UN development official calls for expanding credit ratings in Africa to boost investment

26 February 2004

A senior United Nations development official today called for greater inclusion of African nations in international financial markets through the continued expansion in the continent of sovereign risk ratings – which place countries on the investor map and allow them access to international capital markets.

“The investment potential in Africa is huge,” the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Zephirin Diabre, told a conference in New York on capital flows to Africa, organized by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA). “Through our credit rating initiative, we intend to support countries in their efforts to mobilize resources from private capital markets.”

Mr. Diabre said better access to financing should help African countries tackle a broad range of poverty alleviation issues and provide an incentive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN Summit of 2000, which aim among other things to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

Over the past year several African countries received ratings under UNDP’s credit rating initiative with Standard and Poor’s. In September, Ghana became the first country to benefit from the initiative and was assigned a ‘B+’ long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating. In November, Cameroon received a ‘B’ long-term and ‘B’ short-term sovereign credit ratings and, in December, Benin was assigned a ‘B+’ long-term and ‘B’ long-term sovereign credit ratings.

More sub-Saharan African countries, including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali and Mozambique, are expected to receive ratings in 2004.

The CCA represents more than 200 companies dedicated to strengthening commercial ties between the United States and Africa. Mr. Diabre noted that helping countries define and implement policies that can create an enabling environment for investment is a top priority for UNDP as part of its support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

The conference seeks to demonstrate that African markets can be profitable, highlighting key viable financing opportunities and providing a platform for financiers to meet sponsors of projects in Africa. Attendees include representatives from major United States financial institutions, business, and government and African financial institutions and companies.

The conference programme is set to explore best practices for investing and analyze current trends in accessing liquidity through African capital markets. Participants will review effective mechanisms for public and private debt flows and examine case studies of high yield investments.

 

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