Painting Africa with the same economic brush is always a mistake; the Africa Rising narrative has cooled down since growth lost momentum in some countries and investors have become more strategic with chasing investment deals.
Egypt remains the most appealing for investors, according to RMB’s Where to Invest in Africa. The Arab country has stabilised its economy since the revolution and coup a few years ago. South Africa continues to be strategic for investors coming into the continent. Nigeria made a comeback into the top 10 this year helped by recovering oil prices and improved access to foreign currency. These three markets form almost 50% of Africa’s nearly US$7trn market size, said the research team at Rand Merchant Bank (RMB).
Here are the top 10 countries to invest in:
Egypt remains the largest market in Africa and one of the most diversified economies on the continent.
The North African country repositioned itself as a global investment destination in 2018. “We’re repositioning Egypt as a global investment destination, so we’ve moved forwards with comprehensive improvements in the business environment,” Sahar Nasr, the country’s minister of investment and international cooperation, told CNBC.
Some of those improvements to the business environment have resulted in renewed confidence in the economy. Tourism revenues more than doubled to $9.8 billion last year. Foreign investors’ holding of local debt has also increased.
Its population size – almost 100million – means there’s a possibility for future growth and demand for essential consumer goods. The Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said they are targeting a 5.6 per cent economic growth in the 2018/2019 fiscal year and 6.1 per cent growth in 2019/2020.
2. South Africa
Despite the political and institutional turmoil over the past few years, South Africa remains most investors’ gateway into the continent. It’s the largest receiver of foreign direct investment on the continent.
Since the new government led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the political environment has steadied but South Africa’s economy is still slowed down mostly by loss-making state corporations and weak sovereign ratings; that has doused investors’ optimism.
Its strong fundamentals like the strength of investor protection, auditing and reporting standards, the efficiency of the legal structure, protection of minority shareholders’ interests, mature capital market, availability of financial services, and quality of air transport infrastructure would help to keep investors’ attention.
Morocco is positioning itself as the new gateway to African markets – the foreign investment portal to other African economies.
To achieve its economic goals, the Moroccan government is cultivating allies across the Sahara than its Arab neighbours; it got reintegrated into the African Union, and it’s now courting West African leaders for integration into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The country has the advantage of having a more stable and receptive business environment than many sub-Saharan countries.
The economy is expected to grow by 4 per cent in the next few years.
One of the world’s fastest-growing economies but threatened by an increasingly high debt profile.
The East African economy has managed to corner significant foreign direct investments that has led to increased manufacturing activities. Fashion brands like H&M, Guess, J Crew, and Naturalizer have invested in manufacturing centres there.
With the probable privatization of some of its state corporations, increased government investment in local industries, human capital and special economic zones, Ethiopia would remain on investors’ radar in the next few years.
Kenya has seen sustained economic growth and a stable political environment in the last few years.
It’s youthful population, expansion in consumer demand and a highly skilled workforce has also played a pivotal role in attracting investors.
In the next few years, the growth is expected to continue underpinned by a good climate improving agricultural production and a better business environment. Oil pipeline, railways, ports and power generation projects would also drive foreign investments.
Rwanda doesn’t feature in the top five mainly because of its small market size. The country has one of the fastest-growing economies on the continent and a sound business environment – only Mauritius has a better business climate.
There’s been a significant increase in foreign direct investment in the past decade. Though there are limited opportunities for expansion in the market, investors would it suitable for entering other east African markets.
Mineral-rich Tanzania is one of east Africa’s largest economies, but growth looks to be slowing down.
In April, the government declined to authorise the publication of an IMF report on the state of the economy. The financial watchdog sees the economy growing at 4 per cent in 2019, far from the government forecasts of 7.3 per cent. The slowdown in the economy could have some implications for foreign investment flows to the country.
The government has also been accused of erratic business policies which RMB’s report says “lean towards economic nationalism.” In one example, the president demanded more significant shareholding for the state in Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s local unit earlier this year.
However, Tanzania’s mining, tourism and telecommunications sectors remain attractive for investors chasing deals on the continent.
Africa’s most populous country and second largest market has had a time of brief economic relief after a recession and rising inflation in 2016 and 2017. The relief is as a result of the recovery in global oil prices, which remains the country’s largest export earner due to the government’s failure to diversify the economy.
Even though the consumer market is large and domestic demand is growing, the lack of a diversified economy would continue to pose a significant risk to investment portfolios.
Ghana also has a commodity-dependent economy, making it susceptible to the vagaries of the international market.
Outlook is positive, however. It is to be sustained by a positive business environment and a peaceful political environment. The IMF says it would be the fastest growing economy in the world in 2019, at 8.8 per cent.
The rising public debt would be the only concern for the world’s second-largest cocoa producer.
10. Cote d’Ivoire
The world’s biggest cocoa producer has enjoyed a robust growth momentum due to higher government investment in infrastructure and a relatively stable political and business environment.
Public and private investment in national infrastructure has been the main driver for investments, especially transport infrastructure.
The research team at RMB believes that investments in transport and energy infrastructure would continue to drive foreign direct investment and aid inflows.