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Saudi Arabia, UAE amp up Africa investments amid growing competition

Africa is seeing a major uptick in investments from the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which presents the possibility of 'greater returns' for the Gulf states.
A miner from Gold Fields South Africa company walks near the exit of the South Deep gold mine in Westonaria, Gauteng, on Oct. 12, 2022.

Nowadays, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are competing for strategic influence and trade in Africa. Having established itself as a global player, the UAE has become the fourth largest investor in Africa after China, the European Union and the United States. 

Between 2012 and 2022, the combined foreign direct investment of the top Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in Africa amounted to around $101.9 billion, according to greenfield investment data service FDI Markets, and the main beneficiaries of these inflows were Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa. 

However the UAE was way ahead of the others when it came to those investments, accounting for $59.4 billion of the nearly $102 billion, according to the 2023/24 Africa Horizons report from Knight Frank, a London-based property consultancy. The next largest Gulf investor in Africa over that period was Saudi Arabia at $25.6 billion, then Qatar at $7.2 billion, Kuwait at $5 billion and Bahrain at $4.2 billion.

Alongside its traditional business rivalry with Abu Dhabi — with the capitals competing to retain and attract major firms’ regional headquarters — Riyadh is more focused on its investments in Africa.

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