[Interview] Jonathan Bloch, CEO, Africa Financial & Economic Data
In response to the ever growing need for information and market analyses, Jonathan Bloch founded the Africa Financial & Economic Data, providing a library of intelligence on African economic markets.
Would you please introduce AFED?
African Financial & Economic Data (AFED) is a product of Exchange Data International (EDI) and provides definitive economic intelligence on Africa. AFED’s unparalleled overview of all 54 African economies provides interested parties in African countries with the detailed financial and economic information they need to make good political, financial, strategic and investment decisions. AFED covers a wide spectrum of indicators (50,000) covering all economic and social indicators. AFED focuses heavily on local sources and where available has databased information emanating from the various countries’ statistical bureaux and central banks. This data is updated as it is published. The data can be used by viewing on the web, downloading into excel, updated automatically through an excel plugin, through an API and as a data feed.
When and why was AFED set up?
AFED was launched in 2014 after several years of research. The databse was built as a result of demand from investment banks for detailed economic information on the entire continent.
What is AFED’s unique selling point?
AFED’s database is comprised of over 26 million data records gathered from local and international sources. Our database is divided in 3 packages (Country Profile, Sector Focus, Data Hub), can be tailored to fit every client’s needs, and using the charting functionality clients can easily display and compare data.
Have you founded any other companies?
The parent company of AFED was founded by myself with a partner in 1994. EDI provides financial information to stockbrokers, banks and those servicing them. We monitor all stock markets around the world with an emphasis on emerging and frontier markets.
Does AFED capture financial data from all African countries and all industries therein, or is there an area of interest?
AFED gathers financial and economic information from all 54 economies and is divided into 15 sectors:
Agriculture, Fishing & Farming
Automotive & Transportation
Employment, Income & Poverty
Environment & Infrastructure
Governance, Politics and Violence
Health & Pharmaceuticals
Information & Communications Technology (ICT)
Manufacturing, Retail & Wholesale
Real Estate, Building & Construction
Travel & Tourism
What kind of data are companies in Africa - and investors interested in Africa - looking for today?
Initially they want broad brush data (inflation, GDP, unemployment etc) and then they drill down to the sectors in which they are interested. Trade figures are also useful. For example a car manufacturer or supplier of spare parts would need information on consumer spending, imports of new cars, car registration numbers etc. The requirements vary dependent on the sector.
Is AFED’s intelligence made available to government agencies, NGOs, corporate entities, individuals?
Yes. AFED is available to anyone already with or looking to improve their footprint in Africa.
Has AFED entered into any strategic partnerships?
Yes. We’ve partnered with East View, a leading provider of native and translated foreign language information products and services. Through this partnership AFED has been adapted to the academic and social science market and they have launched a product which is geared for these sectors and is powered by AFED.
What can you say about the changes and developments AFED has undergone since its inception?
AFED was first launched in 2014 providing subscribers with dedicated access to a comprehensive suite of Africa centric economic, macro-economic and financial information. The AFED macroeconomic database was arranged into 13 Topics and covered over 18,000 economic indicators for all 54 countries.
In 2016, version 2.0 was announced. This new version gives clients more control over the data by introducing a new package system: Country Profile, Sector Focus and Data Hub. Divided into 13 topics the new database is comprised by over 26 million data records and over 50,000 indicators.
More recently we announced the availability of the BeastExcel plugin, enabling clients to access our data using Excel directly through the cloud and four new data feeds designed to meet clients’ needs for data which they can manipulate themselves.
Would you say that industries in Africa still lack access to the right information today, regardless of Information Technology having grown in the past decade?
The availability of data is improving. There are several projects to improve the gathering of data by the local statistical bureau as well as enhancing their reliability. Also, new forms of data are emerging for example satellite imagery, mobile telephone usage etc. However, Africa still lags with respect to other countries.
How is the demand for African data developing?
The demand is a direct consequence of trade and investment. To that extent the demand for data is subject to normal business cycles and fluctuations. Prior to the oil price collapse investment in Africa was increasing, but this has suffered since the price fell. However, we are now seeing this interest pick up. Africa is not going to go away.
What is the importance of having good data for doing business in Africa?
Africa is a large continent. It is also to a large extent an unknown one. Good data can point business people to the opportunities as well as the pit falls.
How can the intelligence you provide most conveniently be accessed?
AFED’s database can be accessed online via our website. In addition to this, clients can access the data via FTP feeds or API.
What can you say about the targets and plans of AFED for the year 2017?
AFED plans to make its information more readily available for the business community. It has recently launched an excel plugin which enables the automatic updating of data on the user’s computer. More importantly AFED is working with several publishers on joint ventures whereby the economic data gathered by AFED is provided as part of their publishing package. We are hoping to announce two such partnerships in 2017.