News / Africa

Is Investing in Africa a Good Bet?

South African President Jacob Zuma at World Economic Forum 2013 Annual Meeting in Davos (Credit: WEC)
South African President Jacob Zuma at World Economic Forum 2013 Annual Meeting in Davos (Credit: WEC)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Many sub-Saharan countries have had sustained economic growth despite the global recession. But conflict, political instability and weather extremes in some areas may keep investors away. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, African leaders and others talked about what’s being done to make the continent more attractive to investors.


From the start, those on the panel questioned the title, De-risking Africa. South African president Jacob Zuma said, “I’ve been questioning myself about the topic. De-risking Africa. Is Africa risky more than any other region of the world? Somebody will have to explain to me because it looks like there’s a perception about Africa which needs to be dealt with.”

Zuma said that he takes issue with that perception, adding that many African leaders have taken measures to ensure stability in their countries.

“African leaders have collectively come together to do things that [are] going to make Africa to move forward. We have collectively dealt with the issue of democracy in the continent of Africa. We are entrenching democratic rule. We have taken a decision to grow our infrastructure; to grow our intra-trade. We are moving to integrate the five economic regions in the continent,” he said.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan agreed that overall, the continent has become much more stable politically and economically.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at 2013 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. (Credit: WEC)Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at 2013 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. (Credit: WEC)
x
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at 2013 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. (Credit: WEC)
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at 2013 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. (Credit: WEC)

“Before this time, the growth rate has been stagnant, just as Zuma said. But over the period the growth rate of a number of African countries is significantly above the world average. Countries like, of course, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Liberia, though they are small economies. But in terms of growth it’s quite significant. That shows a focus and a promise,” he said.

Jonathan was asked whether Nigeria is vulnerable to global economic shocks because it relies so heavily on one commodity – oil.

“Any country that depends on one major commodity – it’s a big risk because anything that affects the oil production or the global oil price – it affects us. Of course that is one aspect. And that is why we are looking to different areas,” he said.

These include agriculture and minerals.

“We have the potential,” he said.

He added that the opportunity for Nigeria to diversify its economy is due to political stability after years of political turmoil, including military rule.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, president and CEO of the Indian firm Bharti Enterprises and co-chair of the India-Africa Business Council, took part in the discussion. His company provides mobile telecommunication services.

“I think the African continent and most of the nations welcome foreign investment. When I moved in three years back, I was amazed at the welcome we received in every country, including Nigeria. In Nigeria of late we see a lot of stress in the upper north, where Boko Haram had been targeting cell sites, switching centers. And the support that we have received from the government has been tremendous. Security has been beefed up. People have been reassured, especially foreigners who are working there. And that’s what counts in the end,” he said.

Mittal said that it only took about 80 days to get a mobile operation up and running in Rwanda.

“Will Africa have issues from time to time which will scare investors, which will worry investors? That’s a fact of life. There are some pockets – a new one developing in Mali now, upper Nigeria, some of the parts of Congo and the northwestern border. Issues will be there. But investors go with their eyes open. The opportunity is big. The prize to be won in the end is very big and the growth is there. At the end of the day, all emerging markets offer growth. But today really the last bastion of big growth is the African continent,” he said.

Among those concerned about security in Africa is Louise Arbour, head of the International Crisis Group and former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She said that despite Africa’s economic growth, many leaders and regional economic groups are devoting more of their time and attention to resolving conflict. Those driving factors include competition for resources, organized crime, radical Islamist militias and piracy off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Behind these ostensible, sort of, conflict drivers I think there’s a commonality of issues that the continent still is struggling to address. I think the first one is issues of governance. Most importantly, political and economic exclusion. And finally, still very weak institutions. So to varying degrees, in varying countries, these underlying issues, I think, continue to pose a very, very serious challenge,” she said.

The company SABMiller has been operating breweries in South Africa for more than a hundred years. And since the end of apartheid in 1994, it has branched out to other African countries.

Chairman Graham Mackay said, “In my perspective, it’s not so much a question of de-risking. It’s taking the brakes off what is already remarkable economic progress by removing some of the bottlenecks. I don’t know of any part of Africa where we could have invested because we thought there was demand and didn’t for risk factors. We were the first investor into South Sudan, I think, of any kind. Great big brewery there next to Juba just after independence.”

He said that the South Sudan brewery has more than doubled in size since it opened. Mackay also said there are hundreds of millions of people coming into Africa’s cash economy, who are looking for quality goods.

“We don’t hold back on investment because of risk factors. We invest as we think the markets can grow,” he said.

But there are ongoing issues threatening stability in some regions, such as the conflict in Mali. Nigerian president Jonathan says the terrorists and extremists must be contained and he thanks France for its intervention. International Crisis Group’s Louise Arbour says the situation in Mali has already destabilized the region and fears militarization could take on a life of its own.

In South Africa, President Zuma acknowledged that violent labor disputes and strikes have been a problem, both socially and economically. But he said those issues are being addressed through better bargaining agreements.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame, who was in the audience, said there is often a misperception about Africa because its history is written by non-Africans. He said that it’s time for Africans to write their own story.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid