Increased Foreign Investment will be “Good for Africa”: Global Poll

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed in a new 22-nation poll for BBC World Service think that the recent increase in overseas investment in Africa will prove to be a good thing for the continent, with African citizens among the most upbeat.

The findings of the poll, conducted by GlobeScan among 21,558 people, show that most respondents are relaxed about foreign companies purchasing long-term rights to African natural resources and land, with a majority rating such investments as either “very good” (19%) or “somewhat good” (44%) for Africa. Africans are among the most positive about this development, with Nigerians the most likely to rate it as a good thing for Africa (85%), a view shared by three in four Kenyans (75%) and Ghanaians (72%).

China, the source of much of the current foreign investment in Africa, is also positive about it, with nearly two-thirds of Chinese rating it as a good thing (64%) and only 18 per cent rating it as a bad thing. A much smaller proportion of Indians rates the wave of foreign investment in Africa as a good thing, however (47%).

Germany is the most doubtful, with over half of Germans (56%) reporting that the increase in overseas investment in Africa is a bad thing for the continent. Nearly half of French respondents (44%) feel the same.

The poll also asked respondents to indicate how optimistic they were that Africa would experience “major economic growth” over the next 20 years. It reveals that large majorities in the four African nations polled are either “very” or “somewhat” optimistic that this growth will take place. Eighty-five per cent feel this way in Egypt, 80 per cent in Nigeria, 75 per cent in Kenya, and 74 per cent in Ghana—higher proportions than in all other countries polled.

Globally, almost six in ten citizens (58%) are optimistic about Africa’s economic prospects, compared to 33 percent who are pessimistic. Citizens of developing nations in Asia and Latin America are among the most optimistic about Africa’s prospects, but optimists also outnumber pessimists in India (55% vs 26%), the USA (55% vs 42%), and China (50% vs 36%).

However, the poll also reveals that some of the industrialised nations that have been major aid donors to Africa over the years are among the most pessimistic that Africa’s economy will see a sustained improvement. Germans are again the most downbeat, with seven in ten (70%) pessimistic, compared to just 29 per cent who are optimistic. Pessimists also outnumber optimists in the UK (58% vs 38%) and France (56% vs 41%).

GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller comments: “There is little evidence that the sovereignty concerns some policy experts have expressed over long-term Chinese investment in Africa have registered with average citizens. Most people around the world think recent foreign investment is good for Africa, and expect significant economic growth there over the next decade or two. Africans themselves are the most positive."

A total of 21,558 citizens across 22 countries were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between July 3, 2011 and September 16, 2011. Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In eight of the 22 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.0 to 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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