Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at welcome Dinner of the Inaugural Africa Investment Forum
Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura,
President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Karibu. Bem Vinda. Bienvenue. Ahlan wa Sahlan. Ni Hao. Siyakwamukela.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to South Africa and to this, the inaugural Africa Investment Forum.
This Forum, with its strategic focus on leveraging public private partnerships to drive investment on the continent, gives us great cause for optimism.
Among the key aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 is that of a prosperous and integrated continent based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
African integration speaks to the free movement of people, to the deepening of intra-African trade, and to cooperation across borders on infrastructure development.
Importantly, it speaks to strengthening the capacity of continental financial institutions such as the African Development Bank to power Africa’s growth.
African integration is key to attracting investment and growing our respective economies.
It is an imperative if we are to fully harness the potential of our citizens.
In July this year, South Africa joined 44 other countries in signing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
The agreement will pave the way for greater inter-regional trade, increased investment and faster industrialisation.
This Forum therefore comes at a critical and timely juncture.
Earlier this year the World Bank forecast that 6 out of the 10 fastest growing economies for 2018 would be in Africa.
With a youthful and tech-savvy population, vast resources and diverse investment opportunities across a range of sectors such as agriculture, mining, telecoms and to energy, Africa is ideally positioned to drive global growth.
The pace with which new technologies have been embraced by the young people of this continent suggests that Africa has the potential to effectively seize the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Numerous studies have shown that developing countries, many of which are in Africa, are suited for so-called leapfrog development.
We have seen, for example, the spectacular growth of mobile banking technology in African countries, wholly bypassing traditional banking systems that have been inaccessible to rural communities.
In other instances, renewable energy investment has seen some African communities bypass conventional energy grids.
By harnessing the potential of technology and by mobilising investment from the private sector, African societies can be at the forefront of innovation and progress.
To do this, we must confront some of the perceptions that exist about investing in African countries.
There are concerns that barriers to entry are high, regulatory red tape is overly burdensome, and governance challenges make investing in African economies risky.
It should not be difficult to do business in Africa, and yet, as investors often tell us, it has been.
If we are to unlock capital flows, we have to develop sound policy and regulatory environments, strengthen our financial institutions, improve governance and deal decisively with corruption.
Providing policy certainty and consistency is critical if we are to realise the levels of investment we seek.
This is why the African Development Bank should be commended for convening this Forum as a platform of engagement between African governments, the private sector and continental and international financial institutions.
Tomorrow you will be hearing from leaders from across the continent about the concrete actions we are undertaking in our respective countries to create a business-friendly environment that catalyses investment.
But the Africa Investment Forum is about more than just discussing ways to unlock obstacles to further investment.
We are bringing tangible, real projects to the table.
Africa will not be able to raise the $130 billion or more that it needs each year to meet its infrastructure requirements, without massive private sector investment in the continent’s development.
It is not only the people of Africa who stand to benefit.
Governments and the private sector should form relationships of mutual benefit, because Africa holds significant and untapped potential for investors.
For investors looking to diversify their portfolios, Africa is a continent where opportunities are immense and the returns on investment are significant – whether it is investing in climate smart agriculture in Nyando, Kenya; in an automotive manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa; in a hydroelectric dam on the Congo River; or in a tech start-up in Lagos.
We will be using this platform to showcase the opportunities that exist.
We will be using it to highlight what we are doing to remove the bottlenecks that stand in the way of greater investment into our respective countries.
We hope that the deliberations here will be robust, spirited and, above all, results-oriented.
I’d like to welcome you once again to our country, and encourage you to take advantage of your time here to see as much of South Africa as you can.
We are justifiably proud that we continue to attract high numbers of tourists to our shores, and we trust that for those visiting for the first time that it will not be your last.
This year South Africa marks the centenary of the birth of the founder of our nation, Nelson Mandela.
He was a legendary statesman, an exemplary leader, and an ardent pan-Africanist.
He never tired of emphasising the inextricable links between the struggles and fortunes of South Africa, and those of the rest of the continent. And, he always advocated for a more integrated continent.
In presenting the Africa Peace Award to the nation of Mozambique in 1997, President Mandela said:
“The time for Africa’s renewal, for our continent to occupy the pedestal of the successful, has come to pass. Africa yearns and deserves to redeem her glory; to reassert her centuries-old contribution to economics, politics, culture and the arts, and once more to be a pioneer in the many fields of human endeavour.”
The convening of the Africa Investment Forum is but one of the many means by which we as African leaders seek to develop our continent, improve the conditions of her people, and enhance her prosperity.
In this we know we can count on the domestic and international business and investor community to work with us, side by side.
A strong prosperous Africa, driven by the energies of its citizens is in the interest – and reach - of us all.
I thank you.