Egypt is Africa’s new #1 investment destination

The challenge for African economies is to adapt to commodity slowdown and sluggish production growth. Many countries have suffered stress in the past three years, and the latest report from a leading investment bank suggests the new winners – and who is lagging. Rand Merchant Bank’s (RMB) Where to Invest in Africa 2018 report shows changes in the top investment destinations in Africa.

South Africa is off the top spot, edged aside by Egypt, and Nigeria and Algeria have crashed out of the top 10. The theme is “money talks” and focuses on major sources of dollar revenues, important income-generators and investment opportunities.

But the report compares 191 global jurisdictions and measures African against country groupings. African countries are still at the lower end of the global-performance spectrum, which is still dominated by the US, UK, Australia and Germany.

In Africa, according to the RMB press release, there is a new pharaoh in town: “Egypt (#1) displaced South Africa (#2) largely because of its superior economic activity score and sluggish growth rates in South Africa, which have deteriorated markedly over the past seven years. South Africa also faces mounting concerns over issues of institutional strength and governance though in South Africa’s favour are its currency, equity and capital markets which are still a cut above the rest, with many other African nations facing liquidity constraints.

“Morocco (#3) retained its third position for a third consecutive year having benefitted from a greatly enhanced operating environment since the Arab Spring which began in 2010. Surprisingly, Ethiopia (#4), a country dogged by socio-political instability, displaced Ghana (#5) to take fourth spot mostly because of its rapid economic growth, having brushed past Kenya as the largest economy in East Africa. Ghana’s slide to fifth position was mostly due to perceptions of worsening corruption and weaker economic freedom.

“Kenya (#6) holds firm in the top 10 at number six. Despite being surpassed by Ethiopia, investors are still attracted by Kenya’s diverse economic structure, pro-market policies and brisk consumer spending growth. A host of business-friendly reforms aimed at rooting out corruption and steady economic growth helped Tanzania (#7) climb by two places to number seven. Rwanda (#8) re-entered the top 10 having spent two years on the periphery, helped by being one of the fastest reforming economies in the world, high real growth rates and its continuing attempt to diversify its economy.

“At number nine, Tunisia (#9) has made great strides in advancing political transition while an improved business climate has been achieved by structural reforms, greater security and social stability. Cote d’Ivoire (#10) slipped two places to take up the tenth position. Although its business environment scoring is still relatively low, its government has made significant strides in inviting investment into the country leading to a strong increase in foreign direct investment over the years resulting in one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

“For the first time, Nigeria (#13) does not feature in the top 10, with its short-term investment appeal having been eroded by recessionary conditions. Uganda is steadily closing in on the top 10 though market activity is likely to remain subdued after a tumultuous 2016 marred by election-related uncertainty, a debilitating drought and high commercial lending rates.

“Though Botswana, Mauritius and Namibia are widely rated as investment grade economies, they do not feature in the top 10 mostly because of the relatively small sizes of their markets – market size has been a key consideration in the report’s methodology.”

RMB Africa analysts spoke on economic trends:

Neville Mandimika: “The last three years have sounded an alarm, amplifying what is now a dire need for the economies of Africa to shift their focus from traditional sources of income to other viable alternatives.”

Celeste Fauconnier: “Over the past three years, some African governments have had to implement deep and painful budget cuts, announce multiple currency devaluations and adopt hawkish monetary policy stances – all as a result of a significant drop in traditional revenues.”

Nema Ramkhelawan-Bhana: “Some countries have been more nimble and effective than others in managing shortfalls,” says and an author of the report. “But major policy dilemmas have ensued, forcing governments to balance economically prudent solutions with what is politically palatable.”

Where to Invest in Africa 2018 also includes 191 jurisdictions around the world, and measures Africa’s performance relative to other country groupings. The report is available via: www.rmb.co.za/globalmarkets/where-to-invest-in-africa-2018-edition.

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