The financial strain some African economies have faced recently due to lower demand for exports, weak currencies and low commodity prices have made some commentators call into question the validity of the ‘Africa rising’ narrative. The IMF expects sub-Saharan Africa will post a 3 percent GDP growth rate this year – a decline from the 5–7 percent range recorded over the last decade.
But despite the headwinds, pan-African lender Ecobank notes some countries are still growing fast on the back of increasingly diversified economies, an expanding consumer class and rising capital inflows. Below are Ecobank’s five hot spots for investment in Africa.
Africa’s second most populous nation has, over the last decade, recorded rapid economic growth which is likely to continue in coming years. Ethiopia’s government is investing in large infrastructure projects, including a US$475m light rail system in the capital Addis Ababa that was unveiled last year; a $5bn mega dam that will generate 6,000 MW of electricity for domestic use and export; and it has proposed a $4bn new international airport outside the capital.
The horn of Africa nation has provided incentives for investors, attracting millions of dollars in agricultural production and manufacturing. A large – and mostly young – population, rising income levels and urbanisation are also influencing investor interest in Ethiopia.
However, the Ethiopian economy faces risks in the form of weather-related shocks that could push up inflation, and persistent overvaluation of the currency that could impact exports.
After almost a decade of political instability, Côte d’Ivoire has emerged from the rubble to become a formidable economy in francophone West Africa. The commercial capital Abidjan is a nest of business activity that have attracted global supermarket chain Carrefour and commercial property developers.
The country also holds opportunities in agriculture. It is a leading producer of cocoa and rubber, and the government has recently sought to revive coffee and cotton production, which went down during the conflict.
But Ecobank says Côte d’Ivoire’s political environment could pose some future challenges. Given the recent history, there is a chance the opposition party could seek to raise tensions and disrupt the political balance.
Senegal’s economy will likely grow by more than 6% this year. In 2014 Senegal adopted a development strategy, Plan Sénégal Emergent, to accelerate public and private investment in 18 key projects across industries such as infrastructure, mining and agriculture.
Senegal’s energy sector has also been reignited with recent offshore oil and gas discoveries. Although stable politically, Ecobank says unfavourable weather could affect agricultural production. The bank recommends enhanced economic governance, including performance contracts for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) receiving financial support from the government to avoid widening of fiscal deficits.
Although Ghana has faced tough times recently following the steep decline of commodity prices and a severe electricity crisis, Ecobank says its economy will likely expand by 5% this year. The growth will be driven by economic reforms the government is working on with the IMF, improved cocoa output and a possible slight rise in global commodity prices.
Besides the crude oil industry, Ghana is also attractive for investment in agriculture, real estate and financial services.
But overall, Ecobank warns that Ghana still faces risks due to slowing growth in China (an important trade partner), a domestic electricity crisis and the possibility of a further fall in oil and metals prices.
Recently released statistics show Kenya’s economy expanded by 5.9% in the first quarter of this year. This was partly due to improved security and a rebound of the important tourism sector that had been paralysed by terrorist attacks.
East Africa’s largest economy has a well-established private sector base, agricultural resources and a relatively educated workforce. Ecobank notes ongoing reforms, greater private consumption, public infrastructure investment and favourable weather conditions will accelerate Kenya’s growth in 2016.
However, the country should watch out for heightened volatility in global markets that could further devalue the local currency and lead to rising inflation. Ecobank warns that further al-Shabaab attacks could also dent future growth.