Friday, 29 February 2008

Has Africa reached a ‘tipping point’?

This was a phrase coined at the Africa Investment and Finance Conference on 22nd February 2008. The consensus of the optimistic audience was that Africa has moved on from being the destination of only high-risk investments, to a burgeoning market where the investment rewards are waiting to be reaped. The African Development Bank proudly asserted that now only 3% of their investments in Africa are unsuccessful. And in a time of extreme volatility in the markets of the developed western world, Africa offers a promising alternative destination for new capital.

Companies who ten years ago took a long-term view of investing in Africa are now reaping the benefits. Celtel for example has experienced extraordinary growth in the mobile telephony market, and has recently been involved in setting up Satya Capital to invest in other business opportunities on the continent.

And it is not just one sector that is showing high potential, but expectations of growth are predicted in the hotel industry, the power sector, infrastructure and construction, mining and financial services. It is not just big business either – SMEs growth is also ready to explode.

Amidst all this possibility, what about the bouts of political instability that we cannot deny occur? Kenya being the most recent example which is currently experiencing an economic downturn as a consequence of the violence. The delegates I enquired of at the conference all concurred – it was anticipated to only be a short-term fall (with today's news a sign of real hope).

The future for Africa is considered bright and it is the long-term view that the conference delegates considered all important for the continent.

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