Africa Investment: Keeping the Promise

Published on 19th November 2019

Africa has been getting some very good news recently. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, H.E. Abiy Ahmed, won the Nobel Peace Prize. South Africa’s Springboks, captained by Siya Kolisi, won the Rugby World Cup! A great son of Africa, Masai Ujiri, President of the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship! And, Masai is right here with us in this Hall this morning, hopefully, with the NBA Championship Trophy! Of course, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya broke the marathon history running at under 2 hours!

Africa is rising — and Africa is shining! This is a new, more confident Africa. A continent now aware of its place in the world, and determined to be a global investment haven. Economic growth rates are encouraging. This year, 37 countries in Africa experienced growth rates of 3 per cent and above. And guess what? Six of the ten fastest growing regions of the world are in Africa.

Commodity prices are recovering. Foreign direct investments in Africa increased in 2018 by 11 per cent, compared to 4 per cent in Asia, and a decline of 13 per cent, globally. So, Africa is doing well on investments, but it still needs a lot more!

Africa is ready to absorb a lot more of those investments. The risk perceptions of the continent, while high, are often exaggerated. And they do not match what data shows on risk and return performance on investments.

Consider this for a moment: The Moody’s Investor Service on project finance bank loans between 1983 and 2016, shows that Africa has one of the lowest project default rates in the world; much lower than Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, North America and Oceania.

Yet, investments are tilted to the regions with the much higher default rates. So, it is not about real risks. It is all about perceived risks.

Last year, when we gathered for the inaugural Africa Investment Forum, we secured investment interests for deals valued at $38.7 billion — in less than 72 hours. A lot of progress is being made on these investment interests, with a highly dedicated team of partners working around the clock to accelerate financial closure for transactions.

Just a few examples:

The Africa Infrastructure Investment Fund to speed up investments in agriculture was presented here last year. It sought $500 million; and $500 million equity has been closed. Promise made, promise kept!

The Africa Guarantee Fund for investors sought $175 million to support Small and Medium Size Enterprises. The equity transaction has reached financial close. Promise made, promise kept!

In South Africa, the beef agro-processing project, which sought $350 million has reached financial close. The Alithea Identity Fund, a private equity fund specifically targeting women businesses, put up right here for $72 million, has reached financial close. Promise made, promise kept!

I was excited to see the Mara Phones launched last year. Today, they are now being produced, with the establishment of manufacturing plants in South Africa and Rwanda. Promise made, promise kept!

The railway project launched by Thelo DB to support Africa is advancing, and we will be discussing here the railway linking Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Promise made, promise kept!

We had here last year Masai Ujiri, President of the Toronto Raptors. He promised he would win the NBA championship. And guess what? He did! Promise made, promise kept!

In Ghana, the $600 million transaction for COCOBOD, to help improve processing and value addition for cocoa has reached financial close here in Johannesburg. Congratulations, President Akufo-Addo! Promise made, promise kept!

The Africa Investment Forum is not a talk shop: we deliver on concrete transactions! Our teams are working hard, and on target, to accelerate the financial close of several investments before the end of the year and complete financial closure for all investments— an incredible achievement for so many complex transactions. We promise, we deliver!

Africa has rebranded itself — not as perceived by others, but for itself. Africa has repositioned itself. Africa is harnessing investors’ interests and investments. Welcome to the Africa Investment Forum, the place to be for investors. If you can dream it, we can deliver it!

The size of the assets under management in Africa is over $1.8 trillion. Globally, assets under management exceed $145 trillion. What’s needed to close the $68-108 billion annual infrastructure finance gap for Africa is to leverage institutional investors. For that, we must develop more bankable projects, develop wider pools of risk mitigation instruments, and standardize our product offerings as multilateral development banks and financial institutions. We must do more on synthetic securitization to transfer risks on assets to the private sector, and balance short term and long-term objectives with risk-return profiles.

We look forward to getting more institutional investors to take stakes in bankable projects. Africa offers an incredibly compelling investment case. The African Continental Free Trade Area opens up a combined market size of $3.3 trillion- the largest Free Trade Area since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation.

Africa can no longer be ignored! The African Development Bank is geared up, more than ever, to help grow investments on the continent. Almost two weeks ago, the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank approved a General Capital Increase of 125% for the Bank. This increased the capital of the Bank up by $115 billion, from $93 billion to $208 billion. This is the highest capital increase in the history of the Bank since its establishment in 1964. The very strong support of the Heads of State, Ministers of Finance and Governors of the Bank from all our 80 shareholder countries made this possible. What a great achievement! What a historic moment for Africa!

With this wind behind our sail, the African Development Bank and its partners will do even more for Africa. We will support the private sector. We will de-risk investments more. We will work with our partners to syndicate more and leverage our capital. Together, through the Africa Investment Forum, we will speed up the development of bankable projects, secure financing, and accelerate financial close for projects. We cannot wait to see more deals discussed this year in the boardrooms.

Let’s shift our focus to the investment Boardrooms. We are an action-driven Forum! Now, let the transactions begin!

By Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina,

President of the African Development Bank.  

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