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West African forum to focus on $20 billion investment prospects.

The eight Franco-phone countries, members of UEMOA (the West African Economic & Monetary Union), boast a combined gross domestic product of $75 billion.

Heads of state from eight West African countries are scheduled to attend next week in Dubai an investment forum aimed at offering GCC investors opportunities in the $20 billion annual infrastructure spending required for the continent's fastest growing region.

The inaugural West Africa Investment Forum (WAIF), which will take place at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai on September 9, will have the presence of heads of state of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

The eight Franco-phone countries, members of UEMOA (the West African Economic & Monetary Union), boast a combined gross domestic product of $75 billion.

Also participating in the high-profile event will be presidents of UEMOA and the West African Development Bank, organisers of the forum, Global Finance & Capital Limited (GFCL), said on Monday.

Arun Panchariya, principal and founder of GFCL, said the forum would include final signatures on a range of critical infrastructure projects for the eight UEMOA nations with a combined value of around $20 billion.

The forum will be an ideal platform for senior representatives of the Middle East's major sovereign wealth funds, investment banks and private equity players as well as representatives of many of the world's most influential multi-lateral organisations to explore investment opportunities in one of the most growth potential economic blocs in the world, said Panchariya.

Over the past decade the size of the African economy has more than trebled, with West Africa now the fastest growing region on the continent. This year's African Economic Outlook report, produced by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme, indicates that a favourable macro-economic climate across West Africa means that growth is likely to accelerate above seven per cent in the next year, compared with 5.7 per cent for the continent as a whole.

"Infrastructure investments in Africa have not kept pace with the growth in demand and the sector has now become one of the most promising investment opportunities, as well as being the key to unlocking the region's immense economic potential," said Panchariya.

According to World Bank estimates, Africa needs $93 billion annually to cover its investment needs in infrastructure until 2020. Of this only a third of this amount--$31 billion is currently available to African governments.

Hamad Buamim, director general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was recently quoted as saying that Gulf companies could fill the void and invest in this profitable sector, with Gulf states allocating $61 billion to investment in Africa annually. According to the published figures, Gulf investments in Africa in the period from 2003--2012 totaled $144 billion.

Panchariya argued that infrastructure investment in Africa has not kept pace with the increased demand generated by rapid economic growth and a population exceeding one billion.

"Infrastructure is an enormously promising investment opportunity across West Africa, and specifically the UEMOA region. The forum will demonstrate to Middle Eastern and international investors the importance of working with regional bodies such as UEMOA to help unlock the region's potential," he said.

Panchariya said the purpose of the forum is to discuss investment opportunities in greater detail, as well as to formally sign a multi-billion dollar package of infrastructure development deals.


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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Sep 1, 2014
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