Foreign investors undeterred by challenges facing Africa


This is according to members of the ‘Achieving Africa’s Growth Agenda’ panel discussion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2015.

Panellists included South African President Jacob Zuma, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Nigeria Stock Exchange chief executive, Oscar Onyema, the chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria, John Coumantaros and Sunil Bharti Mittal, the chairman of Bharti Enterprises.

“Africa has faced a lot of challenges historically. But over the years, we have reduced the amount of conflict in the region,” said Zuma.

Kagame added,” The reality is that Africa is relatively stable.”

The panellists also agreed that despite the security challenges in Nigeria relating to Boko Haram, falling commodity prices and the lack of infrastructure, foreign investors have continued to pour funds into the continent.  

“When investors look at the countries they want to invest their resources into, they have to consider risk, but this applies to every region, not just Africa. You have to ensure that your assets are safe. Most of the challenges Africa is facing are isolated. I believe there is a risk but it’s not as big as we make it out to be,” Onyema explained.

(READ MORE: Africa still an attractive FDI investment destination)

“Africa got about 57 billion US dollars in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2013, this shows the confidence that the investor community has in Africa.”

Mittal added that most African countries and industries offer worthy investment opportunities and that small pockets of terrorism shouldn’t chase investors away.

“Africa has enjoyed ten years of peace which brought in a lot of investment. Gone are the days of Africa relying on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for financial aid,” he said.

However, the panellists did indicate that the continent faces a number of issues, that need to be resolved before the region can achieve optimal growth.

Mittal said that while oil pressures and the softening of global commodity prices remain some of Africa’s biggest challenges, infrastructure is still the key concern.  

“In the absence of infrastructure, you are losing a lot of GDP growth. Africa needs to build its infrastructure and for this, you need to have much more alignment from within,” he explained.

“You need to link the continent through a massive infrastructure rollout.  If you want to see Africa grow, infrastructure is key.”

Zuma added that the lack of infrastructure on the continent is also to blame for poor intra-trade relations.

“Investment in infrastructure is therefore key to achieving sound intra-Africa trade agreements,” he said.

(READ MORE: Africa still a top FDI destination)

Another grave concern, Onyema added, is the difficulty associated with travelling within the continent.

“I believe the movement of people needs to be addressed.  If you’re an African travelling through Africa, you still need many visas. It takes political will to change this,” he said.

The panellists also agreed that collective leadership among African governments is necessary in order to move the continent forward and to address the obstacles that are holding it back.