Renewed interest in Africa rising among US investors – By Alhassan Yushau Babal-Waiz, ANA North America Editor

–As US-Africa Business Summit 2011 pitches new financing options

Asia 728x90

Senator Chris Coons, Senator Johnny Isakson and Stephen Hayes, President and CEO of The Coporate Council on Africa, celebrate the opening of the 8th Biennial US-Africa Business Summit
Latest African trade and investment growth figure is generating renewed interest among investors in the U.S. — as over a thousand investor communities, industry titans, key African and U.S. private sector and government leaders are currently identifying specific growth areas, examining information on investment ripe projects, while discovering latest financing options to boost further, Africa’s growth.

Apart from Asia, Africa is the only economy that survived the recent economic recession — with its growth increasing over 5%. Sustained at this pace, Africa will sell $1.4 trillion worth of goods and services by 2020.
So “there is a tie between improving the African economy and improving the American economy”, declares Stephen Hayes, President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in a pre-summit interview.

The three-day summit running from October 5-7, has convened nearly two hundred US firms — representing 85% of US private sector investment in Africa: drawn from nearly two dozen sectors ranging from infrastructure and finance, to healthcare and agribusiness, to security and telecommunications.

Nonetheless, a strong representation by high level African ministerial, legislative, and industry decision makers at the summit indicates the continent’s readiness to serve as a partner to push for an economy on the verge of take off.

To get business done effectively, the CCA’s impressive team has set in motion a bee hive of activities at three hotel locations in the heart of Washington D.C. — hosting over 30 country-specific and sector-specific forums, such as workshops, plenary sessions, “Business-to-business match-making sessions”; where U.S investors having troubles getting the right partners in Africa to work with, are linked up with reliable future business partners, summit EXPO; where African and U.S firms are showcasing their products and services, as well as “The Vault”; where financial institutions are presenting their financing capabilities to existing businesses looking to expand, as well as projects shopping for funding — an opportunity for funders to widen their portfolios.

Earlier yesterday (Wednesday 5 October), the summit kicked off by breaking into five-country specific business forums on Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Ghana.

Nigeria, which has been projected to take over South Africa as Africa’s biggest economy by 2025, had a filled-to-capacity hall – assembling an impressive team of presenters led by the Energy Minister, with the Nigerian Ambassador to U.S and his U.S counterpart, as well as industry leaders supporting him — as he guided prospective investors on how to successfully navigate the difficult terrain of investment in the country — highlighting efforts being made by the government to mitigate those obstacles, as some investors told their success stories of investing in Nigeria.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 — the country’s new development blueprint to transform the economy into that of middle income by 2030 was showcased with its political, economic, and social pillars at the forum. A high-powered ministerial and diplomatic delegation, led by the country’s trade and investment Minister, presented the emerging investment opportunities under the country’s development plan in some key sectors— highlighting the country’s Safari and flora industries.

Ethiopia, projected to be the world’s third fastest growing non-oil producing economy for 2011-2015, also had a high-powered ministerial and diplomatic delegation showcasing its expanding growth and urging potential investors to come and experience their growth process.

The forum on Zimbabwe, perhaps the most controversial economy among the five, came across as less controversial; It was all business, less politics — robust, engaging, and above all, collegial. Little wonder it was spearheaded by ABAZ – American Business Association of Zimbabwe – with representations across key sectors of an economy undergoing some serious house cleaning to boost investor confidence. Potential investors were taken through the difficult, yet highly rewarding investment climate in the country.

The “Doing business in Ghana forum”, however, seem to have generated the most interests amongst the investor community for obvious political and “new” economic reasons — seats run short; extra were provided, yet many participants stood on their feet throughout the four-hour high impact power point banter— which saw Ghana’s Trade and Industry Minister, Deputy Agriculture Minister, two high-ranking members of Parliament, Ghana Ambassador to U.S and his U.S. counterpart, as well as other government officials — eloquently making the case for Ghana as the “Gate Way to Africa”, with some captains of industry telling their success stories of investments in an economy described by the 2011 World Bank “Doing Business Report” – as the best place to do business with the ease of property registration and protection for investors.

At the Welcome Dinner last night, US Senate Chair of Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on African Affairs Chris Coon, lauded the joint congressional support for Africa while strongly making the case on the need to further strengthen the existing bi-lateral and multi-lateral co-operation. Leading the audience through an eye-opening narrative of his experience with the natives of a Kenyan village — back in his student days at the University of Nairobi, Senator Coons passionately reminded potential investors of the need to respect African culture and people – as they venture into the continent.

High-ranking Foreign Relations Sub-committee Member on Africa Affairs Johnny Isakson, who widely traveled in Africa, pitched Africa to potential investor in a unique fashion: “ America fought Britain to be leaders of the 19th century, the 20th century was said to belong to Asia…the 21st century belong to Africa”, Senator Isakson declared to a thundering applause…!

Alhassan Yusha, North America Editor