Despite the global
economic crisis, US investors are being told to strongly consider putting their
money in Africa. That'll be the message
later this month when Washington hosts the 7th Biennial US/Africa
on Africa CEO Stephan Hayes describes Africa as a "booming business
opportunity." He says the upcoming
summit will allow US companies to see the continent as an "essential asset
across many business sectors."
Think it's this
country's best chance to get US business focused on Africa. There's not another program like it. It's where government and private sector come
together every two years. And because
it's in Washington, D.C., you've got some key government leaders also providing
leadership," he says.
President Obama and
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been invited to speak, as well as the
US trade representative and commerce secretary.
"We're also going
to see a lot of government ministers from Africa. We also have about 10 heads of state that are
coming so far," he says.
In all, about 2,000
people are expected to attend the summit, most from the American private
United States private sector is the largest investor in Africa, but so much of
that is in oil. If you take away oil out
of the equation, then a lot of other countries are greater investors…. China will also likely pass us up this year
in investment in Africa," he says.
US firms invest
about $40 billion a year in Africa. Most
of that is in energy. Agribusiness is
also a major investment target. But Hayes
says it's time to diversify.
Building up Africa
"It's the major
need in Africa right now. In order to
get things to the market, in order to have ports that work, there's got to be
enormous infrastructure development.
China is certainly filling that void to certain extent, but there's
still such a great need there are opportunities for American business as well,"
Cell phones are
another area of investment.
basically just skipped over landlines and gone to mobile cell phones, doing
business by that. And yet, less than 10
percent of the population of Africa is using those cell phones. So there's a tremendous market," he says.
The head of the
Corporate Council on Africa says other promising areas include tourism, health
care and power.
"They can only grow
as fast as the power is that allows it to grow.
You can't have the IT (Internet) technology). You can't have roads unless there's also a
power sector that keeps up with that growth.
And right now that growth is just about hitting the maximum power
capabilities," he says.
While Hayes touts
Africa as being ripe for investment, what assurances does he give regarding
"I can…give you the
same assurances that you can give in the United States. There's always risk with your
investment. So you've got to do proper
due diligence. But there are many
countries in Africa that are good places to invest and solid places to invest.
Business Summit in Washington runs from September 29th through
Council on Africa is a non-partisan organization representing nearly 200 US
companies, which represent nearly 85 percent of US private investments in