Mr. Daniel Asiedu, MD/CEO of Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited has made a strong case for foreign investors to invest their funds in Africa, because of the continent’s vast potential.
Speaking exclusively to the B&FT in an interview ahead of the much-anticipated Vodafone Africa Business Leaders Forum scheduled to take place on the 10th – 12th November this year at the Accra International Conference Centre, Mr. Asiedu noted that “in the past ten years, six out of the ten fastest growing economies in the world have emerged from sub-Saharan Africa namely Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique and Rwanda.
This is further backed by IMF’s prediction that Africa will grab seven of the top ten places in the next five years. In the same vein, some research institutions have predicted that Africa’s economy will grow at an average of 7%, which is slightly faster than that of China.
This alone should inform investors of the huge potential Africa has, and that “the time for investors to get in on the action is now.” As a matter of fact currently, 40 percent of the continent’s one billion population live in the cities compared to 28 percent that lived in the cities in 1980. It is projected that the figure will rise to 50 percent by 2030 with Africa’s top 18 cities having a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion.
The combined GDP of African countries are greater than $1.6 trillion and larger than that of India or Brazil. It is the 10th biggest economy in the world. In addition, Africa’s real compound GDP growth has been 5% annually between 2002 –2009 which is at par with Russia and higher than that of developed countries.
He however stressed that democracy, which in turn has led to greater accountability, improvement of economic management, urbanization and rising incomes have all contributed positively to Africa’s success story.
Mr. Asiedu will be speaking at the Vodafone Africa Business Leaders Forum which is Africa’s largest leadership gathering in 2011. The theme of the event is ‘Enhancing Africa’s Business Opportunities through Effective Public Private Partnerships’, and it is being organized by BIA Conferences and B&FT.
On the forthcoming event, he said it has proven to be an excellent platform for political, business and civil society leaders in Africa to exchange ideas, network and push Africa’s development agenda forward.
“The fact that we are currently preparing for the 7th edition is an indication that the event has been successful and made a meaningful impact and I am really looking forward to taking part in this year’s event.
“I will be speaking specifically on the issues of cost of borrowing, bank profitability and access to inexpensive capital. There has been a lot of public debate on these areas and I would like to share my thoughts on them.”
He said governments in Africa have done their best to overcome the challenges which face businesses in Africa and we must applaud their efforts taking into cognizance the fact that they have worked with limited resources.
“However, there are still some challenges such as issues of excessive bureaucracy, infrastructure, qualified labor, corruption, health and education. These are not insurmountable problems and will be overcome in the long run.
“Financial regulation and a strong regulatory body are key factors for any investor, because essentially these factors assure the investor of the safety of his investment. Also key to investors is the judicial system. It must be seen to be fair and devoid of political or any other interference,” he noted further.
Mr. Asiedu mentioned that top investment destinations in Africa such as Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Mauritius, Morocco, Kenya, and Uganda have put together an array of incentives to encourage Foreign Direct Investments including the setting up of Export Free Zones, consolidating various agencies required to process investment procedures into one cohesive agency thus eliminating bureaucracy and shortening the timelines of investors.
They have also reformed their judicial processes, and improved their regulatory framework to permit profit repatriation, tax incentives and exemptions from import duties for raw materials needed for production.
On Zenith Bank’s presence in Africa and elsewhere, he said, “we can be found in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia and the United Kingdom. We also have a representative office in South Africa and will soon be in China.”
On reasons why the Bank is doing so well in Africa he responded, “Zenith Bank is a customer focused Bank. Our mission statement ‘To continue to invest in the best people, technology and environment to underscore our commitment to achieving customer enthusiasm’ underscores this service promise, and our business model is built around delivering convenient banking for our customers.”
“Uniquely we deliver our services on a very strong, robust and secure IT platform, enabling us to provide technology driven products and services which enhance our customers banking experience,” he added.
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