Your Excellency Dr. Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
Representatives of International Organisations in Egypt,
Distinguished members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a pleasure being here with you today to brief you about the upcoming Africa 2017 Forum, which we are proud, will be hosted for the 2nd time, under the High Patronage of His Excellency Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The forum this year will take place from the 7th to the 9th of December 2017 in Sharm El Sheikh, under the theme: “Driving Investment for Inclusive Growth”.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa – COMESA – and its Regional Investment Agency which I have the pleasure to head, believe in the extraordinary opportunities its 19 Members States and the African continent have in store for its citizens, as well as for businesses from around the globe.
Since its launch, COMESA RIA has been organizing high-level Africa-focused business and investment forums. Africa 2017 is the 7th Forum of its kind to be organized by COMESA RIA and its partners, and the 4th we are organising with the Government of Egypt. Indeed, we believe in the importance of providing world-class platforms where citizen, government and business leaders can meet and discuss, in order to drive forward the continent’s agenda of tomorrow.
Likewise, we consider Egypt to have a truly unique position as gateway for business in and out of Africa and as such, we are thrilled that such an important Forum is hosted here.
Business has been growing fast in Africa since the beginning of the new millennium, but it could be a lot more, especially within Africa itself. Intra-African trade has consistently represented around 15% of its total trade for the past few years. As regional trade agreements multiply, we are in a position to better capitalize on our diversifying African economies.
FDI into Africa is certainly moving in the right direction: 21% of all announced greenfield FDI projects were in manufacturing and 75% in services in the last year. And of these, 51% of Africa to Africa investment projects announced were in manufacturing. That is because those who are there understand where the good opportunities lie.
In contrast, we think that it continues to be important to demystify the negative narrative that has been associated with the continent during the past decades, as it still overshadows the astonishing economic, cultural and political developments which have been taking place in Africa. For those in the room here today, we already know that companies operating in Africa yield above-than-average returns, that risk premiums are way higher than they should be, and that business climates across the continent are continuously improving, thanks to the reform efforts of our Governments. We are aware of the cultural diversity, wealth and sophistication that flourishes on the continent. We also know that perceptions on Africa are yet to match its reality.
This is another reason why holding such Forums is important. Our own success stories need to be shared and replicated across the continent.
This year, hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation, we promise Africa 2017 delegates a valuable experience. Let me walk you through the Africa 2017 Forum programme.
Africa 2017 is set to be the biggest B2B and B2G event to take place in Africa this year. In terms of expected attendance, we anticipate the participation of some of the biggest names in business as well as international investors and financiers. We expect 120 speakers from Africa and around the globe, all experts in their own field. Various heads of state have been invited, along with Ministerial delegations, top company executives and young promising entrepreneurs.
The Forum will last a total of 3 days and its programme has been designed to provide as many networking opportunities as possible.
The first day, the 7th of December, is our biggest addition to the programme: the Africa 2017 Young Entrepreneurs Day, or “YED” as we like to call it.
It is said that Africa – the youngest continent in the world – will need to generate 20 million jobs per year by 2035. We will need creative cross-border solutions and pro-innovation entrepreneurship ecosystems to achieve these numbers.
As such, the entire Africa 2017 Young Entrepreneurs Day will be dedicated to connecting the most promising young entrepreneurs of the continent, with investors, incubators, accelerators, thought-leaders, policy-makers, and with each other… or in other words, connecting our future champions, tomorrow’s leaders.
The Africa 2017 main Forum will take place during the following 2 days, the 8th and 9th of December. Delegates will be able to participate in inspiring plenary and sector specific breakout sessions, and have the chance to see special guests delivering keynote speeches. Additionally, we will bring together leading African industrialists who will take part in exclusive presidential round-tables, taking place on the side lines of the Forum.
Furthermore, Africa 2017 will feature special cultural activities. I can tell you for example that contemporary African art installations at the Africa 2017 venue and musical performances during the YED cocktail and the gala dinner will be sure to inspire all delegates and contribute to showing the world the energy and vibrancy of today’s Africa.
Lastly, as part of our work at COMESA RIA, we have invited some of the African investment promotion agencies to take part in a series of training workshops happening between the 4th to the 6th of December in Sharm El Sheikh, and to showcase their countries’ investment opportunity in a dedicated IPA area.
To the African embassies present here today, please make sure your IPAs do not miss the chance to attend.
So what do I ask from you?
Following Her Excellency Dr. Sahar Nasr’s message, I would like to reiterate our wish to work together to make sure the Forum delivers on its promise to drive further business into our continent and respective countries.
Tell your networks, mobilize your leading CEOs, invite people.
We will be happy to provide all the support you may need including invitations, documentation, collateral, or anything else. We will also be inviting you again to the Africa 2017 press conference to take place in the upcoming weeks. Expect exciting announcements.
It is our role as International Organizations and Governments to work together with private sector to make sure the growth in business taking place on the continent translates into job creation, inclusive growth, and sustainable development. Africa 2017 is an unrivalled platform to spread the right message.
On this note, I would like to thank everyone here today for their time.
I look forward to working closely with you all and seeing you at Africa 2017, from the 7th to the 9th of December in Sharm El Sheikh, where we shall be meeting old friends and making new ones.
Please, enjoy your breakfast and bon appétit!