The RMB Investment Attractiveness index looks at countries’ economic and operating environments to assess their potential to attract investment.
Its recent report, ‘Where to Invest in Africa 2019’ says Africa’s overall operating environment has improved only marginally since 2017 due to difficulties in getting financing, corruption, inadequate infrastructure and weak governance.
In East Africa, the report ranks Kenya as the most attractive, attributing this to the political reconciliation after the disputed 2017 presidential election and the country’s sustained consumer demand.
Second placed Rwanda, rated one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, has more than doubled the efficiency of its business environment in less than a decade with the government investing heavily in domestic industries.
Tanzania ranks third in the region, the report asserted, citing positive factors as government tax breaks, development of special economic zones, investment in public infrastructure and growth in the services sector as incentives for foreign investors.
In the larger Eastern Africa, South Sudan is the worst rated country to do business on the continent, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.
South Sudan’s business environment has deteriorated the most, as its political instability prevents the economy from developing.
A political peace deal in Juba notwithstanding, it will be a while before investor confidence recovers to post-Independence, pre-war levels.
Ethiopia, which is Africa’s fastest-growing economy, has successfully managed to nurture its comparative advantage particularly in agriculture and manufacturing, and its demand for goods and services is rising significantly given a market size of about 100 million people, it was highlighted.
Most attractive destinations
Continent-wide, Egypt has retained top spot as the most attractive investment destination for the second year in a row, helped by its expanding consumer market, increasing availability of hard currency, exchange rate stability, a diversified economy and steady improvement in the business environment, particularly investment-related legal reforms.
It is followed by South Africa, Morocco and Ethiopia, with Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in fifth, sixth and seventh place respectively. Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire complete the top 10 positions.
Egypt, which is Africa’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment, has the largest consumer market in the Middle East and North Africa.
“Egypt’s economic activity scoring continues to dominate that of South Africa, as the latter's growth forecasts and the size of its economy are inferior to Egypt’s. This has weighed down its investment scoring,” the report asserted.
In 2018, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa were the three largest markets in Africa in terms of GDP, and they are expected to maintain these positions. Together, the three markets make up almost 50 per cent of Africa’s estimated $7 trillion market.
On a regional basis, North Africa dominates with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya contributing 37 per cent to Africa’s overall GDP.
Easiest business environment
Mauritius has the easiest business environment in Africa followed by Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa and the Seychelles.
The country's ease of doing business has been boosted by its developed infrastructure, healthy, well-educated workforce, the most efficient goods market and strong institutions.
The report says that a pick-up in the growth momentum in Africa and improving individual operating environments are key to attracting foreign investment to the continent.
“And investors being even more discerning about which emerging and developing markets to invest in, this exposes the urgent need for governments to prioritise competitiveness-enhancing business-environment reforms,” it maintains.
RMB projected that Africa’s growth momentum is expected to slow down — with only a modest pick-up from 3.9 per cent in 2018 to 4.1 per cent in 2019.
High debt levels and a slowdown in credit growth pose significant risks to Africa’s growth outlook in the medium term, the report intoned.