• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Elumelu, Dangote reassure global fund managers on concerns about investing in Africa

Elumelu, Dangote reassure global fund managers on concerns about investing in Africa

Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings, and Aliko Dangote, chairman of Dangote Group, two of Nigeria’s biggest names attending this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, yesterday assured global fund managers, some of who manage funds running into hundreds of billions of dollars, that their concerns about investing in Africa were a thing of the past as a lot of things have changed which make Africa the place to  invest.

The fund managers were gathered for a breakfast meeting hosted by Heirs Holdings and Dangote Group. But they raised  questions around concerns about their challenge in investing on the  continent, including not knowing if there were people in Africa with the capacity for making co-investments with them, the challenges of the operating and regulatory environments, as well as human resource issues.

“Right in this hall we have Africans who can co-invest with you,” Elumelu told the fund manager who posed the question. “I invest in 20 African countries. Aliko [Dangote] invests in about 12 African countries. We are Africans putting our money in these economies to create opportunities.”

Speaking with BusinessDay later on the sidelines of the meetings holding here in Davos, Elumelu explained that the issues raised were those that would be taken to African governments and leaders to enable them get a sense of what the world was thinking about in the choices they make about investing on the continent.

He said the issue of operating environment raised by the fund managers could be dealt with by making sure that it was conducive for business.

“This remains a challenge, but there’s significant improvement. Global fund managers are also concerned about regulatory environment for business in Africa, specifically about African political leadership’s willingness to support and to professionalise the process.

“We have let them know today that this was the case 15 years ago, and that things have significantly changed; that macro-economic policies are a lot more stable today. If you want to do business in Africa now, you can predict better,” Elumelu said.

He also said human resources, which is one of the major concerns of investors, especially in relation to relevant and adequate skills, was also scaling up, and therefore not posing as an inhibitor to investment any longer.

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But he expressed worry that while these concerns exist, the truth is that the characterisation of the continent needs to change. “The characterisation of Africa, the information these investors have about Africa, is so outdated. We need to give them modern information,” he told BusinessDay.

Elumelu wants WEF to move from talk to action

Elumelu, who is also the chairman of United Bank for Africa and the Tony Elumelu Foundation, also made strong suggestions on the direction he would like to see the World Economic Forum meetings move in the years ahead.

“I think we have come to WEF every year and we talk,” he told BusinessDay.  “I think we should begin to move from talking to action. So I want to progressively see a WEF where we move from talking to celebrating outcomes, successes. Next year, I want us to see WEF give platform to those who have implemented key recommendations that have come out from WEF, then we’ll continue to be relevant.”

He expressed fears that if there were no significant achievements after these meetings, people would begin to characterise WEF as a place where people go to talk.

For instance, he said one of the global challenges on the theme this year is unemployment. He would therefore like to see a stop put to talking about the implication of unemployment since everybody who gathers at WEF knows it, instead he wants participants who gather at WEF to talk about how organisations have created jobs so that others can learn from their actions and activities that produced positive outcomes.

On how he particularly was dealing with it, he said: “In line with my philosophy of doing and not talking, the Tony Elumelu Foundation recently launched a $100 million entrepreneurship fund, which is designed to create 10,000 African entrepreneurs. We believe that when we achieve this, I can say that, at the minimum, they will create a million  jobs; but I expect that they should do more than that. So for me, that is part of concretising our talks, taking it from talking to action, to  doing. So, it is one of the things we are doing. This is saying see what I am doing to create employment.”

Contributing to a mid-afternoon session yesterday on confronting the challenges of catastrophic outbreaks, Elumelu told the audience that with regard to Ebola, the global community should move from talking about the disease to talking about how to re-energise the economies of countries most affected, noting that this was what would prevent future Ebola outbreaks.

“This will create hope and opportunities for growth in these countries,” he stressed.

Elumelu said he would like to see the world create employment, by making investment massively in these countries.

“Our company (UBA) operates in these three countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinnea) most hit by the Ebola crisis, but during this period we have not shut any of our branches. Our staff were protected and to date none of them has been affected. Again, it is about going beyond talking about the pandemic; let’s talk about what we are doing. For us, we continue to operate in those countries, we continue to create competence; because if we had shut down our operations, payment system would be affected and you need payment system to be working to deal with some aspects of the catastrophe. The world must stop celebrating catastrophes by the way it focuses on talking and move to talking about what it is doing to deal with them,” he further said.