Ahead of the financial crisis few investors gave Africa the attention it deserved. But with growth across the continent accelerating and with huge demand for vital investment, capital is now flowing into and across Africa at an unprecedented rate. Our offices in the region and across the world are at the forefront of this exciting development.

Africa is experiencing a period of extraordinary growth that a decade ago would hardly have seemed possible, with the IMF predicting that 14 of the 22 economies set to grow fastest in the five years to 2019 will be in Africa.

While the growth story was initially based around natural resources, it has become a great deal broader with other sectors now expanding rapidly, including energy, infrastructure, financial services, retail and consumer products.

Yet, as we explore in the articles that follow, that growth could be even more dramatic if a sustainable way could be found to attract much needed foreign investment into vital infrastructure projects. The investment challenge is huge, running to tens of billions of dollars a year, and until it is met the continent will continue to undershoot the levels of GDP growth it could achieve.

Investment is growing, but as many governments in the region fully realise, economic reforms, improved regulation and clearer contractual procedures are needed to speed up that process. These reforms will come, but it could take time.

Nevertheless we are seeing signs of real progress and it’s clear to us – both through our offices in Africa and our network of relationship law firms across the continent, and from activity across our global network – that capital is now flowing into Africa at an unprecedented rate from right across the globe, with institutional and industrial investors equally involved.

There are signs too that intra-regional trade – still much less developed than in other emerging markets thanks to chronic under-investment in transport – is beginning to be developed, supported by much closer institutional co-operation between countries within the region.

Allen & Overy has been active in Africa for many years and in the last decade we have invested heavily in building a network of ‘best friend’ relationship law firms in many of the continent’s 54 countries. We’ve cemented our position in the market by being one of the first international law firms to establish offices here. This on the ground presence is allowing us to bring clients in-depth local knowledge, backed by access to our highly integrated global network of sector experts.

Our Casablanca office, opened in 2011, is allowing us to support clients deploying capital across the continent from north to south, particularly in francophone markets, while the Johannesburg office, opened last October, is helping us support clients investing from the south moving north.

In the articles that follow we examine the opportunities that lie ahead for our clients in this extraordinary part of the world, and look at some of the risks and challenges they face in grasping those rewards.

 

Expect a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Africa’s need for massive investment in infrastructure is clear. But how to unlock the investment in new power project, pipelines, ports, roads and railways is not so obvious. Securing sustainable funding for projects, argues Sameh Shenouda of CDC, will take time and important economic reforms.

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Defying Perceptions – Exceeding Expectations

For decades, international investors shunned Africa, deterred by a variety of myths about working in this vast and complex market. The risks are still significant. But, with exposure and experience, investors have begun to see a new reality, argues Tim Scales.

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The Power Behind Investment Moving North

An ambitious and well managed independent power producer programme is helping to restore investor confidence in South Africa and driving similar activity in neighbouring countries, say Johannesburg partners Jason van der Poel and Allen Leuta.

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All roads lead to Africa…

As major international banks grow their presence in the South African market, local banks are growing their Africa presence by following local clients as they expand into Africa, making it a very busy time for the banking and finance team, says Khurshid Fazel.

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