Despite abundant business and investment prospects in Africa, there continues to be negative perceptions and stereotypes about the continent which are said to often prevent investors from pursuing opportunities.
In an attempt to demystify the continent and bridge the gap between foreign investors and Africa, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Rwanda are co-hosting the Global Africa Investment Summit.
The summit, slated for September 5 and 6, targets over 1,000 delegates comprising of heads of government, industry captains, and representatives of multilateral organisations.
Organisers of the forum say foreign investors are often prone to basing decisions on their perception of a market.
In the case of Africa, they say, this often leads to misconceptions, such as a reliance on aid to improve its development, instead of active investments and collaboration.
Francis Gatare, chief executive of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said the continent’s appeal is growing among forward looking investors and is now less dependent on aid.
“Africa’s growing appeal amongst forward-thinking investors has made it less reliant on international aid. With nations like Rwanda becoming a hub of enterprise development, initiatives by businesses are changing the game and creating attractive prospects for investment,” Gatare said.
He noted that African nations were working to put in place policies and incentives to attract investments.
“Some nations are also making an active effort to enact business-friendly policies and tax incentives in order to attract investors overseas. The Global African Investment Summi will serve as an example of just what Africa can do. The event will provide a unique opportunity to forge partnerships and make investment a core element to achieving our socio-economic development goals,” Gatare added.
Officials from COMESA say that, in recent years, more and more countries across the continent are presenting viable investment prospects.
‘Becoming economic hub’
Sindiso Ngwenya, head of COMESA, said with more countries presenting viable investment prospects, the continent is on the brink of becoming an economic and technological hub for investment.
“Nations such as Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya position Africa as a viable investment prospect. As more nations follow suit, the continent will be on the cusp of becoming both an economic and technological hub for investment,” Ngwenya said.
Paul Sinclair, a member of the organising committee of the conference, cited Rwanda as one of the nations changing opinions and perceptions by investing in infrastructure.
“Rwanda is actively changing opinions with its actions to improve its industrial, agricultural and social infrastructure. Heavy investment in Rwanda’s information and communications technology has been crucial to helping the nation spearhead their long term growth strategies, allowing it to become a place of interest for investors,” Sinclair said.
Going forward, Sinclair said, investment opportunities in Africa are particularly strong due to its strong consumer base, along with the high adoption rate of various technological tools, such as smart-phones and the internet.
The summit, organisers sa,y will build on the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) that was launched in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, in June last year.
TFTA aims at economically integrating Africa’s three major regional economic communities; COMESA, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the East African Community (EAC).
Together, the three economic blocs integrated would create the largest trading bloc in Africa, comprising 26 countries, about 620 million consumers and a combined GDP of almost $1.2 trillion spanning half the continent from Cairo in Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa.
By harmonising trade policies, removing trade barriers and promoting trade facilitation, TFTA aims to reap enormous benefits for the regions’ economies and populations, the organisers says.
“The primary objective of the summit is to engage the private sector on the TFTA initiative, and explore how the public and private sector can work together to help realise the aspiration of Africa’s largest single market,” a concept note of the forum reads in part.
The summit is an internationally recognised business platform that creates a unique meeting place for global investors and public and private sectors.
The last summit took place in London, UK, in December, last year, and attracted more than 1,500 investors who manage over $425 billion in funds earmarked for emerging markets.
The forum features sessions for the various sectors, roundtable discussions, exhibitions, bilateral meetings and networking sessions.