Commercial News from Africa

A significant yet seldom highlighted World Bank statistic is that half of African countries (27 in total) are now classified as middle-income countries. Private equity has enabled businesses in Africa to grow by servicing rapidly gentrifying populations and is providing returns for investors that outstrip public markets. Among the most promising sectors is financial services, which has long been popular with the region’s private equity houses, particularly as technological innovations, such as mobile payments, have made financial services products more accessible for the remotest of communities and as banking reforms in many markets have led to consolidation. Other sectors that are attractive for private equity investments include consumer industries, infrastructure, telecoms, agriculture and forestry, and industrial goods.

Africa set to gain US$3bn infrastructure fund. Africa’s largest development lender, the African Development Bank, plans to launch a US$3bn infrastructure fund this month, aiming to raise money from regional and non-African pension funds, insurance groups, sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors. The fund, to be known as Africa50, will help the continent in delivering vital infrastructure through a new global partnership platform, according to the proposal by the African Development Bank. Africa needs about US$95bn a year to close an infrastructure gap in electricity, roads, railway and port. Current investment is running at about US$45bn. The AfDB, which will invest US$500m, aims to approve the fund this month during its annual meeting in Rwanda.

Ethiopia receives first sovereign Standard & Poor’s rating. Ethiopia has received its first sovereign credit rating from the top global agencies. Moody's assigned a B1 issuer ratings to the Government of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, averaging growth of more than 10 per cent per year over the last decade and attracting the likes of clothing giant H&M and private equity groups.

Rebasing the Nigerian Economy. Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer and the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 170 million people, has overtaken South Africa as the largest economy after a rebasing calculation almost doubled its gross domestic product to more than US$500bn. Nigeria’s market has been growing as an investment destination owing to the size of its consumer and growing capital markets. GDP growth averaged at 6% over the last 10 years despite global economic and local market challenges. Most governments overhaul GDP calculations every few years to reflect changes in output, but Nigeria had not done so since 1990, thus sectors such as Telecom Media and Technology (TMT) i.e. e-commerce and mobile phones, strong financial services, growing labour market and its prolific creative sectors such as “Nollywood” films now worth 1.4 % of GDP had to be factored in to give an up to date picture. This is in addition to the revenue generated from the petroleum industry which accounts for 95 % of Nigeria’s export earnings and 85% of total government revenue.

Private equity fund - a first for Tanzania. Locals have been urged to invest more in Tanzania as the country launches the Mkoba Private Equity Fund – the first ever private equity fund in the country. The Sh480 billion (US$300 million) fund aims to provide growth capital to portfolio companies not on the radar of most funds. The fund will focus on Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique, DRC, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone, targeting equity investments ranging from US$1.0 to US$15 million.

Biggest oil discovery yet in Kwanza basin off Angola. Cobalt International Energy has discovered significant quantities of oil offshore Angola, calling the find the biggest so far in the promising pre-salt layer in the Kwanza Basin. Oil drillers hope discoveries under a deep submerged salt crust off Angola known as pre-salt may match the prolific finds beneath similar deposits off Brazil on the other side of the Atlantic in recent years.    Analysts say Angola, Africa's No. 2 oil producer, could double its oil reserves, which are currently estimated at just under 13 billion barrels, if pre-salt drilling proves successful. Cobalt estimates the well may hold between 400 million and 700 million barrels of oil.

Kenya and Nigeria sign trade agreement. Kenya and Nigeria have signed three agreements and four memoranda of understanding aimed at promoting trade between the two countries. The agreements were on trade and agricultural cooperation which lay the foundation for businesspeople from Kenya and Nigeria to interact and promote business and make provisions for the two countries to work together in boosting their agriculture respectively. MoUs signed were on cooperation in police service, five year multiple visa for prominent businesspersons, cooperation in control of the possession and trafficking in narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances, and one MoU between Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was signed at a business forum attended by Kenyan and Nigerian businesspeople.