20.11.2007 Business & Finance

US To Finance New Funds To Africa

By Daily Graphic
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The United States will provide up to $250 million to jump-start three new African investment funds intended to boost the development of its capital markets so that African businesses can more easily raise money, US officials were set to announce on Monday.

The financing will be provided by the US's Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and was to be formally unveiled later on Monday during a visit to Ghana by the US Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, who was on the final day of a five-day trip that has also taken him to Tanzania and South Africa.

Paulson, a 30-year veteran of Wall Street before taking over the Treasury portfolio, is an ardent advocate of the need for more fully developed capital markets.

He said on the way to Africa that he wanted to see the region treated as one with potentially attractive emerging markets rather than being reliant on aid to counter its widespread poverty.

"I don't want this trip to be about aid to Africa," Paulson told reporters, adding that many African countries were enjoying solid growth but needed to improve the business climate in order to attract needed foreign investment.

"No one's going to be able to get what they want through aid," he said. Paulson will be joined in Accra by OPIC President Robert Mosbacher to announce the three new funds — to be called the Africa Catalyst Fund, the Millennium Global Africa Opportunities Fund and the Atlantic Coast Regional Fund.

The first two will get $100 million each from OPIC and the third will get $50 million. There were two more funds under consideration for financing, OPIC said, but not yet ready to be announced.

The Africa Catalyst Fund and Millennium Global will invest in both private and exchange-traded debt and equity securities but will focus on different countries. Any profits they earn will be used to repay OPIC and reward shareholders.

The Africa Catalyst Fund will emphasise investment in Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya and Angola. The Millennium Global will focus on Cameroon, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Angola, Kenya, Zambia and Congo.

The third fund, Atlantic Coast Regional, is to make private equity investments in west and central Africa, including Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

Its investments will be aimed at sectors like transportation, financial services, telecommunications and mining.

In September, Ghana successfully sold a $750-million Eurobond, making it one of only a handful of African countries that have been able to tap global capital markets.

More access to such sources of financing might reduce Africa's dependence on aid and help it raise the vast sums needed to improve infrastructure and power-generating capacity.

Other countries, including China and India, are showing strong interest in Africa's oil and other resources. Paulson denied Washington was concerned about China's influence or was trying to counter it, noting that investment from any source should be welcomed in view of Africa's needs.

— Credit Reuters

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