Ahead of the 2nd Africa Global Business Forum (AGBF) in October, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has released a detailed study highlighting the investment opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa and its economic potential to become the world’s fastest growing regions.

H.E. Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber, highlighted that economic reforms, rising fiscal spending and ties with Asia are key factors supporting the economy in Sub-Saharan Africa that the AGBF will shed light on as it gathers together decision-makers from Africa, Dubai and the GCC.

Produced in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the study noted that Africa holds 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, but remains a net importer of many foods – a subject already touched upon at the Global Forum for Innovation in Agriculture – presenting a clear need to boost domestic production and reduce import reliance, as well as an obvious target for investment.

Investment opportunities are particularly significant in the telecoms sector, where despite over half a billion mobile subscribers most markets are far from saturation, noted the report, while many more have almost non-existent internet access. Retail is also booming and the infrastructure needs are meanwhile enormous, with an estimated $100bn a year required by the power sector alone.

The event will see leaders and businessmen discuss the challenges, opportunities and cooperation in Africa, while Buamim added that Dubai Chamber will be releasing a series of studies aimed at better acquainting Dubai-based businesses with Africa. For now, here are the key highlights by country:

Angola

High oil prices and increased production are forecast to keep Angola’s budget in surplus, with average real GDP expected to grow by 6.7% up to 2017, and foreign direct investment inflows have increased over the past few years to $15bn, particularly in the energy sector.

Angola’s exports are dominated by oil (98%) and rising incomes are expected to foster a rapid rise in domestic demand and imports, as well as spending on government services.

Since the civil war ended in 2002, banking has developed rapidly, with a total assets growth of 45% a year, though the sector remains vulnerable to lax supervision and volatile liquidity.

Angola currently ranks 41st on the list of Dubai trade partners, with non-oil trade between Dubai and Angola accounted for $1.99bn in 2013, and notably Dubai-based investment bank Abraaj Capital recently announced its exit from its first successful investment in the country.

South Africa

South Africa’s business environment is among the most advanced in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a well-established private sector and developed banking and telecoms infrastructure, and the country remains a key destination for non-oil FDI, which has grown to more than $5bn.

Economic growth is forecast to average 3.5% per year up to 2016, and while unemployment, income inequality, skills shortages and loose fiscal policy present issues (on top of a renewed land restitution programme), the study rates market opportunities as “moderate”, with low-cost housing and welfare expected to boost demand for consumer durables.

South Africa ranks 37th on the list of Dubai trade partners and non-oil trade between Dubai and South Africa accounted for almost $2.21bn in 2013, with traded commodities included foodstuffs, chemicals, minerals, textiles, vehicles, machinery and electronic equipment.

Significant deals between the GCC and South Africa this year have included the Investment Corporation of Dubai’s $450m purchase of a 46% stake in Kerzner International Holdings, while Naspers invested $75m in Souq.com, which is owned by the Al Jabbar Internet Group.

Nigeria

Nigeria is a strong destination for investments in telecoms and retail due to its large population (20% of the Sub-Saharan populace), and it continues to present itself as a key market for multinationals.

FDI exceeds $6bn, largely in the energy sector, and investment in oil and gas continues to buoy the economy, with growth expected to continue until 2017. Sizeable improvements in living standards are not anticipated, but there will be robust non-oil growth in by telecoms, trade and infrastructure.

Nigeria ranks 47th on the list of Dubai trade partners and non-oil trade between the two countries accounted for almost $1.52bn in 2013. As an example of the interaction, Etisalat agreed to a deal this month worth $400m to sell 2,136 communication towers to IHS Nigeria.

Across the GCC, the month of May saw a joint venture between Saudi’s Fawaz Alhokair Group  and Canada’s SkyPower Global sign an agreement with Nigeria’s federal and Delta State Government departments to develop a 3,000MW solar project worth an estimated $5bn.

Ghana

Ghana is Africa’s second-largest gold producer and the world’s second largest cocoa producer, and the country offers a business-friendly, if ill-equipped, environment.

For retailers, Ghana has the potential to become the gateway to West Africa’s 250 million consumers, with GDP growth will average 7.5% annually until 2017, driven by the expansion of gold mines and a burgeoning oil and gas sector.

According to the study, the market opportunities are moderate, with mining communities, organic population growth – expected to double in 20 years – and a rise in tourists in coastal towns all anticipated to contribute significantly to the development of the retail sector.

Ghana ranks 34th on the list of Dubai trade partners and non-oil trade between the two countries accounted for almost $2.42bn in 2013, with the most-traded commodities being agricultural products, foodstuffs, precious minerals, wood and construction materials.

The Dubai Chamber is planning to locate its second office in Africa in Ghana, and a good example of a success story between the emirate and the West African country is the 300% growth of Tonaton.com, a classified listing in Ghana established by the Dubai-based Saltside.

Tanzania

Tourism is a vital source of revenue for Tanzania and the economy remains dependent on agriculture and mining, according to the study. GDP growth is expected to average 7.1% up to 2017, with a general rise led by investment in the gas industry and infrastructure projects.

FDI into the country exceeds $2bn and is expected to increase by 20% per year up to 2017, led by developments in mining, telecoms and construction which the government now hopes to replicate in the agricultural sector, while retail also boasts rising opportunities.

Tanzania ranks 44th on the list of Dubai trade partners, with non-oil trade between the countries accounted for $1.85bn, and the most traded commodities including vegetable products, foodstuffs, minerals, textiles, wood and chemicals.

Zanzibar is also spearheading efforts to promote eco-tourism in Africa, as individuals such as Hafsa Mbamba of Grassroots Traveller will attest, and mainland tourism has also set Kilimanjaro Airport on a course to rival or even overtake Dar es Salaam as a transport hub.

Kenya

In its conclusion, the study states that Kenya’s economy has developed into a market-led hub for East Africa’s telecoms, retail and tourism sectors, with growth expected to pick up to 5.1% a year on average as banking, telecoms and the middle class continue to develop.

FDI sits at under $500m, targeting mainly telecoms and financial services, and only slightly deterred by key risks such as the prices of food and oil, and threat of drought currently acting as slight deterrents, but  per capita income will grow after 2014 and the middle/upper-income bracket will boost demand for  durable and high-end goods.

Kenya ranks 50th on the list of Dubai trade partners, with non-oil trade between the countries accounting for $1.23bn, with the best opportunities in retail, manufacturing, telecoms and banking.

The most significant deal this year between Dubai and Kenya came as Al Futtaim Group won over 91.6% of shareholders in CMC Holdings with an offer of $86.3m, gaining control over a 33% stake in Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers and subsidiaries in both Uganda and Tanzania.

For more on the deals and transaction between the GCC and Sub-Saharan Africa this year, please see: Top 10 deals between the GCC and Sub-Saharan Africa, Q1 2014 | Top 10 deals between the GCC and Sub-Saharan Africa, Q2 2014