At the second annual Forbes Afrique Economic summit, Presidents Denis Sassou N’Guesso of Congo, Macky Sall of Senegal, John Mahama of Ghana, Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and Jacob Zuma of South Africa all highlighted the importance of private-sector participation in Africa’s development.
The summit, which focused on infrastructure and the emergence of an African middle class, was attended by global leaders from the private, public and philanthropic sectors including former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former prime minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt, former US Ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, President of the leading opposition party in France, the UMP’s Jean-Francois Copé, as well as African business leaders Tony Elumelu, Patrice Motsepe and Louis Ebata.
The tone was set by President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, who highlighted the need for African countries to create more policies to support what he called ‘a powerful emergence of Africa’s middle class’ who would create a better future for Africa. Macky Sall, President of Senegal, expanded on the four critical pillars that would drive this ‘better future’, citing education and training of human capital, modernised and mechanized agriculture, affordable energy and an adequate network of infrastructure as key drivers.
Advocating for increased private-sector participation in driving the development agenda, President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana warned against an overreliance on government when he said, “Government cannot leverage the sort of finance that is needed to create enough power in Africa.”
In his speech, President Campaoré of Burkina Faso acknowledged business leader and philanthropist Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of pan-African proprietary investment company Heirs Holdings, for his efforts to drive Africa’s development by investing across the continent.
During the panel session on “Supporting growth through investment”, which featured the two most high-profile private-sector leaders in attendance, Elumelu and South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, Chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, Elumelu commended the five African leaders for their strong belief in the power of the private sector as a catalyst and driver of development – the essence of his Africapitalist philosophy which other leaders, including President Obama, appear to have embraced.
Elumelu outlined the terms under which the private sector’s involvement would yield the greatest impact, highlighting long-term investments and infrastructure development as key focus areas.”Short-term investments in Africa simply don’t make an impact. It took close to two decades to get United Bank for Africa to where it is today – employing 25,000 people in 19 African countries. African leaders need to ensure the right physical and policy infrastructure is in place to support the growth of more successful pan-African businesses.” said Elumelu.
Capital such as the USD40 trillion dollars ex-US Ambassador Andrew Young called ‘scared money’, currently sitting in tax havens around the world and which could be put to better use in developing Africa.
Kofi Annan described Africa as a continent going through “momentous times”, highlighting ‘energy’ and ‘infrastructure’ as the two biggest impediments to development. He listed the three pillars of peace and security, economic development, and the rule of law and respect for human rights, as the solution for Africa’s economic success.
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