UK: The African FDI Opportunity

Last Updated: 12 September 2018
Article by Geoff Cook

The commitment UK Prime Minister Theresa May made to invest £4bn into Africa during her visit to the continent last week should strike a chord with those familiar with Jersey's international ambitions.

During her speech in South Africa, the UK PM highlighted that the UK would be making a "fundamental shift" in its strategic approach to Africa targeted aid, to focus more on long-term economic objectives.

The announcement came shortly after the Egyptian government had confirmed it was looking to increase its foreign direct investment by more than 40% to $11bn, with a view to creating 750,000 jobs, as part of a five year development plan. And just yesterday at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China's President Xi Jinping pledged £46bn in financing for projects in Africa as part of China's efforts to link the continent's economic prospects to its own.

The opportunities for Africa and its collective ambitions as a continent are clear, with the International Monetary Fund estimating that Africa could be a key performer this year. There are a number of very good reasons for this, not least the fact that growth in Africa is expected to accelerate to 3.5% this year, up from 2.9% in 2017, with nearly a third of African economies growing by around 5%

Meanwhile, leaders in Africa are increasingly serious about transparency and clamping down on corruption; Africa's political landscape is liberalising; and the take-up of digital technologies by individuals and businesses across Africa is impressive.

There is clearly potential – but the flip side is that challenges still remain. As these latest commitments show, there is still a real need for foreign direct investment (FDI). It's what we at Jersey Finance have been saying for years.

Back in 2015, we published an independent study that shed light on Jersey's role in facilitating FDI around the world. It found that total global FDI by corporate investors stood at US$1.41 trillion in 2013, with such investment routed through IFCs at historically high levels, accounting for 6% of global FDI flows. 

It also found several African developing markets including Uganda, Mozambique, Egypt and Senegal benefit directly and indirectly from FDI originating from Jersey, to the tune of US$75.8 billion.

That report followed the publication in 2014 of the independent ' Jersey's Value to Africa' paper. It found that Africa's working age population is expected to double to 1.2 billion over the next 30 years and to support this, Africa will need to invest $85 trillion in infrastructure. 

At current levels of investment, it will fall $11.4 trillion short of that, with combined, aid, domestic profits and local governments able to plug less than half of this gap. The paper estimated that US$6.1 trillion would need to come from outside the continent through FDI with Jersey contributing between 0.5% and 1.5% of all foreign direct investment into the continent.

These finding still hold true - sourcing FDI into Africa is absolutely vital for Africa's future. The commitments made by the UK and Egypt's ambitions are absolutely a step in the right direction, but it is a small step in Africa's journey and there is still much more that needs to be done. It is my prediction that high quality IFCs will need to play an increasingly important role in making sure that FDI reaches its intended destination and has maximum impact.

We feel strongly that Jersey has an important role to play in Africa's future success, by providing a strong, robust, high quality platform to enable institutional investors to put their capital to work where it is most needed.

We took this message to London in the summer, at the Africa Financial Services Investment Conference (AFSIC) where we hosted a predominantly Jersey-based panel discussing the positive outlook of Jersey supporting African capital raising.

Earlier this year, we hosted a number of events in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, participated in the Africa Financial Services Investment Conference in London and took to the stage at the 4th Annual Private Equity in East Africa Conference in Nairobi to talk about how Jersey is supporting a growing number of African corporates and institutions looking to access global markets efficiently, safely and securely.

Later this year in October, we'll be returning to South Africa to host two Roadshow events in Johannesburg and Cape Town to emphasise both our ability to support outbound African investment, but also to work with overseas investors to facilitate Africa-focused FDI and enable much-need capital to be put to work.

There's no doubt that digital innovation, a burgeoning economically active population and global ambition have the potential to propel Africa to new heights – but that will need to be supported by considerable volumes of FDI, to support the necessary infrastructure investment that growth will require. The recent announcements from the UK and Egypt are acknowledgments of that. 

Centres like Jersey will need to play an increasingly vital role in enabling that to happen efficiently by providing the right expertise and regulatory framework to support high-quality inbound FDI to Africa.


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