Africa: Wealthy appetite
Since the return of democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria has transformed itself into one of the most exciting 'frontier markets' in sub-Saharan Africa. Part of its attraction as an investment destination is attributable to the recent spikes in commodity prices - oil remains Nigeria's principal export. However, the country's newfound success can also be put down to prudent macroeconomic management, which saw it pay off its entire external debt of some $33bn (£18bn) and receive sovereign credit ratings of BB- by rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's for the first time. Wide-reaching reforms of the country's telecoms and banking sectors have also played a part. These days it is not uncommon to see full-page spreads in The Financial Times taken out by Nigerian banks to publicise the openings of the UK offices of their subsidiaries or to celebrate an industry award. Furthermore, many of the emerging Nigerian banks have entered into agreements with Western investment banks to provide training and expertise, and to jointly manage a proportion of the country's burgeoning external reserves. As a result, international law firms are taking a heightened interest in the new generation of Nigerian 'mega-banks'. What is the inside story behind their rise? And what challenges do they face in a global economy?
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