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Africa - A booming business destiny for US investors

afrol News, 18 August - The African continent continues to be one of the leading foreign direct investment destinations for US businesses, according to the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).

This is despite the period being one of the toughest global economic downturns in decades,the council, has said. In fact, recent data released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reveals that while other regions of the world are experiencing economic decline, Africa has experienced significant economic growth over the past five years and is expected to maintain a positive growth rate of 3.5% for 2009, the council further observed.

"The reliable growth that we are seeing in Africa is due not only to the wealth of opportunities available in Africa, but also due to its continued efforts for greater political stability and an unprecedented level of government reform to attract foreign investment," said CCA President and CEO Stephen Hayes. "Africa has proven itself to be an essential asset for companies across many business sectors."

According to the CCA a number of industries represent promising growth in Africa in the sectors that include the financial markets as well as the natural resources development.

For instance the CCA said while global foreign direct investment inflows worldwide fell by an estimated 21 percent in 2008, FDI inflows to Africa grew by 15 percent to $61 billion in 2008.

The council also said in relation to health, that in the next few years, Africa will need 550,000-650,000 hospital beds, 90,000 physicians, 500,000 nurses, and 300,000 community health workers, saying that the private sector has the potential to deliver between 45 and 70 percent of this needed increase in capacity. By 2016, the African healthcare market is projected to double, demanding an additional $25-$30 billion in new investments over the next 7 years, the council also added.

“Africa contributes more than 19 percent of US crude oil imports and many analysts predict that it will provide more than 25 percent of US imports by 2015. In 2008, Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Chad, Libya, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon were respectively the top sources of US oil and petroleum product imports from Africa,” said a statement by the council today.

It further pointed out demand for electricity in Africa is expected to grow by more than 50 percent over the next 20 years, saying this growth will come not only from harnessing the large amount of natural gas that is currently being vented or flared by gas producing nations across the continent, but also from the implementation of new technologies and innovations being developed by the private sector.

While also the council cites the growing tourism sector with an estimated expected growth to exceed $185 billion within the next 7 years, agribusiness is also another area said to have a great potential.

“With nearly 70 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans involved in agriculture or agriculture-related business and as much as a third of GDP being derived from agriculture, growth in Africa is founded upon growth in agriculture. Sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural exports totaled $25.3 billion in 2006, an increase from $14.7 billion in 2000,” the statement noted, further pointing on the natural resources development, that Africa supplies half the world's diamonds, a third of its gold, more than three-quarters of its platinum and palladium and accounts for about 12 percent of world oil supply.

Other opportunities highlighted by the council also include the new technologies as well as information and communication, with Africa said to account for 12 percent of the world's populations but hosting only three percent of the world's telephone lines.

To advance trade and investment flows between the US and Africa, CCA is hosting its 7th Biennial US - Africa Business Summit in Washington, D.C. from 29 September – 1 October, 2009, to which senior US officials, including President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have been invited.

During Mrs Clinton's trip to Africa last week, she applauded CCA's efforts to forge new, mutually beneficial private sector partnerships between the US and Africa. The three-day event will include more than 50 industry-specific sessions, with a focus on the most promising business sectors - agribusiness, financing, health, infrastructure, natural resources development, power and tourism. These sessions will also include dialogue among US and African business and government leaders worldwide.

"American businessmen and women don't always think of Africa as an attractive and potentially lucrative market," said Mr Hayes. "Yet, we know that international trade between the U.S. and many African countries is increasingly becoming an important part of a company's portfolio. The US also benefits when we import goods from Africa, which leads to enhanced consumer choice and job creation here at home. The Summit will speak to these issues," he added.

At the summit participants will also hear about the latest financing options, meet African heads of state and key government officials, and learn about the US-Africa policies of the Obama administration, while at the same time getting the opportunity to network with African and US private sector and government representatives and identify specific growth areas that are ripe for investment.

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