Guinea-Bissau looking to privatise ports, airports

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Guinea-Bissau is looking to privatise a number of industries including ports and airports and is seeking foreign direct investment in sectors such as tourism and mining, said the leader of the country’s national assembly.

“We are very relaxed about full privatisation of the airports and ports, we would want to keep a larger stake in strategic areas such as the electricity network, telecoms,” Raimundo Pereira, president of the National Popular Assembly, told Reuters in an interview.
“Guinea-Bissau is on a very strong growth trajectory,” he said, speaking through an interpreter, Reuters reports.

Pereira was on a visit to Britain which includes the country’s first meetings with UK investors.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts growth for Guinea-Bissau of 5.3 percent in 2011, based on a strong performance of the country’s main export, cashew nuts.

Growth for the 1.5 million-population West African country is projected to remain strong in 2012, the IMF said following its mission to the country in September, partly due to “buoyant construction activity”, on the back of a return of confidence following the write-off of debt under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

Pereira said the country’s own growth estimate was for a more conservative 3.8 percent in 2011.

However, foreign direct investment totalled only $16 million last year.

Hedge funds and institutional fund managers are among those attending the country’s investment summit this week, and interested investors include those in the tourism and mining sectors.

Guinea-Bissau has highlighted petroleum exploration, fishing and tourism among investment opportunities in its prospectus for the event, along with state privatisations.

The West African state, situated between Senegal and Guinea, has suffered from decades of instability due to the military’s meddling in politics but, in recent years has been called a “narco-state” by many due to the flow of cocaine through its porous borders.

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimated in a 2009 report that up to 100 tons of cocaine may have been trafficked through West Africa in a five-year period.

Following the assassination of the president and army chief in 2009, Pereira acted briefly as interim president before the election of Malam Bacai Sanha.

Political instability continued last year, when a revolt within the military put factions accused of collaborating with Latin American drug cartels firmly in charge.

But political bickering has eased, and the army’s presence has receded.

Angola, a fellow former Portuguese colony, is playing an increasing role in the country, including as an investor, and has sent soldiers there as part of efforts to shore up security and reform the military.



Portugal is also among investors in the country, Pereira said.
“In the last two years, the government has made immense progress in dealing with a lot of sensitive issues, not just drug trafficking but also the armed forces,” Pereira said.