Addis Ababa — In his opening remarks at the Africa Business and Investment Forum that took place on 30 January in Addis Ababa, Paul Kagame - President of Rwanda and Chairperson of the African Union (AU) - praised the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) for mobilizing stakeholders to a public-private sector dialogue.
"I commend the ECA and its partners for this effort to draw business leaders into this conversation about public-private sector investment in Africa," said Mr. Kagame, adding "this is long overdue and I trust that it will become a regular event during our Summits."
The new AU Chairperson called for closer collaboration between the private sector and African governments to increase economic opportunities and entrepreneurship in Africa.
In the same light, Moussa Faki who chairs the African Union Commission (AUC), encouraged business persons at the Forum to quickly "take advantage" of investment opportunities on the continent before it is too late.
The Forum served as a platform for African heads of state and government to engage African and U.S. public and private sectors on benchmarks to support private-sector led growth on the continent.
Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Chairman of Coronation Capital Mauritius Ltd, described the Forum as a platform that could mark "the beginning of an 'African Davos' that takes place after the AU Summit every year."
Speaking during a roundtable discussion on health, Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede urged both the private and public sectors to take the Forum seriously as "this new partnership serves as a fertile ground for building the African Health Sector."
"The private sector has a role to play in shaping health markets in Africa," he stated. "Good Health is Good Business. Investing in health is both a business and social imperative."
For his part, Ali Mufuruki, Chairman of the Africa Management Services Company (AMSCO), said he was "very pleased and humbled" for the opportunity to "speak not only for myself but representing the voice of the African private sector as a whole."
Mr. Mufuruki deplored the existing "disconnect between the African political and business agendas." Noting that "big decisions that impact the cause of doing business in Africa in the most profound ways are made here in Addis Ababa," he said the Forum should aim to make Addis Ababa relevant to the African private sector "in the same way Brussels is for our European counterparts or Washington DC for American entrepreneurs."
Addressing the Forum organizers (ECA and CCA - the Corporate Council on Africa) Mr. Mufuruki expressed hope that "we will have more of this kind of events and that your organizations will continue to use their considerable convening power to enhance collaboration between the African public and private sectors.
Commenting on the profitability of business in Africa, Jonathan Nash, Acting CEO of Millennium Challenge said U.S. companies and investors are increasingly aware of the continent's economic potential and that his company's investments in Africa total "more than $8.4 billion and account for 70 percent of our portfolio."
This initiative to connect investors to new and underserved markets, added Mr. Nash, can expand opportunity for millions of people across Africa.
"We will continue to work to forge strong, innovative partnerships with the private sector, civil society, foundations and others to increase the impact of our collective investments," he said.
ECA Executive Secretay, Vera Songwe, expressed her satisfaction with the heads of state in attendance for showing real commitment to paving the way for private investors in Africa, adding "ECA will put its analytical capabilities at the service of the AU and the private sector in order to facilitate the development and implementation of business-friendly policies such as the CFTA."
The Forum, which took place on the margins of the African Union Summit, attracted over 150 participants including the P.M. of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn; President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya; President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique; President Macky Sall of Senegal; President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; AUC Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat; and senior executives of key U.S and African companies.
The event featured roundtable discussions about trade and diversification, energy, agribusiness, and health.