Selling Africa's growth story a challenge

Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:58am EST
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By Ben Hirschler

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Africa set out its stall in Davos this week, but selling the continent as an investment destination is tough.

Despite recent macroeconomic reforms and an impressive growth outlook, many investors remain wary of Africa.

"It is emerging as an important investment destination -- the evidence is there. I think what remains (to be seen) is whether investors see that opportunity," South African President Jacob Zuma said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

One big handicap is a lack of scale and liquidity. A Reuters survey of leading investment houses this week found Africa and the Middle East together attracted less than 1 percent of a typical global equity portfolio and barely registered when it comes to bonds.

The same issue affects Africa's nascent private equity sector.

"Africa is not capital short. It is transaction short," said Paul Fletcher, senior partner at private equity firm Actis, which specializes in investing in Africa and other emerging markets.

Still, the continent is raising its profile in the financial markets and Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, said planned bond issues from various African countries were an important step in the process.

Plans to issue international debt have largely been on hold due to the global financial crisis, but several African states -- including Angola, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia -- are starting to look for new issuance this year.   Continued...