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If you hated GDPR you may like the African Continental Free Trade Area

For those struggling with GDPR there is a new $2.5 trillion target market that Nick Booth thinks is worth looking into

By all accounts the new GDPR regulations are going to be fatal for companies that run targeted advertising. It'll make it really complicated and fiddly for web site owners and publishers to seek consent for targeted ads on behalf of each client.

Good. Personally I hate all that snooping. The rise of the customer stalking system was the most invidious creepy development of this century. Imagine thinking that you have a ‘relationship’ with someone, just because they bought some shoes from your shop. If a love-sick shop assistant used all the personal information to monitor and track that poor hapless consumer for the rest of their lives, a judge would grant a restraining order in a gavel-beat.

GDPR will put a stop to this creepy invasion, snooping and targeting (CIST) of individuals in all but a few cases, because it just won’t be worth the bother.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the only people able to afford to fund the CISTing of the innocents will be those who can afford armies of shameless humans and automated CreepBots, who will be able to gain the necessary consent for targeted ads. One wonders what tactics they will use for that. I’m sure they will all be above board and not devious in any way.

The bottom line is that GDPR will make Europe a harder place to do business for targeted advertising.

Could that be an opportunity though? Many of us would relish a return to the days when advertising was warn, witty and creative, not cold, devious and invasive.

Is there a gap in the market for a new type of advertising model?

Come on solution providers. You’re always telling us how ‘innovative’ you are. This is your chance to prove it.

Meanwhile there are other markets that need to be explored. Unless you are a reader of Tate’s Export Guide, it may have escaped your notice that another exciting market opportunity is about to open up. The door is creaking very slowly open, mind, but there’s a huge market about to be opened.

In March 44 African heads of state met in Rwanda and produced a framework for trade unity among 54 African countries. The proposed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would be the world's largest free trade area ever.

The aim is to cut tariffs on intra-African trade, in order to create a single market of 1.2 billion people with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion. If the tariff-busting succeeds, it could boost intra-African trade by 53.2 percent. We’re looking at a $4 trillion market.

Will it work? Who knows? Toby Forbes, head of international sales at Adare SEC, is very keen.

“In terms of improving trade dealings with Africa, I’d like to see easier access to import tariffs for taxes and duties, more transparency with import taxes and duties and better trade deals – especially for Commonwealth countries,” says Forbes.

Meanwhile Tusha Shar, owner of Hull-based Integrated Power Solutions, has some advice for those interested in exploring this new market. IPS supplies data centre equipment, such as power supplies, solar panels and generators, to Africa. The good news is that British engineering is well respected in African nations and former colonies. It will take many years to reap the full benefits of an open market free of tariffs and restrictions practises, but companies should not stand on ceremony.

Shar targets West African nations, such as Nigeria and Ghana, as well as Kenya in the East. Each has a port that can be a gateway to landlocked, less developed nations. But there are restrictions on movement inland to nations such as Eritrea, which make trade unprofitable. If non-tariff barriers can be removed - and the richer nations will be a priority for action - these will become strategically important bridgeheads into landlocked central African countries whose fortunes will benefit from market liberalisation.

“We sell to West Africa in particular but there are blockages now when you want to move goods across from Nigeria to Ghana. There is free movement but it could be better,” says Shar, “There is massive bureaucracy getting customs clearance for moving goods from a port on a coastal nation to a landlocked destination like Zimbabwe or Eritrea. Egypt will become an increasingly important bridgehead between Africa and the Middle East.”

Africa is definitely the next big growth market, says Shar, but China is in place before us. If you do find some new customers, make sure you don’t stalk them though. We don’t want to export any more horrible habits.

This was last published in April 2018

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