East Africa presents diversified growth opportunities for South African business

The region’s industrial and services sectors are in need of South African operational expertise. Uganda in East Africa, a region with untapped potential for South African businesses. Picture: Primedia

East Africa’s highly diversified economies are growing northwards of 6% in a highly integrated regional market which is already attracting significant levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) relative to GDP. Even before the region’s current oil and gas potential is taken into account, Africa’s most dynamic region presents a powerful investment case for South African corporates.

Since most East African domestic content policies set a premium on local business empowerment, the scale of global investment in the region to date offers broader opportunities for growth through local partnerships.

“South African businesses across nearly all sectors have the opportunity to partner with well-capitalised East African firms needing increasingly advanced technical skills and knowledge to grow,” says Patrick Mweheire, chief executive for Stanbic Bank Uganda, which is part of the Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank by assets. East Africa presents South African corporates an opportunity to diversify out of a persistent low growth domestic environment – by deploying their skills and technology to, for example, leverage a minority interest in high-growth companies rapidly expanding across one of the world’s fastest growing regions. Given the opportunity landscape that has been unfolding in East Africa for over a decade, there is untapped potential for South African businesses. This was a key area of discussion that Standard Bank focussed on at a gathering of about 160 corporate clients in Johannesburg in June.

Mweheire further explains that there is a need to identify and address any perceived challenges about doing business in East Africa while describing the opportunity from an informed position as a bank long-invested and operational in the region.

East Africa represents one of Africa’s oldest trading areas, with a deep history of effective integration having almost formed a customs union in the 1970s.

Latest efforts at integration have seen regional trade and investment reach 30%, the highest in Africa, with goods, services and people moving freely across borders. This is supported by well-integrated and rapidly growing regional standard gauge rail and an expanding road network.

Augmented by a common English and Swahili language, East Africa also shares a universal common law-based legal system operating in functioning democracies holding regular elections. The region’s economies are supported by generally open floating currencies managed by liberal independent central banks. East […]

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