ABUJA, April 10 (Reuters) – Election officials in Nigeria
counted ballots from parliamentary polls through the night into
Sunday, some arriving by horseback, in what they hope will be
the nation’s first credible vote in almost two decades.
Results starting to trickle in around Africa’s most populous
nation showed a strong performance by opposition parties, but in
remote areas such as the northeastern state of Borno on the
fringe of the Sahara, ballot papers were fetched by horse.
According to the shame-faced head of Nigeria’s electoral commission, one of the excuses given by suppliers who failed to get ballot papers to the country in time for Saturday’s parliamentary ballot was that there had been problems as a result of the tsunami in Japan.
Contractors in Nigeria tend to be pretty adept with their excuses, whether it’s about a failure to fix the plumbing or to build a highway on time, but this one stands out for its audacity.
High commodity prices have certainly helped African producers both because it means they get paid more for their exports and it encourages investment to increase production.
But almost all the speakers at the Reuters Africa Investment Summit have agreed that the change in Africa is driven by more than just digging minerals out of the ground, pumping oil or growing crops for foreigners to consume.
Not so long ago, anyone with the talent and means was heading out of Africa in search of better paid and more fulfilling professional work.
That’s all changing and the emotional appeal of a return to the home country is playing a less important part in the Back to Africa decision than the jobs and opportunities suddenly opening up thanks to fast economic growth and expanding financial markets.
Zambian President Rupiah Banda doesn’t expect much on the political front, at least not in his country.
Two of the world’s biggest banks told the first day of the Reuters Africa Investment Summit that they planned to strengthen their presence in the continent as their own customers see their businesses here grow.
Citi’s Africa CEO, Naveed Riaz, said it may expand into three new African countries over the next 18 months to strengthen its corporate and investment banking business. He didn’t say which, but interestingly a return for Citi to Angola didn’t appear to be among the top targets despite its oil wealth.
You can’t discuss investment in Africa without looking at the risks and there is no doubt that corruption is among those.
Patrick Lumumba, director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, has plenty of experience of trying to fight graft and has the death threats to show for it. He spoke to the Reuters Africa Investment Summit and had some harsh words for the continent’s leaders – including those in Kenya.
While Africa becomes ever more attractive for local and foreign investors, the biggest danger for its biggest economy is that it fails to seize on the opportunities it has in the changing world, South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told the first Reuters Africa Investment Summit.
Plenty of short term money has flowed into South African assets – something of a headache for its policymakers as a strong rand currency makes its exports less competitive even if it helps keep inflation under control.
From March 7 to 10, political and business leaders from around Africa will be joining us for the inaugural Reuters Africa Investment Summit to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing investors in Africa.
One of the key areas of interest will be financial services and ahead of the summit, consultancy Bain & Company released a study indicating that the $107 billion industry could grow by an impressive 15 percent a year until 2020.
So far there hasn’t been much political fallout in the rest of Africa from the revolts in the northernmost states.
Of course there are lots of differences between sub-Saharan African countries themselves let alone when you compare them to those north of the desert.