Global investors waiting to pour in money in Africa to firewall China

New Delhi: After a tepid inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) into Africa in 2020 amid the Covid-19, investors are once again warming up to the continent. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), FDI flows into Africa declined by 16 per cent in 2020 to $40 billion, from $47 billion in 2019.

China, the primary investor in the continent, has also slowed down its investments into the continent leaving an opportunity for other investors.

While the UNCTAD projected FDI inflow into Africa to grow this year, it said that the slow vaccine roll-out programme is a cause for concern. According to UNCTAD, FDI to the continent is projected to grow by only 5 per cent in 2021. But analysts said Africa as an investment destination has led to “an unprecedented curiosity” among other countries, which are now aggressively looking to mute China’s dominance in the continent.

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“Africa is critical in the new geopolitical and geo-economic contours. The continent, with its vast natural resources, offers a ready growth platform,” an analyst told India Narrative.

According to a study published by Brookings Institution last week, Africa is home to 17 per cent of the world population. However, by 2050, it will have 26 per cent of the global population — 2.53 billion people. “If Africa is not successfully integrated into the global economy, there could be a major threat to global prosperity and stability,” the study said, adding that by 2050, the continent will be home to an estimated $16.12 trillion of combined consumer and business spending.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) — the mega trade could give a push to intra-continental investment.

Touted as one of the biggest trade deals in the world, the AfCTA aims to create a single market comprising 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of about $3.4 trillion.

Meanwhile, the US may have woken up late in recognising the potential of Africa but is making all attempts to make up for the lost time.

The Group of Seven or G7 has already decided to support US President Joe Biden’s proposal of carving out a mega infrastructure plan under the “Build Back Better World” (B3W) initiative, expected to bring in transparency and sustainability. Besides, the initiative will be carried out only in consultation with local communities.

The G7 in its meeting in June also announced that it will increase its support to the Indo Pacific and Africa. “We resolve to collaborate with partners around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific and Africa, to actively promote these shared values for the good of all,” said the statement.

India too has pressed the pedal on investments in the region. Sources said that the still-born Asia Africa Growth Corridor — the mega infrastructure project that was launched in 2017 to connect Asia and Africa must be revived.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted that Chinese financiers committed $153 billion to African public sector borrowers between 2000 and 2019. “After rapid growth in the 2000s, annual lending commitments to Africa peaked in 2013, the year the BRI was launched. By 2019, though, new Chinese loan commitments amounted to only $7 billion to the continent, down 30 percent from $9.9 billion in 2018,” it said.

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