The Last Pristine Place Left for Investing

There aren’t many pristine places for investing left in the world. Everyone is already way in on China, India, South America, etc. And the more investors there are, the fewer investment opportunities truly exist. In the topsy-turvy world of capital markets, investment fads are like hurricanes — they are fast to arrive, unpredictable, they wreak havoc, and are even faster to leave.

So, what emerging market could still be available to investors who are tired of overexploited Asian stories and veteran European and North American markets? Well, there is still one continent, one emerging market, just as packed with potential and hazards as is any other — Africa!

Typically, investors avoided Africa, because geopolitical risks were — and still are –significantly higher than anywhere else in the world. But as new investment frontiers became fewer and fewer, many investors had to revisit their risk tolerances, and quite a few decided to raise theirs in search of larger windfalls.

At the moment, Africa’s economic growth is racing well past the global growth, and similar performance is expected for many years to come. Yet, so many African companies in more than 20 countries are flying well under the radar on the continent that is brimming with oil and other commodities. Besides oil and commodities, there are other potentially profitable growth industries, including agriculture, health care, infrastructure, telecommunications, defense and technological products and services, and even financial services and retailers.

While there seem to be a plethora of pristine investment opportunities in Africa, investors should never lose sight of the considerable risks plaguing this arena. African countries are prone, perhaps more than any other region in the world, to wars and violence.

In addition, African governments are among the most corrupt in the world, mostly due to underdeveloped legal and financial infrastructures. And let’s not forget the continent’s low levels of education and health care, its AIDS/HIV endemics, and a severely unequal distribution of GDPs. All of these factors could severely cripple Africa’s economic growth and should be seriously weighted against personal risk tolerance levels before making any investment decisions.

I’ll leave you with a few stats and facts. Africa’s share in the world’s proven oil reserves is approximately eight percent, which is more than what Asia and South America can claim at this point. Also, while the continent is vast, there are four specific countries to look for natural resources: Libya, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola.

Since Africa covers one-quarter of the world’s entire land mass, the continent’s agricultural potential is huge, and the same can be said for the infrastructure, technology and telecommunications sectors. Considering Africa’s largely unaddressed yet colossal healthcare issues, the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries could represent extremely profitable investment opportunities.

The GDP per capita in Africa is rising. With higher incomes, a new breed of consumers is emerging. With higher buying power, financial and retail services are bound to hit their targets as well. In the end, it may all be in the demographics. Unlike most of the planet, Africa is a young continent in terms of its population. Young people seek political and economic reforms, as well as ways to end violence and poverty, especially in countries such as Nigeria and South Africa. With the continent going through a political and economic face-lift, considerable improvements of investment and business conditions appear to be well on their way.