Lilongwe — African countries have been challenged to support and grow local investors and entrepreneurs to counter the fickleness of international investment flows. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe noted that the uncertainty wrought by Brexit and an inward-looking United States of America is intensifying the threats of protectionism rather than expanding global trade and thus made the challenge of growing Africa's private sector more imperative.
She made this remark at the Joint Opening Ceremony of the Malawi Investment Forum and the Southern Africa Stakeholder Forum on the "Private Sector and Regional Integration in Southern Africa: Opportunities for Investments and Growth" read on her behalf by the ECA Regional Director for Southern Africa, Said Adejumobi in Lilongwe, Malawi on 11th June 2018.
Ms Songwe says African countries need to cope with the changing investment climate by building resilience through individual and collective strength, as well as through resoluteness in implementing well-thought out economic and social programmes and agendas.
Ms. Songwe further noted that huge corporations from across the African continent have shown that transborder businesses are possible and desirable and yield better returns. "Examples include the Dangotes, Games, Shoprites, Pick n Pays, Standard Banks, Sanlams, MTNs". "Award-winning airlines such as the Ethiopian Airlines and the growing Rwanda Air have proved that they can stand their ground against the very best in the world. New kids on the block such as Choppies, the retailer, are finding their way through the continent and need our support", she said.
Ms Songwe observed that more needs to be done to support the private sector in our continent and region. While various investment and industrialization protocols and programmes acknowledge the private sector as a key beneficiary and driver of regional integration policy and programmes, necessary efforts have not been made to involve the private sector from the very beginning of these regional policy-making processes. She said a conducive environment in which the private sector can thrive is important to support the private sector.
On his part, President of the Republic of Malawi, Peter Mutharika who was the Guest of Honour at the Opening Ceremony advised delegates that, Malawi has made significant progress in recent years. The economy has stabilized, growth has resumed, inflation rate has gone down remarkably and the economy is showing good signs of progress. However, different people can choose to see the situation in Malawi differently. Some can simply choose to see Malawi as a poor country, and others may see it as a land of opportunities. For the Government and citizens of Malawi, they do view the country as a land of opportunities for investments. "Malawi is a rich nation that has poor people; Malawi is a strong, great country. If they see poverty, we see potential riches; if they see challenges, we see opportunities," Mutharika said.
Regarding energy deficit, President Mutharika told potential investors that government planned to double the current power output from 351 megawatts (MW) to 720 MW in two years towards a goal of 2000 MW within 10 years.
He further expressed optimism that the country's economy would rebound with a 4.1 percent growth this year, as evidenced by macroeconomic stability maintained in the first half of the year.
And speaking at the same event, African Union Regional Delegate to Southern African Region, COMESA and SADC, Leopold-Auguste Ngomo underscored the importance of the private sector in regional integration and emphasized the need for the private sector to be strongly involved in the Continental Free Trade Area. "To realize our vision of a prosperous, peaceful and integrated Africa, we must heavily invest in high quality regional and continental infrastructure and human skills. We need also to invest in trade facilitation and financially assist the private sector in trade expansion," Ngomo, said.
The Malawi Investment Forum is organized by the Government of Malawi from 11-12 June 2018 and the Southern Africa Stakeholder Forum on the "Private Sector and Regional Integration in Southern Africa: Opportunities for Investments and Growth" is organized jointly by the ECA- Southern Africa Office, AU Southern African Office and the African Business Group from 11-13 June 2018 in Lilongwe, Malawi.
The Forum is being attended by high-level government officials especially from the trade and industry departments, representatives of the private sector in Southern Africa, regional financial institutions including development banks, as well as bilateral and multilateral development partners active in Southern Africa among others.