African leaders meet in Sharm el-Sheikh to promote investment and trade at Africa 2016 Forum
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, 21 February 2016, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Head of states, ministers, business leaders, policymakers, investment promotion agencies and development partners are attending Africa 2016, the biggest regional business and investment forum taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, held under the high patronage of H.E. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, for an extensive dialogue on Africa, the world's last investment frontier.
A presidential panel was held during the opening ceremony with Teodoro Obiang, President of Equatorial Guinea, Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Gabonese Republic, Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria and Omar al-Bashir President of Sudan to discuss the realities, challenges and opportunities within the African continent.
Over two days (20-21 February) international influential business leaders and investors from all over the world met to tackle some key issues in an increasingly complex global economic context and to share insights and experiences with companies and organisations that are driving growth and investments across Africa.
Some 1,500 delegates from Africa and the world are attending the forum, which covers multiple sectors, including energy, ICT, financial services, trade, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals and health.
"[The Forum] not only aims to present investment opportunities that Africa offers to the international business community, but also aims to pave the way for more communication and cooperation," said Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in inaugurating the Forum and welcoming the delegates. President al-Sisi said that attaining developent is the main challenge facing Africa and requires developing mechanisms of African joint action, especially in light of the need of implementing mega regional projects in several spheres.
In a special address, Dr Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, said that Africa is no longer "the dark continent" of strife. It is now home to the world's fastest economies. Ethiopia is one of the five fastest growing economies in the world. Africa still has many opportunities for local and foreign investors. "Today, in our globalised world no country can achieve development in isolation" said Desalegn.
Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President of the African Development Bank said : "breaking down the barriers is the key to Africa's long-term growth and prosperity." He added that: "the Africa rising story is not over", as Africa's growth is projected at 4.4% and will strengthen further to 5% in 2017. "Africa is still the best place to invest." Mr Adenisa said that some challenges need to be tackled in order to unlock the enormous potential of African countries. "We call them the High 5's for Africa: Light Up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialise Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life for Africans."
Heba Salama, Director of COMESA Regional Investment Agency, the official partner of Africa 2016 said : "we have awakened, we will not sleep anymore", quoting Kwane Nkrumah. She added that Africa is the growth story of this century.
Hazem Fahmy, Secretary General, EAPD ? Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the Forum's organisers closed the session with these words: "One hand alone cannot clap", stressing the necessity for African countries to work closely together. He stressed the need for Africa 2016 to become a regular event.
During the presidential panel that followed the opening remarks, some of the challenges cited included the adverse effects of the economic downturn, the low price of oil, local terrorism, mono-economies, corruption and slow infrastructure development on the growth prospects of their economies. The panel expressed optimism about the opportunities available in diversification into agriculture and solid mineral mining, infrastructure development and increased trade between countries.
The Chairman and Founder of Qalaa Holdings, Ahmed Heikal, shared the realities of investing in large-scale projects in Africa such as the Rift Valley Railways in East Africa and a USD 3.7 billion refinery project in Egypt. Egyptian Ministers and members of the private and public sector discussed the role of Egypt as key partner for business and trade given the Tripartite Free Trade Area and the Suez Canal Hub. This was followed by four parallel sessions on key sectors in Africa's growth: healthcare, energy, agriculture and ICT.
In the closing panels, investors from the energy and banking sectors shared models for Africa's economic transformation, while in the business panel, key leaders from Afreximbank, Microsoft, WTO and k21 Capital debated the question:"Where does the continent stand". Sindiso Ngwenya, COMESA Secretary General summed up the key message of the day saying: we need to change the narrative from "Africa is rising" to Africa is rising with confidence.