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US Business Experts Discuss Ways to Increase Investment in Africa - 2004-07-08

At an African policy seminar on Capitol Hill Thursday, business experts stressed the need for African countries to combat corruption in order to attract more foreign direct investment. Participants at the seminar, sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, admit that the task is large and complex.

Robert Ebel, an expert on the global petroleum industry, says corruption is a big problem in both oil rich Angola and Nigeria. He says global oil companies have been part of the corruption problem by paying big fees to individuals and governments where they do business. Mr. Ebel says the oil companies should be forced to disclose how much money they have paid and to whom, but that, he says, is not enough.

"But that doesn't do much good unless the government in turn indicates how much they received and what they did with the money," he said. "It is too late to prevent Nigeria and Angola from catching the 'resource curse.' What we have to do now is press for them to change."

Other experts say that in order to attract investors Africa needs to develop modern capital markets.

Nicholas Lapham of Conservation International, says because tourism has become Africa's second biggest earner of foreign exchange much more needs to be done to develop and preserve Africa's game parks and wilderness areas.

"These parks require good management and staff who will make sure that the wild life in those parks is well managed and to control poaching," he added.

Chester Crocker, a former U.S. assistant secretary for African affairs, said a major challenge is luring back the money that has been taken out of Africa for safekeeping. This capital flight, he says, totals billions of dollars.