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A conversation with Shuaibu Idris, a development economist from Nigeria, about the future of infrastructure spending in Africa

On the 16th December 2021, I had a fascinating chat with Shuaibu Idris, a Nigerian development economist and MD of Time-Line Consult, a Lagos-based financial consultancy and management firm, about the state of infrastructure spending and general investment levels on the continent for an article for the weekday South African media outlet, Business Day ( )… Thought I would share his insightful extended comments.

We spoke at length about everything from private sector attitudes to investing in Africa, the need for an African central bank and subsequent currency to stabilise the vulnerability of foreign inflows. Something that is always at the mercy of international financial markets that often do more damage than good. To Idris’s skepticism on AfCFTA and China’s new-found enthusiasm to engage in more trade on equal terms with the continent. 

Idris also spoke about the need for better, more business-minded leaders and singled out South Africa’s president as one who commands a lot of respect in Africa, someone viewed as a competent technocrat.

And while he doubts whether the new geopolitical rivalries – in particular between that of the U.S and China – will spark the much-heralded renaissance in FDI on the continent (as he says, “When two elephants fight, it is the ground that suffers.”),  he is still positive about the future. 

For he feels, Africa is the only place on earth that is young and urbanising with large scope and potential for investment in the foreseeable future.  “Investors are realising that if they don’t get to Africa now, they might miss the bus.  So, notwithstanding the challenges, and notwithstanding the policy restrictions, investors are still looking at Africa, being a continent not just for the future, but for now.”

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