LIBREVILLE, Gabon, June 10, 2012 — At the initiative of Richard Attias & Associates, under the aegis of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, and in partnership with the government of Gabon, more than 600 international opinion leaders from business, economics, and politics met yesterday to attend the official launch of the first New York Forum AFRICA which ends on Sunday 10 June.
Opening address by President Ali Bongo Ondimba and Richard Attias
President Ali Bongo Ondimba and Richard Attias opened the first New York Forum AFRICA, by calling on the international economic community and all African stakeholders and decision-makers to increase participation in Africa's current growth and to discover the potential of a continent that has a wealth of talent and opportunity. The opening session was attended by Thomas Yayi Boni, President of Benin and the current chairman of the African Union, Jean Ping, President of the African Union Commission, the Prime Minister of Gabon, Raymond Ndong Sima, and also Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, the host country of this first meeting, and the President of Benin and the African Union, Yayi Boni, began by sharing their vision of the challenges and potential of their continent from the perspective of their respective personal experiences.
Notably, the Gabonese President committed the African continent to succeed in its evolution. "We don't have a choice", he noted. Conscious of the numerous issues which Africa is facing, he furthermore outlined the continent's many recent successes in terms of development while summarising the country's priorities: human capital, infrastructures, the business sector, and access to international markets. Finally, Ali Bongo Ondimba undertook to ensure that the decisions taken within the context of the Forum are followed up by very concrete applications. The President of Benin, Yayi Boni, called for "getting rid of charity to Africa". He also confirmed his wish for military intervention to combat the rebellion in the north of Mali.
Following these speeches, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, discussed with Sade Baderinwa of WABC, with President Ali Bongo Ondimba, about the way in which to understand business in Africa. He also expressed his hope that Africa would continue its onward march. Ambassador Andrew Young notably observed: "if you want to do business in Africa, learn how the continent works!" The President of Gabon replied: "We haven't been conscious enough of the need to improve our image and how Africa is seen across the world".
First speech of Muhammad Yunus in Africa
Muhammad Yunus also gave a special address. In particular, he expressed the emotion and joy of his first ever visit to Africa. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner also shared his personal experience of the launch of micro-credit with 8.5 million current borrowers, 97% of whom are women.
"The flowering of Africa: myth or reality?"
The participants of New York Forum AFRICA then attended the first plenary session which aimed to shed light on the African continent's economic growth. Led by William Wallis, Africa editor of the Financial Times, a debate focusing on the different strategies to be taken in order to maintain and develop the growth of the African continent, thus gathered together economic stakeholders and decision-makers from across the world, such as Abdelslam Ahizoune (Morocco), president and CEO of Maroc Telecom, Colin Coleman (South Africa), Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs, Shanta Devaranja (USA), the World Bank's chief economist in the Africa region, Ariane de Rothschild (France) from Edmond de Rothschild Holding, and Amin Tazzi-Riffi (Switzerland), an associate with McKinsey & Company.
The second plenary session focused on Gabon's economic model and the new approach taken by Gabonese government in partnership with the Prime Minister of Gabon, Raymond Ndong Sima, the minister for the Promotion of Investments, Public Works, Transport, Housing, and Tourism in Gabon, Magloire Ngambia, of the Chief Executive Officer of ANGT, Henri Ohayon, of the president and CEO of BGFI Banque, Henri-Claude Oyima, and the Minister for the Budget, Public Accounts, and the Civil Service of Gabon, Christiane Rose Ossoucah Raponda.
An evening in honour of Africa's talents, with Salif Keita and Angélique Kidjo
The first day of New York Forum AFRICA ended with emphasising African music with a dinner accompanied by the voices and musicians of two of the biggest African artists of today, Salif Keita from Mali, whose latest album, La Différence, won the Victoire de la Musique 2010 of the Album de Musique du Monde de l'Année (the World Music Album of the Year), and Angélique Kidjo from Benin, winner of a Grammy Award and praised by Time Magazine as the "Greatest African diva".