Senior Director of Africa Investment Forum (AIF), Chinelo Anohu, held a webinar with business leaders on Thursday to discuss opportunities for Africa in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and how the continent can use them to attract investment for development .
The panel discussion entitled African Resilience, New World Order and organized by the Africa Debate, a flagship event of Invest Africa, a leading investment forum in London.
Participants discussed domestic manufacturing as a way to expand intra-continental trade, while also reaffirming Africa’s position on the world market. The role of the private sector and the African continental free trade area was also examined.
The other panel members were Farid Fezoua, President and CEO of GE Africa; Daniel Mminele, CEO of ABSA Group; and chairman of CDC Group Sir Graham Wrigley. The Rt. Hon. Mark Simmonds, Chairman of the Advisory Board of Invest Africa, was the moderator.
Anohu emphasizes that investors should not view Africa as a single market. “Africa is big. There are 54 countries, and in these countries you have 54 different prospects, 54 types of resources and 54 different ways of managing the resources. If you take into account, Africa remains the most important investment destination.”
The senior director, who is repeated by Wrigley, stressed that investing in African countries poses risks, but this was too often exaggerated. “It’s about an attitude,” Anohu added.
“The Africa Investment Forum’s approach is to solve problems, to present innovative solutions,” said Anohu. According to her, the AIF and the African Development Bank can play a role in assessing the feasibility of manufacturing on the continent, and more critically, bringing government and private investors to the table to align their decisions. The approach of the Africa Investment Forum is not only to identify the problems for investments, but also to solve them, to offer innovative solutions, as one size does not fit all.
Anohu described the focus of the Africa Investment Forum on projects that address the dual economic and health impacts of the pandemic. These include a vaccine innovation project in Kenya, a cotton processing plant in Angola and a Nigerian telemedicine initiative.
Mminele offered a perspective from the private sector, and there is a specific role played by financial institutions such as ABSA, in combination with DFIs, which have traditionally played an important role in promoting economic growth on the continent – whether through co-financing arrangements with the private sector, or to facilitate access to finance, or even to engage in policy discussions. ‘
GE Africa’s Fezoua pointed to the size and non-integration of African markets as an obstacle to attracting investment in the manufacturing sectors of individual countries. “You have to have a critical mass and volume to justify that investment and not to have idle plants.”
Other issues discussed during the one-hour session included the value of public-private partnerships, the need for smart integrated infrastructure.
There was consensus among the panel members that the current economic conditions in Africa, although challenging, offer important opportunities. “Despite the underlying challenges, there is no better destination for a decent return on investment than Africa,” Anohu noted.