United Arab Emirates state-owned conglomerate Dubai World said it is putting multiple projects in Africa and elsewhere on hold due to the global economic downturn.

The pullback comes as Dubai World scrambles to pay back billions of dollars in debt racked up during the boom years, even as it weighs plans to relocate its prized Queen Elizabeth 2 luxury liner to Africa to generate revenue. Dubai World had previously pledged to invest $1.5 billion (U.S.) in Africa over a five-year period. Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem has repeatedly described the continent as a largely untapped investment opportunity.

The company joined a British investor in acquiring the historic Victoria & Alfred Waterfront property development in Cape Town, South Africa, for $1 billion in 2006. That site became home for a new division, Dubai World Africa.