepreneurs and South African publisher, WriteStuff Publishing, Africa Business Direct is a business portal that divides its audience into two distinct marketplaces: African businesspeople seeking cross-border trade and investment opportunities, both regionally and globally; and foreign businesspeople seeking profit in Africa.

The site is currently centered around research engine, providing access to selected global business and cross-border transaction related information from a variety of sources, including proprietary information produced by ABD's staff. A monthly newsletter is on offer and a Global Business Resources Mall, where users can buy a variety of products and services.

ABD is organized into seven overlapping business centers that focus on News, Travel, Market Intelligence, Investment, Trade, Franchise and Training. Each center provides information and access to services offered by ABD and its affiliates.

These services are one of three ways the venture intends to generate revenue, according to Michael Sudarkasa, one of the founding entrepreneurs (the other is Chip Krakoff). ABD is creating a network of professional service providers that users can solicit services from -- credit analysis, for example -- with ABD taking its cut.

The second line of revenue is offline publishing; WriteStuff, the content partner, publishes the South African Business Guidebook, among others, and ABD hopes to duplicate these guides, as well as additional publications, for other African countries.

The final revenue stream is a joint venture between ABD and Eagle Executive Suites to develop shared office space in 16 African countries. Among the greatest impediments to doing business in Africa, says Sudarkasa, is the lack of infrastructure; the developed workspaces will provide communications, connectivity and business support services in most of Africa's major commercial centers.

The venture will also allow ABD to place professional staff across Africa, creating a true regional presence for the company.

It is encouraging to see investment in Africa, especially when not limited to a single operation but applied to the African Private Sector as a whole. The development of Africas Public Sector receives much attention, says Sudarkasa, but the Private Sector, driven by entrepreneurs and cross-border trade, is pivotal to Developing Nations and should likewise be developed.

Sudarkasa and Krakoffs attempt to promote cross-border trade and establish a spirit of entrepreneurship in Africa has cost them roughly US$100,000 to date. Money raised mostly from friends and family, says a tired-sounding Sudarkasa.



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