How Corporate America Really Views Africa
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Africa Business Initiative (5-26-2009)
U.S. executives point out that Africa is only one of many possible destinations that American corporations consider for investment. Investment is highly competitive, and many countries are vying to become the destination of choice for capital. That said, U.S. companies in some sectors, particularly technology, now regard Africa as the last frontier for growth. These companies believe that Africa, with its market of about 1 billion people, can no longer be ignored. Even with this interest, Africa faces tough competition and huge hurdles to attract U.S. investment.
Globally, competition for American FDI is high. Countries from all regions showcase their advantages, align their offers to U.S. needs, clamor for attention, and invest in their own countries to attract additional investment. Consequently, U.S. corporations do not lack investment choices, and they rarely consider African nations.
Further, news about Africa is mostly about chaos and unrest. Africa is not active or aggressive enough about attracting investment; the voices of the few countries that are making an effort get lost in the surrounding negative noise. Some African countries are making special efforts to assist foreign companies that invest. For example, Nigeria's president regularly engages with the local leaders of foreign companies to help cut through bureaucratic tape.
U.S. corporations need a strong and specific draw from Africa to make investment worthwhile. This can be the pull of a big market or a big source of critical raw materials or a belief that there is a competitive advantage to early entry into African markets. The survey data show that few of these pulls exist or are not sufficiently strong to be effective in the near term.