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Tunisia struggles to attract foreign investment

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tunisia oil

Tunisia reports slowed growth as international companies show concern about the difficulty of extracting oil and phosphates as well as high taxes.

Growth of foreign investment in Tunisia has slowed amid concerns about a lack of government incentives and the difficulty of extracting the North African nation’s oil and phosphates.

Direct foreign investment in Tunisian industry amounted to $81 million in the first four months of 2016, an increase of less than 5% over the same period in 2015. A year earlier, direct foreign investment had doubled as the country adopted its first constitution and formed a government in the aftermath of Arab Spring.     

Tunisia lacks appeal to investors for a number of reasons, according to experts.

“Insecurity, high taxation and the difficulty of extraction of potential reserves are the main obstacles that prevent Tunisia from being attractive to foreign investors,” said Radhi Meddeb, chief executive officer of the engineering company Comete.

Tax policy cited

Only 15% of oil company executives believe Tunisian tax policy encourages investment, according to Global Petroleum Survey 2015.

Under the nation’s tax policy, the state gets 80%of the revenue on the sale of oil while the operating companies receive only 20%, even though they bear all of the costs with no help from the government.

Tunisia also has more limited reserves than other sources of oil and phosphates. The Global Petroleum survey estimated the country’s oil reserves amount to the equivalent of about 850 million barrels, compared to nearly 24 billion in Texas. Reserves of phosphates amount to 100 million tons, 20 times less than in Algeria.

While relatively stable compared to other nations that were part of Arab Spring, Tunisia is not immune to political and economic upheaval. For example, Gafsa Phosphate posted nearly $10 million in losses in 2014 amid recurring strikes by transport workers.

Production drops sharply

While 50 foreign companies were operating in the extraction industry in 2010, when the Arab Spring began, fewer than half that many operate in Tunisia today.

Nationally, phosphate production has dropped by nearly 60%, from 8.5 million tons in 2010 to 3.5 million tons. Oil production has fallen by half, from about 90,000 barrels a day in 2009 to 45,000 this year, according to Trading Economics.

On the plus side, Tunisia has announced it will join the Initiative for Transparency in the Extractive Industries, a global standard that promotes accountability and fights corruption in the use of revenues from extracted resources.

Tunisia first applied to join the initiative in 2012, but political instability prevented its membership, according to Kais Mejri, head of governance at the Ministry of Industry.

Tunisia believes that the initiative will make the nation more attractive to foreign investors compared to rivals who are not part of the initiative. “We hope to return next year to the same (foreign investment) rates as before 2011,” said Ridha Bouzaouada, Tunisia’s Director General for Industry.

Part of larger, regional struggle

Tunisia is not alone in its economic challenges.

More than five years of turmoil across the region has created a negative economic outlook, according to Hamdi Tabbaa, president of the Arab Businessmen Association.

Tabbaa estimated regional economies have lost about $1.2 billion in the past five years as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia saw an average decrease of 35% in their gross domestic product.

Direct foreign investment in the region was also dropping. It declined from $48 billion in 2014 to $44 billion last year, well under half of the record high of $96 billion in 2008, according to the Arab Investment and Export Credit Guarantee Corporation.

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Private equity investments grow across Africa

Comments (1) Africa, Business, Featured

africa private equity

Africa’s burgeoning economies increase their growth, as private equity investor’s step up their interests.

Private equity investments look set to transform Africa, as the continent’s economies continue to grow and adapt. Emerging markets have long been of interest to private equity firms, and in the space of a few years Africa has transformed its image among investors.

One of the most important factors, for attracting foreign investment, has been a general decline in the armed conflicts that have mired much of Africa’s recent history. While there are ongoing issues, every region of Africa has seen nations emerge with increased stability, and thus increased potential.

Interest at an all-time high

The emergence of a well-developed private equity industry in Africa is not entirely new, but it is only in the last 15 years that things have taken off. This growth has continued year on year, with last year’s fundraising, transactions and exits hitting exciting highs, with impressive levels of upturn. A 2015 EY appraisal of private equity developments in Africa, found that fundraising had risen by 24% on the previous year, and transactions by 90%.

Africa has begun to shape a new image for itself in the eyes of foreign investors, and one of the clearest signs of this change is that foreign direct investments (FDI) are increasingly targeted at consumer facing businesses. Previous investments (in many African markets) would look to commodities that could be extracted and exported. In contrast, many investors are now allocating funds to enterprises, which provide immediate services to local people.

Additional good news for Africa is that the second largest source of FDI across the continent as a whole is intra-African business. African nations are investing in private equity inside the economies of their neighbors, which helps create a cycle of growth within the continent.

The raw figures provide a good picture of just how strong private equity is within Africa and how much it is likely to grow. According to African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, fundraising in 2015 was the highest it had been in years, with a total of nearly $1.9 billion.

Bloomberg reported that through the course of last year, private equity firms amassed an investment pot of $4.3 billion for ventures within African business, and the range of these investments continues to broaden.

Exits also hit a 9 year high, and while financial services remained the largest sector at 24%, exits in goods and services, industrials and healthcare were significant in number.

Graham Stokoe, EY’s Africa Private Equity Leader, stated that, “The last two years have seen an increase in the number of PE firms making exits in the African markets. PE firms clearly are focused on adding value to their portfolio companies and are diversifying their approaches to help achieve this.”

The future looks promising

Given the growth across fundraising, transactions and exits, private equity in Africa is patently in strong health. What promises to help build upon this strong base is the sheer scale of new investment packages that have already been raised and designated for Africa.

KKR & Co are one of the world’s largest private equity firms, and they have allocated $100 million for Africa in 2016. Senior advisor, Dominique Lafont, told Reuters, “We want to use Nigeria as regional base and springboard for West Africa…we are not limited to one sector.”

Such funds are impressive, and yet they are dwarfed by other revenue streams that are set to find their way into the African markets. The Dubai based Abraaj Group, has raised $375 million for private equity investments in North Africa for the coming year. The exciting aspect to Abraaj’s presence is that they have already raised a huge sum, for Sub-Saharan Africa, which when combined with their latest fundraising, will total $1.4 billion of African investments.

A rival to Abraaj, the Helios Group, have already assigned $1 billion for Africa, taking the continent’s private equity industry onto a new, unprecedented level of investment.

Across the industry, there seems to be a climate of positivity, and an appetite to capitalize on the continent’s new, developing markets.

Michael Rogers, EY’s global deputy private equity leader, summed up the optimistic feelings, saying, “I think increased investment from local and foreign investors across (a) wide range of industries… is really driving the story, and PE is becoming an important part of that narrative.”

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Coca-Cola looks to expand its investment in The Ivory Coast

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Coca Cola Ivory Coast

Coca-Cola has invested more money into its already substantial holdings in The Ivory Coast.

The multinational giant that is Coca-Cola is no stranger to emerging markets and has never been afraid to take its eponymous leading brand to new shores. Africa is actually not a new market for Coca-Cola, as the company has promoted and sold its carbonated drinks on the continent for some time. However, with the Ivory Coast showing particularly robust economic growth, Coca-Cola has decided to increase its level of involvement with the West African nation.

Rather than simply viewing the country as a revenue stream of sales, Coca-Cola now intend to invest in the Ivory Coast as a source of production for both raw materials and fruit juice. It is a move that makes logistical and economic sense.

Improving company image

Through the sponsorship of football tournaments, heavy advertising and socially responsible welfare projects, Coca-Cola has already established itself as a familiar brand name across Africa, and the Ivory Coast is no exception. In fact, the capital city of Abidjan has been home to Coca-Cola’s headquarters for export in West Africa for several years. This office oversees export to 11 African nations and Coca-Cola brands are popular across West Africa. The recognition of the brand has been strengthened by co-operative efforts with major aid organizations that have helped Coca-Cola establish a reputation of responsibility.

At a time when sugary, carbonated drinks are being heavily criticized in the west, it has been hugely beneficial to attach the Coca-Cola name to programs such as the Fresh Water Program that was launched in conjunction with the USAID in 2005. This program sought to help provide greater access to clean, running water for communities from Western, Eastern and Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, Coca-Cola upped its investment in the program, making the joint enterprise worth $10 million.

Coca Cola Africa Foundation

Coca Cola Africa Foundation

As many of the products are youth driven, it has also made economic as well as humanitarian sense to target young people for particular support. Coca-Cola developed its own body, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, to help provide funding and support for projects like HOPE worldwide that support vulnerable children in impoverished African regions.

Even a cynic would have to admit that such funding is beneficial, regardless of whether the motive is altruistic or for public image. But the reality is that the people within The Ivory Coast and surrounding nations are still very poor and national, economic growth is needed to help them work their way out of this poverty.

Opening up new opportunities

It is therefore a significant step forward, when a company with the reach of Coca-Cola announces that it will be looking to include local resources as part of its production chain. This opens up potentially huge streams of income for local farmers and other agricultural workers.

The Ivory Coast is one of the main producers of pineapples in Africa and as recently as 2014, Coca-Cola launched its Minute Maid brand of juice drinks on the continent. The president of Coca-Cola Eurasia & Africa, Nathan Kalumbu, confirmed that the company would be investing in the fruit farming of The Ivory Coast and looking to produce significant amounts of its juice there.

The Ivory Coast’s President, Alassane Ouattara, has greeted the news positively and states that he hopes such investment will lead other corporations to treat the nation with “some confidence.”

In addition, to the commitment to pineapple juice and other fruit products, Ouattara hopes that Coca-Cola’s investment will provide income to other areas of Ivorian industry. It is a hope that looks to be realized, as Mr. Kalumbu confirmed that Coca-Cola would be looking to source other raw materials for its products inside The Ivory Coast.

After all, the country is the world’s largest producer of the Kola Nut, which was traditionally a major ingredient in the drink. Although, the nut is not commonly used in most Cola production today, there is no reason why it could not be used to produce much of Africa’s supply of the drink as it was only replaced in many markets due to more readily available alternatives.

The Ivory Coast stands to reap a large reward from Coca-Cola’s commitment, to expand, within Africa and according to Kalumbu; this commitment will total a staggering $17 billion between 2010 and 2020.

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France signed deals worth 2 bil Euros with Egypt

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

PARIS (Reuters) – France signed several deals worth about 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion) with Egypt during a visit by French President Francois Hollande to Cairo, the French president’s office said on Monday.

The deals included a satellite communications contract agreed upon following discussions between the two presidents and their defence ministries, the Elysee said.

The military telecommunications satellite is expected to be build by France’s Airbus Space Systems et Thales Alenia Space.

French energy Engie firm said earlier that it also signed LNG and renewable energy contracts during the visit.


(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Tunisia seeks to improve appeal to foreign investors

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A proposed investment code offers incentives to investment as the country aims to double investment to $2.5 billion by 2020.

Tunisian government officials hope to speed up implementation of a code that the North African nation hopes will make it more attractive to desperately needed foreign investment.

As its economy struggles in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, Tunisia hopes to double foreign investment to $2.5 billion by 2020.

The Tunisian cabinet recommended hastening adoption of an investment code in February following protests a month earlier over high unemployment that included clashes with police in several towns and the capital of Tunis.

The protests were a grim reminder to the government that poor economic conditions, including high unemployment, prompted demonstrations that ended the 23-year presidency of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during the 2011 revolution in Tunisia.

Incentives, smooth path for investment

The proposed investment code, which must be approved by the Tunisian parliament, is designed to clear administrative obstacles by creating an agency to smooth the way for companies to invest within the country, according to Yassine Brahim, Tunisian minister of development, investment and international cooperation.

The code will include financial incentives for investors, especially companies that intend to export from Tunisia and those that invest in poorer interior sections of the country.

It also will give international investors more flexibility to transfer funds out of the country, Brahim said.

Tax exemptions offered

Yassine Brahim

Yassine Brahim, Tunisian minister of development, investment and international cooperation.

Tunisia already offers significant incentives to potential investors, including a 10-year tax exemption, and, in some locations, state subsidies. The government also created industrial zones and promised significant investments in improving roads and other infrastructure.

The investment is sorely needed as the country struggles with an overall unemployment rate of 15 percent and a rate of 32 percent among college graduates. The country’s economy in 2015 grew by less than 0.3 percent.

Tunisia is generally seen as the one success story from Arab Spring, which also saw violent revolts in nearby Egypt and Libya.

However, Tunisia has struggled to form a government and improve its economy.

Civil unrest returns amid high unemployment

In January, economic conditions and regional inequalities prompted the worst civil unrest in the country since the 2011 revolution.

Protest that began in Kasserine in the central part of the country spread to several other towns and to Tunis, where shops were looted and burned. Frustrations ran highest in marginalized rural areas and in poor urban districts of the capital.

Tunisia also lost about a third of its tourism revenues in 2015 after two Islamic State attacks killed 59 foreign tourists.

Government proposes bond issue

In February, the government announced that it was preparing a bond issue of up to one billion euros to cover a budget deficit stemming from losses from January’s unrest.

Violence and unrest has kept investors away. An estimated 300 investors have left the country since 2011.

For example, one Bahraini official recently told Tunisian President Béji Caied Essebsi that Bahraini business leaders are interested in investing in the country and a delegation would visit from Bahrain.

However, Khaled Abderrahmen Al Moyed, president of the Bahraini Chamber of Industry and Commerce, also said the business leaders would require “sufficient guarantees” of success to launch projects in Tunisia.

Location, workforce are positives

The primary investment sectors in Tunisia are textiles, energy, computer science, corporate services and energy. The largest sources of investment are France, Austria, Canada and the United Kingdom.

An analysis by Santander Bank cited positives about investing in Tunisia, including its strategic location on the Mediterranean, proximity to major European capitals, a well developed social system, qualified workforce, competitive salary levels, and the increasing diversification of it economy. The main negative, Santander said, is a cumbersome Tunisian bureaucracy.

Brahim, the investment minister said Tunisia hopes to attract $1.4 billion in investment this year, an increase of 12 percent from $1.25 billion invested in 2015, with a goal of $2.5 billion by 2020.

That compares with investment of $2.2 billion in 2010, the year before the revolution.

Joblessness sparks unrest, support for IS

Despite Tunisia’s difficulties, foreign investment has been increasing in recent years.

In 2015, investment increased by 21 percent compared to 2014, which saw a 19 percent increase over 2014.

That growth hasn’t translated into enough jobs.

The economic conditions are believed to be driving many Tunisians into the ranks of Islamic State and other militant groups. An estimated 3,000 Tunisians are fighting in militant Islamic groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Aymen Abderrahman, 28, a Tunis-based activist, said that “frustration and total despair” drove the January protests.

The unemployed who are living in the same conditions as before 2011 “are seeing a spark to bring back to life the revolutionary past,” he said.

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