Yemisi Izuora/Agency Report
A recent report by an international research agency, Infomineo, has shown that inflow of Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, is growing in parts of Africa and Middle East, MEA.
The report attributed the inflow to political stability, laws and regulations, business language used, quality of the employment market, and local resources and infrastructures.
The report further noted that the popularity of certain cities and countries is dependent on a number of factors, including local market potential, maturity of the industry, existing competitors and company culture.
It said several companies are continuing to expand operations in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) as they seek to look beyond ‘traditional’ markets into ones that offer new opportunities for development and growth.
By the end of 2016, 196 of the Fortune 500 companies had offices in the region, an increase of 17 per cent (from 167) from 2015.
Firms based in the US, Canada, China, Switzerland and the Netherlands all increased their presence in MEA during the last 12 months.
Data from Infomineo, a business research organisation specialising in the emerging markets, found Dubai is the most desirable destination with 138 Fortune 500 companies now operating in that country.
This is followed by Johannesburg with 58, Casablanca with 37 and Nairobi with 28.
Casablanca has seen a surge in popularity, with 20 companies expanding to the city in 2016 alone, marking a 150 per cent increase, according to Infomineo.
It claimed this popularity has been fuelled by the automotive and technology industries, following expansion from Ford, Continental, Volvo, Lenovo, Arrow Electronics and Ingram Micro.
Hamza Laraichi, managing partner at Infomineo, said there are multiple reasons for Casablanca’s rise in popularity: “Morocco’s economic stability in the face of global economic slowdown has provided businesses confidence.
“In 2010, the Moroccan government launched ‘Casablanca Finance City’, a project aimed at attracting foreign companies with fiscal incentives, including five years’ tax exemption for revenues derived from exports.
This project has provided valuable support to businesses looking to expand,” he said.
“Significant investments in infrastructure have also made Morocco more desirable, including ports, industrial parks, nearshoring venues and particularly roads with 1,800km built in 2015 alone, significantly improving Morocco’s logistics.
Finally, increased Foreign Direct Investments have increased Morocco’s overall wealth, and its good relationship with Africa makes it an even more attractive base for global multinationals,” he added.
The finance industry has the highest number of companies within the MEA with 34 companies, a 36 per cent increase from 2015.
Recent moves have come from Sumitomo, Mitsui Financial Group, Credit Suisse Group, AIG and Intesa Sanpaolo.
The energy sector’s presence in the MEA is growing at the fastest rate of 61 per cent, with 29 of the Fortune 500 companies now focused in the industry, an increase from 18 in 2015.
Francois Marchal, general manager at Ghana’s Private Bank, Société Général and an associate of Infomineo, attributed the emerging middle class for fuelling the growing interest in the African market by financial players.
“Provided that a portfolio is representing the performing part of an economy, financial players will naturally outperform the GDP of those [African] countries.
This is a major trend because those countries are growing.”
Mr Marchal added: “The key risk for Fortune 500 companies is going there without a long-term plan.
Growth in Africa is not consistent country by country. When settling in Africa, it is important to diversify your presence because you will always have one country that is out-performing another.
Diversification in Africa and regional coverage gives you a balanced and secured approach to settling there.”