It was a presidential start on Monday to the African Development Bank's Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Dignitaries and delegates from the continent and around the world gathered to listen to Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and Prime Minister Agostinho do Rosario of Mozambique.
They engaged in a discussion titled, Invest in Africa's Space: Conversation with African Heads of State, moderated by Dr. Victor Oladokun, African Development Bank Group Director of External Relations and Communications.
The message from all is clear - Africa is better placed than ever for investment.
President Cyril Ramaphosa identified infrastructure, energy, manufacturing and tourism as the sectors where the most investment opportunities exist in South Africa. And as the tourism capital of the continent, the president claims when God created Africa, he spent more time on the southern tip.
Rwanda's President Paul Kagama had a positive message to share, "There has been a lot of progress and activities taking place on the continent, raising Africa to a higher level. I have always thought it was Africa's time - but in the past we have let ourselves down." He says his country has created a conducive investment environment through good governance systems and security, and according to the World Bank, it is the second easiest African country with which to do business. Rwanda is focusing on three main areas - creating an agribusiness hub, the planned Kigali Innovation City and the Kigali Innovation Fund.
For Ghana's President. Nana Akufo-Addo, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area remains a priority. He says his government is working to strengthen the country's macro-economy, "We've managed to turn around rising inflation, curbed debt, and maintained discipline in the managing of public finances. In just 3 years, our economy is expanding to become one of the world's fastest growing economies." The country's current priorities are infrastructure, agriculture and mineral resources.
Prime Minister Agostinho do Rosario representing the President of Mozambique, says his country has changed a lot. His government is open to investment, fighting corruption and has improved transparency. It has managed to control inflation, reducing it from 27% to 13%. The country has a youthful population, which is ready to work. Mozambique has many investment opportunities, particularly in oil and gas, agriculture and mineral resources.
The four presidents also responded to questions from the audience.
There was a common theme amongst the leaders - continuing governance issues need to be addressed, such as political stability, security and conflict. President Kagama says many African states know what needs to be done, which includes improving accountability, transparency and trust, while promoting the role of women.
Answering a question about the safety of foreign nationals in South Africa, President Ramaphosa reassured the continent that his country has always welcomed people from around the world, especially its neighbors, as South Africa is home to all.
He says his government is taking action and setting up an early warning system.
On agriculture and fisheries sector in Mozambique, Prime Minister Agostinho do Rosario said the industries are vital for job and income creation. He adds that only 10% of arable land in his country is being used. Modernization is needed, as well as expansion in crops like maize, cashew nuts and cotton. Mozambique's government is also working to maintain peace in the country.
Asked about his government's approach to the cocoa industry, Ghana's President, Nana Akufo-Addo explained that his country and Côte d'Ivoire produce about 65% of the world's cocoa, worth about $100bn. Of that money, the farmers producing the product, receive about $6bn. Both countries have decided to take action by forging a common policy with a set cocoa floor price, increasing the farmers' earnings.
The Africa Investment Forum is an innovative, multi-stakeholder transactional marketplace conceived by the African Development Bank, aimed at raising capital, advancing projects to the bankable stage, and accelerating financial closure of deals.
The 2018 inaugural Africa Investment Forum secured investment interests for deals valued at $38.7 billion -- in less than 72 hours.
The 2019 Forum runs from 11 to 13 November in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Nafissatou Diouf, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank