Until very recently, Africa was seen with a very bad perception of poverty, corruption, recipient of aids and also a continent of pity. World emphasis was more focused toward aid not trade and it was difficult for someone at that time to imagine that this continent will rise so quickly to become a center of attraction for investment. Despite the political challenges in some countries like Egypt, DRC and Soudan, over the past decade, there has been an unprecedented political stability and a steady economic growth which has now eclipse some of the African problems and instead projects the continent as an increasingly attractive hub for foreign investors. Mauritius, as one of the African country, has expressed a very keen interest to invest on the continent so as to position itself in this improved new business environment.  In this context, last year, the Mauritius Commercial Bank issued a Paper: – Mauritius: Deepening and entrenching its reach in Africa (Occasional paper No 51); the Board of Investment has set up a special unit-The Africa Centre of Excellence for Business ; the former Finance Minister, Rama Sithanen together with other Mauritian professional has set up the Mauritius Africa Business Club. All these prove that there is huge business potential over there!
At a time when our traditional European partners are undergoing severe economic crisis with a continuous decrease in their GDP growth, the African economy has shown a better resilience to world financial crisis, quick recovery and even an increase in their GDP growth. Given the uncertain macroeconomic situation in our traditional European market, Mauritius cannot miss this great opportunity of growth in the Africa continent, especially in the sub-Saharan region which is often considered as a land of opportunities.
Steady High Economic Growth
According to the World Bank research, nine (9) out of the fifteen (15) countries with the highest rate of economic growth are in Africa. In fact, the GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be around 4.6 percent in 2012-15 and with the increasing domestic demand coupled with good investment incentive policies, the FDI flows are expected to rise tremendously and this will in turn boost up the GDP growth even higher.

The sub-Saharan economies are showing a strong and impressive economic growth and that is why it is not surprising that there is an increase in the interest of investors in the region. Over the past five (5) years the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been growing at a compound rate of 20%.
Nonetheless, downside risks remain and weaker growth in European countries, United States and to some extent the stagnation of the Chinese economy may reduce the Africa region’s growth prospects.
Huge Mineral Reserves
Most of the African countries have been blessed with abundant mineral reserves, in terms gold, platinum, copper, diamonds, iron ore and cobalt, that is, they have all what the world needs.  In the recent years, huge deposits of oil and natural gas field have been discovered in Mozambique, on the offshore of Tanzania and also in Kenya and thus the FDIs in these countries are expected to increase at an unprecedented rate. The increasing world demand for natural resources has compelled multinational companies to focus much of their attention on the Africa continent with a focused firm commitment. The industrialized countries need long term guaranteed supply of these mineral resources so as production in their factories are not interrupted and that’s why lots of negotiations for mineral exploration contracts are underway and will need to be concretized in due course.
Uncultivated fertile land
In addition to the mineral deposit, Africa has huge areas of uncultivated fertile land, and according to the McKinsey Global Institute report, ?Lions on the move – The progress and potential of African economies? it is estimated that Africa has 60% of the world’s total uncultivated arable land. These vast areas of cultivatable land represent a great potential for agricultural products which can easily be sold in the local and regional markets as food shortage is still a problem here. Agriculture is a key sector for growth in Africa, especially that now road infrastructure is being improved and at the same time appropriate agricultural policies in term of governance, agro-processing and the global supply chain are being put in place. However, there are still some aspects of agriculture that need improvement such as provision of farmers? extension service, supply of advanced seeds at affordable prices, irrigation system, fertilizers and other services which will contribute to sustainable agricultural development.
The agriculture sector will need to be diversified to agro-processing, food canning and preservation. Africa is a big exporter of raw agricultural products with could have been further processed, for example instead of selling fruit juice concentrate to the outside world, this can be processed to juice beverage and sold locally and regionally.
The Mauritian company has already invested massively in the sugar sector in Mozambique and in Tanzania and now the companies may diversify in the agro-business to meet the ever-growing local and regional demand for processed food.  
High demand of consumable goods
The African continent is a huge consumer-based market with continuous increase in the purchasing power especially with the emerging middle class in African countries. Presently, the African market consists of about a billion people, that is, 15% of the world’s population, and the population is growing. A big market of such a size cannot be ignored. In addition, 75% of the African are young people below the age of 35 with a very high propensity to consume. With the social and demographic trends, there is clear evidence that the consumer market will steady rise over the coming decades due to mass urbanization. Today, more than a third of the people lives in cities and there is a rise in the middle-class African consumer. Urbanization is improving productivity in the industries, increasing aggregate demand and investment.
With the increase in the demand for consumer goods and growth in the retail sector, there are numerous opportunities for hyper/supermarkets and the fast food business in African countries. For instance, South African Shoprite has being growing very fast in the region and has now more supermarkets outside SA.
Growing Population
Africa has one of the fastest growing population in the world and the working age group population is expected to rise during the coming decades. This means that Africa will have a very large working population which is necessary for industrial development in term of labour supply. Presently more than 70% of the population are below 30 years of age and nearly half of them are unemployed or under employed. Thus investment in labour intensive sectors such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing will be appropriate to absorb unemployment but at the same time to increase national productivity.                     
Challenges
Despite the growing GDP of African countries, there are still lots of challenges that need to be addressed and these include mainly political instability, regional conflicts and war. The Democratic Republic of Congo for instance has the biggest mineral deposit in the southern region but the country is still experiencing internal conflict with rebels such as M23 and other militia group. Mali and other northern African countries are also facing severe threat from Islamist groups. Thus there is a high political risk in these regions which cannot be ignored while taking investment decision.
 On the other hand, poverty, diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Malaria and high infant mortality are affecting the socio-economic fabric of many of these countries.  With economic development, government will have to devote more resources to eradicate these problems and improve the public health sector.
There are challenges regarding the transport infrastructure and communication. Poor rural road network, inadequate transportation and storage capacity badly affect the supply chain for production. A lot of the African countries still rank very low on the indices like « Ease of Doing Business » to a great extent due to the state of their infrastructure.
Another limiting factor for foreign investment is the perception gap, that is, the gap between the persisting previous negative beliefs of the continent and the positive reality of Africa growth today. These negative perceptions of the continent relate to the views about unstable politics, corruption and bureaucracy. This perception gap makes many potential businessmen still to approach Africa with greater caution than they normally make while investing in other developing markets.
Nevertheless, the continent’s growth prospects remain positive, boosted by both world trends in the global economy and internal changes of african economies.
Some business opportunities for Mauritian companies:
Given the complexity of the region, investment should be very strategically planned and risk assessed properly. Huge investment opportunities exist in agriculture, housing, renewal energy and environment friendly products.
Mauritian companies may invest in the agriculture sector such as plantation of maize, potatoes, fruits and other cash crops in countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. These countries have huge cultivable land and at the same time they have big local demand for food supply. It would be advisable to go for partnership with local operators so as to avoid the bureaucracy trap and to ensure local regulation compliance in these countries. These investments in the agriculture will need to be backed by farmers? extension services and a comprehensive supply chain plan which include agricultural research from plantation to marketing. Another related potential agricultural investment is in the field of supply of advanced seeds, fertilizers and herbicides to meet the farmers demand.
With the rapid urbanization, the need for proper housing in the cities are in high demand, investment in construction of housing complex, roads and public utilities such as school, hospitals, etc will be highly profitable. With the rapid investment in the region, there is great potential in the construction of road infrastructure.
With modernization, people tend to westernize and as a result there is a huge potential in the retail sector. For instance, African countries will require more and more hypermarkets and fast food outlets to meet their growing consumer needs and shopping lifestyle.
There is a lot of demand for solar panels and other environment friendly products designed for individual and industrial sector.
A window of opportunities is opened for Mauritian companies who are ready to venture in the African region.
Conclusion
Over the past years, there have been lots of positive reports about investment in the African continent; even the Mauritian press has shown encouraging headlines about the window of opportunities of business in this region of the world- the investment environment has thus been slowly demystified. Both governmental and private sectors have set up institutions which can assist Mauritian companies to consider the possibilities of extending their business to this emerging investment destination.
Before embarking on any big investment project, a careful assessment of the economic and business environment of the particular country is very important so as to ensure a clear visibility for investment prospects.
For Mauritian investors who are looking for long term sustainable growth there is no doubt that it is the right time to invest in Africa.