Fred Hochberg ExIm Bank

Ex-Im Bank: U.S. Firms Waking Up to African Investment

Potential sectors of investment include energy, aircraft, mining, medical and small businesses, says Chairman Hochberg.

American companies are starting to wake up to huge investment opportunities in Africa, the chairman of the U.S. Export-Import bank, Fred Hochberg said Wednesday.

Hochberg, in South Africa as part of a business delegation alongside U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said more U.S. companies must invest in the "rich and deep market" in Africa.

"Many U.S. companies didn't see the need to have an ambitious export profile for many years, but I think there's more of a waking up [to] opportunities here in sub-Saharan Africa," he told reporters.

Hochberg identified potential sectors of investment as energy, aircraft, mining, medical and small businesses.

Clean Energy Receives Financing

This week, Ex-Im Bank unveiled a loan worth $2 billion to finance clean energy in South Africa.

South Africa is the leading U.S. export market on the continent, taking in more than $7 billion worth of goods and services in 2011, 30% more than the previous year.

Hochberg said that last year the Ex-Im Bank signed a memorandum of understanding for the expansion of the energy and agriculture sectors in power-starved Nigeria.

"There has been some interest that is beginning to take some hold... high levels of interest" in Nigeria, he told reporters.

The bank loans have more than doubled from $14 billion in 2009 to $33 billion last year, mainly in long-term and expensive projects where local banks are uncomfortable.

Power is its critical target area, as well as mining and transport. EX-Im Bank has provided finance to Ethiopia Airlines, Kenya Airways, Angola's TAAG and British Airways' South African outfit Comair.

Hochberg will be in Mozambique on Thursday, a country poised to become a major energy player with huge offshore gas finds over the past year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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