x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dubai World defers some of $1.5bn projects in Africa

Dubai World will put on hold some of the projects in a planned US$1.5 billion investment in Africa.

Investments in the mist: Dubai World says it will put on hold some of its tourism projects in Africa.
Investments in the mist: Dubai World says it will put on hold some of its tourism projects in Africa.

Dubai World will put on hold some of the projects in a planned US$1.5 billion (Dh5.51bn) investment in Africa, the company announced Tuesday. Over the past two years, Dubai World has signed agreements to develop luxury hotels and a residential golf course in Rwanda, a $200 million eco-friendly golf and beach resort in Mozambique and a five-star hotel and game reserve in Senegal, among other projects.

"Dubai World has put on hold a number of projects until the market improves, including some tourism projects in Africa and elsewhere," the company said, without specifying which developments were affected. Dubai World said two years ago it would invest a total of $230m in eight tourism developments proposed for Rwanda. But the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said yesterday Dubai World had so far invested in only two projects and the others had been put on hold.

"Dubai World, because of the financial crisis, is holding some of the investments," said Clare Akamanzi, the deputy chief executive officer of the RDB. In October 2007, Dubai World announced plans to invest in the eight projects, including a 150-room, five-star hotel and golf course in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, improvements in the Akagera National Park and the redevelopment of Akagera Game Lodge.

Ms Akamanzi said Dubai World had invested in the Gorilla Nest Lodge in the Volcanoes National Park, which is home to a large proportion of the world's remaining gorillas, and an eco lodge next to the Nyungwe Forest National Park. "The rest they will continue once they recover from the financial crisis," Ms Akamanzi said. The developments are an important part of Rwanda's plans to grow its economy. "We're looking at tourism playing a important role in our economic vision," Ms Akamanzi said. "We hope that in a few years to come we will be able to attract investments."

She said the RDB would consider offers from other investors or "would welcome" Dubai World if the company decided to invest in the projects. Sultan bin Sulayem, the chairman of Dubai World, said when announcing the investment plans that he wanted to build a long-term relationship that would see Dubai World "play an active role in the master-planning of the country". Still widely associated with a 1994 genocide, Rwanda is striving to improve its landlocked economy, which still relies largely on coffee and tea exports, under a "Vision 2020" plan that includes providing broadband internet access to all secondary schools.

Only three months ago, speaking at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai, Mr bin Sulayem highlighted the importance of Africa in its investment strategy and said Dubai World was investing in a game park in Zimbabwe as part of its expansion. The company has already invested more than $800m in projects in Djibouti. rbundhun@thenational.ae