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African Investment – Not a Unique Risk

This morning I have listened to coverage of the World Economic Forum, particularly a panel discussion “DeRisking Africa.”   I urge all readers to view the entire 51 min. discussion of African investment yourself.  I just want to make some brief observations.

South African President, Jacob Zuma, began his contribution with an objection to the topic of the panel, DeRisking Africa.  “Is Africa more risky than any region in the world?”  He acknowledged that much of the world perceives Africa investment as risky business.  Yet, he contended it is not a perception grounded in fact.  Near the end of the discussion a non-panel member, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, said from the floor, “the major problem is that Africa’s story is written from somewhere else.  Not by Africans themselves.  Outsiders want to define Africa – they want to shape the perception of Africa…we should write our own story including levels of risk.”

Almost by definition, investment in anything, anywhere in the world comes with risk.  Africa is no different.  In fact, the current economic growth taking place in many African countries is proof that there is less risk in investing in Africa than in investing in many, much more developed countries of the world.  Sure, investors must do due diligence.  Not all investment opportunities are equal.

Without a doubt, there are some serious problems in Africa.  Widespread poverty and poor health conditions do exist.  I agree with Graham Mackay, Chairman, SABMiller, United Kingdom, who in his concluding statement said,  “trust in economic growth to solve the problems of the continent, that (growth) comes from the private sector, from business.”

As I said, you would do well to view the entire discussion.  It calls attention to some important facts about economic developments in Africa, from the point of view of governments and investors.  The moderator, Bronwyn Nielsen of CNBC Africa concluded the session by quoting a World Bank official. “The Africa train has left the station. If you are not on it, you risk becoming irrelevant.”

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