Displayed with permission from The Korea Times

Africa will offer huge business opportunities for Korean companies as its economy provides a favorable business environment, according to African Development Bank Group (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina.

In an interview with The Korea Times on the sidelines the 2016 Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Ministerial Conference at the Grand InterContinental Seoul, Adesina said that Africa is becoming attractive as one of the world’s few remaining growing markets.

He said it will become “the place” where companies want to invest in the near future.

“When times have been tough, Africa has been resilient in the last decade,” Adesina said. “Political and microeconomic stabilities and business environments on the continent have shown significant improvements.”

According to him, AfDB estimates that 20 countries in Africa still have GDPs growing at above 5 to 6 percent annually and 11 others are growing at between 3 to 5 percent – all above a 3.2 percent average global GDP growth projected by the IMF.

“Another critical thing is that Africa’s consumer market is growing. If you want to invest, you will invest where the population is growing, where the middle class is rising and where the business environment is improving,” Adesina said.

According to AfDB data, Africa’s population is going to equal that of China and India together by 2060.

In a breakdown, the bank estimates the size of the continent’s middle class is now 350 million people and it will reach 1.1 billion by 2060. Also, the region’s consumer expenditures will grow to $2.1 trillion by 2025 and business-to-business expenditures will reach $3.5 trillion by then.

Though the region has the potential to become one of the leading markets in the world, Adesina believes the AfDB must help transform the region to become much friendlier to businesses and investments.

In its efforts to do that, Adesina came up with a five-pronged agenda for Africa’s progress, dubbed “high-fives,” which includes a region-wide infrastructure development plan.

“AfDB is investing in electricity and transport infrastructure, which will help reduce the cost of doing business,” he said. “The first of the high-fives projects is to light up and power Africa. In the next 10 years, the AfDB will seek for Africans to have universal access to electricity.”

The bank will invest $12 billion in the energy sector and hopes to leverage between $45 billion to $50 billion from the private sector for that. Also, Adesina said the AfDB will concentrate its efforts to develop high quality regional infrastructure – especially rail, transnational highways, power infrastructure, information and communications and air and maritime transport.

Korea is also joining Adesina’s plan. On Tuesday, Korea’s Ministry of Strategy and Finance inked a deal with AfDB in which the Korean government is promising a $10 billion investment package, highlighted by a $5 billion investment in energy and infrastructure over the next two years as the first phase of the package.

“I’m very delighted because the area that the Korean government has chosen to invest in is in perfect alignment with the high-five priorities of the AfDB,” Adesina said.

The president reminded Korean firms that Africa is a continent of 54 countries, each with different opportunities.

“Business and investment environments, legal and regulatory systems are different by countries,” he stressed. “It is very important for the businesses to have good information about the regions in which they want to invest.”

He said southern countries are promoting agriculture, an ongoing trend in many parts of Africa, while East African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda are aggressively promoting digital market development.

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