Building capacity to help Africa trade better

African leaders call for “Partnership not Support” at Africa Business and Investment Forum


African leaders call for “Partnership not Support” at Africa Business and Investment Forum

African leaders call for “Partnership not Support” at Africa Business and Investment Forum
Photo credit: Paul Kagame

Their message was loud and clear: Africa requires partnership, not support.

African Heads of State insisted they have a clear mandate to work with both public and private enterprises, to ensure the business environment is favourable and attractive to the international business community.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in partnership with Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), hosted Heads of State from five African countries, at the inaugural Africa Business and Investment Forum, held on January 30, 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The event was opened by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, the ascending Chairman of the African Union, and was joined by fellow Heads of State including H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, H.E. Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, H.E. Macky Sall, President of Senegal, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and H.E. Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique, who discussed diverse areas including Trade and Diversification, Energy, Agribusiness, and Health, in a series of roundtable discussions.

Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission on Africa, said: “Today’s Africa Business and Investment Forum demonstrated a real commitment by our African leaders that they are focussed on paving the way for private investors in the U.S. and the rest of the international community, to invest in Africa.”

The Forum brought together over 240 African and U.S. public and private sector leaders on the margins of the African Union (AU) Summit to discuss specific benchmarks and measures that can be implemented to support public-private-sector-led growth in Africa.

Over 150 CEOs and senior executives of key U.S and African companies, both multinationals and SMEs, also participated in the Forum, contributing to the ongoing dialogue around Africa to increase opportunities for business partnerships, secure commitments to as well as track the adoption of business-friendly policies, and showcase countries and policies that are contributing to an enabling environment for enhanced African regional and global trade and investment.

Africa ‘working tirelessly’ to create conducive environment for foreign investments

Africa is working tirelessly to get policy and legislative conditions right to ease the business environment and attract more foreign direct investment, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said. As a result, foreign direct investment flows to the continent were growing with a number of African economies now showing resilience to various internal and external shocks.

“Africa has been on the investment radar of many multinationals for decades now as witnessed by increased investment in infrastructure, agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism, to mention but a few. Still Africa’s market and resource potential remains untapped,” he said, adding the business environment in Ethiopia had improved remarkably in recent years.

He said his government is seeking to employ policies and strategies for positioning the country as an attractive investment destination for productive investors.

The Prime Minister applauded the ECA and the CCA for organizing the Forum, which he said will contribute to the enrichment of policy issues regarding transforming Africa through public-private partnerships in various sectors.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda also commended the CCA and ECA for, “This effort to draw business leaders into this conversation about public-private sector investment in Africa”.

“This is long overdue and I trust that it will become a regular event during our Summits,” he added. Mr. Kagame called for closer collaboration between the private sector and African governments to increase economic opportunity and entrepreneurship on the continent.

For his part, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said there was need for more private sector investment in power projects on the continent. He was speaking during a round table discussion on the need to increase power supply in Africa through cross border networks.

“Africa has huge potential for renewable power generation that the private sector should invest in,” he said, adding the continent was full of opportunities, not just challenges.

The leaders attended different roundtables which focused on African trade and diversification; increasing power supply; the business of agriculture, creating successful agribusiness; and advancing public private partnerships on non-communicable diseases.

Senegal’s Macky Sall urged African governments to work together with the private sector to ensure the continent can deliver low cost renewable energy that can be accessed by all.


Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni urged American companies to invest in Africa. He said the continent was ripe for investment, adding African governments have and continue to address investors’ concerns to make it easier for them to bring their money to the continent.

Africa, he said, is a ready market, especially with the growing purchasing power of its people.

President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, said he was positive about the Continental Free Trade Area’s success.

“African Heads of State are fully committed and engaged in the CFTA process,” said Mr. Issoufou, adding Africa was the future. It is the continent on which you can count, he said.

Mr. Issoufou said the business forum was a great opportunity for Africa to inform investors about the benefits of the CFTA and progress made thus far.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, who attended the roundtable on the business of agriculture, said bold and coordinated efforts were needed as Africa moves from the old way of doing agriculture to new ways of farming.

He said the continent should invest in new technologies, research and education to ensure agriculture becomes cool for the youth and in the process ensure food security.

Mr. Nyusi said political will and vision was crucial if Africa is to scale up agribusiness on the continent through enabling policies that can link agriculture and trade thereby achieving sustainable equitable growth on the continent.

African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki hailed the ECA and the CCA for organizing the business forum, adding the continent was doing all it can to improve the ease of doing business for the benefit of its people.

U.S. Relationship

Millennium Challenge Corporation Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan Nash, said the U.S. is committed to working with African nations “to realize the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous world”.

“From promoting trade and economic progress to countering violent extremism, U.S. and Africa share a number of common interests,” he said, adding strategic investments in critical sectors can help the poorest people rise out of poverty – advancing security, stability and prosperity across Africa. 

“As we all know, the continent is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and will be home to one quarter of the world’s consumers by 2030. U.S. companies and investors are increasingly aware of the continent’s economic potential,” said Mr. Nash.

“We value our partnership with countries across Africa, and we respect the people of Africa,” he said.

Florie Liser, President and CEO Corporate Council on Africa [CCA], said, “Today was a great opportunity for UN and AU leadership to hear the voice of international private enterprises and investors who want to do business with Africa, and ensure that business relations between the U.S. and the continent continue to grow. Our CCA members, and guests at the Forum, were hugely encouraged to hear from our continent’s leaders that Africa is an attractive destination for investment.”

Opening remarks by President Paul Kagame at the Africa Business and Investment Forum

Addis Ababa, 30 January 2018

Good morning. I want to thank all of you for being here with us this morning and for the insights you will be providing going forward in our discussions.

Despite the diverse backgrounds, I hear consistent messages that the success of business in Africa is critically important to our future.

I therefore commend this effort led by the Economic Commission for Africa, and the partners UNECA brought into this, to draw business leaders into this conversation at the African Union, and beyond.

This is long overdue, and I trust that it will be a regular feature of our Summits and of continental initiatives more generally going forward because I also have heard from many country leaders wishing to have this kind of interaction. So our job will be simple: Encouraging those who are already willing to move forward.

You should be aware that the ongoing institutional reform of the African Union includes provisions for increased engagement with the private sector.

But the primary objective of the reform is an African Union that is financed sustainably from our own resources. Governments can meet that commitment if the business sector is flourishing and paying taxes. We need active support from the private sector in fact. Without your voice, something essential is missing.

Several of the African Union’s most ambitious initiatives are designed to unshackle commercial activity and entrepreneurship, which is about providing a better quality of life to our citizens.

I am thinking about the Continental Free Trade Area, which we hope to conclude this year, as well as the free movement of people, adopted during this Summit, and the Single African Air Transport Market, which we inaugurated yesterday.

Let me say by the way, I remind Ali Mufuruki that he may wish to visit the Commission Headquarters for a different thing, and other business leaders here, I wish to remind you that you can go to the Commission for the African passport.

I hope I am not putting the African Union Commission Chair on the spot when they are not ready to provide them, but I know they have stockpiles of passports to give. Among those they want to give the passports to are country leaders, as well as business leaders, which will facilitate people to move across the continent without having to go through the hassles of visas.

These are very important measures for the competitiveness of African firms and their ability to expand to new markets and hire more employees, especially young people. And there are many other urgent frameworks for economic integration waiting to be finalised and applied.

I think it will happen more quickly if Africa’s business leaders keep advocating for Pan-African economic cooperation with policy-makers and the public, especially through the media.

I am happy to see that today’s roundtables, the way I have seen they are arranged, will be specific and full of practical detail. This makes it more likely that new public-private partnerships can be forged.

We need the private sector’s help in that regard.

Let me give the example of health. Inadequate medical care costs companies and the public sector a lot of money and lost productivity through illness and disability.

But the private sector is also part of the solution. A report from the International Finance Corporation a few years ago found that the majority of health services consumed in Africa are already supplied privately.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we should privatise our healthcare systems, but rather find ways to improve quality and access to healthcare.

In Rwanda, for example, we have entered into a public-private arrangement with a Spanish-Angolan firm to manage our largest hospital. What is being done there is already showing good success.

We are also partnering with an American company, Zipline, to pioneer the use of drone aircraft to deliver blood and other medical supplies to rural areas.

There is much more we can do when we cooperate, and this conference may generate innovative ideas which we can take forward.

We can work through the African Union, and also work with external partners, some of whom we also see here with us today, and we thank you for being here.

But more collaboration is also needed between government and business. I hope you can help make government behave more like business in the sense of focusing on accountability and results.

At the end of the day, we share the same goal of raising the well-being and prosperity of our citizens. That is what we must keep working towards.

I thank you once again for arranging this meeting, UNECA and the partners you brought in, especially helping to bring African business to work together with other partners, especially today with American businesses.

I want you to know that you can count on our support to make gatherings like this a tradition, and also keep realising the results that we want from them.

I wish you a very productive conference and I thank you very much.


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