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US Financial Turmoil May Limit Overseas Investment


A team of American investors currently touring Africa looking for opportunities says the U.S. financial crisis could sharply restrict western investment in emerging economies. But VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports Africa's best economic performers appear well-placed to avoid the fallout from the downturn in global markets.

The tour of African capitals was planned before the latest financial shockwaves that unnerved investors and prompted urgent action in Washington to prop up markets. Several executives who had signed up to participate have stayed home or cut short their visits to attend to business back home.

But the half dozen brokers and hedge fund managers who stopped in the Ethiopian capital this week agree Africa still presents excellent investment opportunities for those willing to take the risk. Zoran Milojevic of the New York brokerage firm Auerbach Grayson says African markets are mostly immune to the shock waves rocking more developed economies.

"We believe this crisis taking place in the United States and western Europe has very little impact on what's happening on the African continent because it has been secluded and totally uncorrelated with the rest of the world," Milojevic said. "That said, the four major African capital markets which are Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, being the largest and most liquid ones, have been as of late following the trends of underperforming. The other ones such as Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Zambia have been doing pretty well."

Another member of the team, Cliff Quisenberry of the U.S. west coast firm Caravan Capital says despite the relatively better investment climate in Africa, global economic jitters (worries) are prompting investors to postpone or cancel plans to take advantage of African opportunities.

"I do think the environment is very negative in the U.S. and it has implications worldwide, for the world economy," Quisenberry said. "The disadvantage of that for somebody like myself is it does make people a little bit more on edge. Their tolerance for risk drops and they may view Ethiopia or some of these frontier markets as risky. Even here in Ethiopia I've heard of a few instances where funding that was coming out of the U.S. has kind of been turned off."

Economists in Addis Ababa say a downturn in the U.S. economy could result in a drop in the estimated one billion dollars a year in hard currency remittances sent from Ethiopians living abroad to relatives back home. But African financiers say there could be a silver lining to the dark economic cloud. As one put it, 'the less attractive the West is as a point for investment, the more the developing economies benefit."