A new organisation has been set up to promote trade between this country and the African continent - home to many of the world's fastest growing economies.

Chris Jones, chairman of the newly formed New Zealand Africa Business Council, said one of the group's main aims was to highlight the opportunities that exist for Kiwi businesses from Cape Town to Cairo.

The council, which already has 15 members, plans to hold events that will give Kiwi and African business people the chance to network together.

"Certain countries in Africa are challenging, but it's certainly one of the growth areas that presents a massive opportunity," said Jones. "The whole goal of the council is to encourage trade."


He said New Zealand companies in the IT, energy - especially geothermal - and primary sectors were particularly well-placed to do business in Africa.

Jones is the chief executive of Auckland-based Mobilis Networks, which has supplied software for mobile networks across more than a dozen African countries including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Kenya.

While the rise of Asia's economic giants gets a lot of press these days, the International Monetary Fund has predicted that seven of the world's 10 fastest growing economies between 2011 and 2015 will be African nations.

They include Ethiopia, Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and Ghana.

The growth, which in many cases is coming off a low base, is being partly driven by rising prices for natural resources such as oil, but a growing middle class across the continent is also pumping life into other sectors such as retail and telecommunications.

Dairy co-op Fonterra is one of the biggest Kiwi players on the continent, operating offices in Algeria and Egypt.

In 2010 Fletcher Building showed rapid growth of its roof tile exports to Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.

New Zealand exports to Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria are now worth close to $1 billion.

Jones, who is also New Zealand's honorary consul to Botswana, said the council will be officially launched at an event in Auckland on February 5 which will be attended by a number of Canberra-based African High Commissioners.

Top performers

World's 10 fastest growing economies.
Forecast average annual GDP growth from 2011-2015
China 9.5 per cent
India 8.2 per cent
Ethiopia 8.1 per cent
Mozambique 7.7 per cent
Tanzania 7.2 per cent
Vietnam 7.2 per cent
Congo 7 per cent
Ghana 7 per cent
Zambia 6.9 per cent
Nigeria 6.8 per cent
[Source: IMF]