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Investment banks eye the last frontier: Africa

African deals are increasing in number but what is the best way for investment banks to get involved? Dominic O’Neill finds out what the key players in Johannesburg, London and Dubai are thinking.

DELE BABADE, HEAD of the newly launched investment banking arm of pan-African group Ecobank, is optimistic about the sector’s prospects. "Never underestimate the opportunities in Africa," he says. In illustration he recounts a recent whirlwind tour of five East African countries in five days. In Rwanda, he says, one day of meetings resulted in about $600 million-worth of potential deals in project finance, international equity placements and M&A. Global investment banking heads are revising their strategies in Africa. They are doing more and bigger deals for clients across the continent, whether it is arranging listings on the London Stock Exchange, advising governments on setting up sovereign wealth funds or raising billions of dollars for infrastructure projects.

"Global investment banks along with a wave of multinational corporations are looking at sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa with renewed interest, primarily because of one thing: growth," says Colin Coleman, head of sub-Saharan Africa investment banking at Goldman Sachs. With sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP growth rate set to rise as high as 7% (compared with a likely 3.5% or so in South Africa) commercial operations in Africa are in need of capital for expansion.

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