Today, The Global Africa Investment Summit (TGAIS) will begin in Kigali, with an aim of creating linkages for international investors on the African continent. This is the first time the summit is taking place in Africa since its inception in 2014, with previous editions being held in London. The New Times’ Collins Mwai spoke to the TGAIS Programme Director Amanda Basi for insights and expectations of the forum.
Among the aims of TGAIS, according to the concept note is to demystify Africa as an investment destination. From your survey and research what did you find to be the biggest reason behind the perception about Africa?
There is a misperception about Africa internationally. The misperception largely comes out of lack of knowledge; most people are a bit wary of things they do not know much about. That is why summits like this are important to demystify and improve knowledge about the continent.
This summit in particular will try to address these challenges. For investors, its answering questions such as how you de-risk and enabling them build local partnerships to improve their confidence in the market.
One of the other things about Africa is that a lot of our international investors have said that the data and projects are not well packaged the way that they are used to As we were planning for the summit, we saw that the investors were paying more attention to how opportunities are packaged.
In recent years, a number of African countries have been working to improve their business environment and policies. What do the investors you work with closely make of the efforts?
We are not in Rwanda by accident; when we talk to our international investors’ network they really see Rwanda very positively and the efforts made to make it more investor friendly.
One of the issues that will be discussed at the summit is how to make countries and regions more investor friendly.
The summit is not only going to have governments and politicians talking about what they are doing, it is also going to involve conversations with members of the private sector who will highlight what is working well for them and what is not.
That dynamism makes the forum effective and unique in addressing investment issues across the continent.
In an attempt to attract investments to their countries, some experts say that much focus has been put on investors from outside the continent at the expense of those from the continent. Is there an attempt to strike balance in the profiles of those attending the summit?
One of the things this forum will be looking at is the creation of a Tripartite Free Trade Area aspiration. The key thinking is why we are not having a common market and why we are not trading enough with each other.
Trade is very low and increasing it is the next step for growth for the entire continent.
The one billion person market that can be realised in Africa holds huge potential for Africa and its citizens.
We are looking at Africa trading with each other. The Tripartite Free Trade Area is made up of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). However, in the organisation of this summit, we have seen a lot of interest from Nigeria and other West African countries who want to be part of this move.
The focus of Africans investing in Africa will make this forum quite unique from our previous meetings.
One thing about this summit is that it is unique in how we want to effect change, be in at the highest levels or at multilateral levels. We come down to transactions, the most tangible outcomes being facilitating connections between investors of different parts of Africa and fostering deals.
We have done investment missions after our previous summits whereby we have taken international investors to specific locations. We have also had partners who help to ensure that the projects presented showcase the opportunities to the investors.
How would you rate previous TGAIS summits?
From conversations we have had with our networks, there have been MoUs signed, partnerships formed and deals signed but we cannot divulge details due to issues of confidentiality.
But also with the kind of interest in participation which has continued to grow over the years, it is proof that the summit has been serving a great purpose in linking investors and business people.
Last year, we had about 1,500 investors in London who were managing about $425bn. They were especially interested in investing in Africa and in emerging markets.
All your previous summits have taken place in London yet they are about Africa; some would find that a bit ironical.
We have been meeting in London since inception, but we want to bring it to Africa to demystify the continent for people to actually see the good things going on here.
The choice of London previously was because it was a central point for our investors from across the world who wanted to take part. But coming here, we want to promote the idea of Africa trading more with Africa as well as investing here.
What’s the general expectation from this summit in terms of participation?
We are expecting over 1,000 participants who will be looking to invest hundreds of billions. The participants will be members of the private sector and government agencies such as ministers of key sectors.
These key sectors include, power, energy, ICT and infrastructure, which are largely considered as enabling sectors towards a more integrated market.
The EAC is in the process of rolling out regional infrastructure projects which require quite heavy capital investment. Any chance the summit could provide access to such capital?
It goes back to bringing in the entire ecosystem onto one platform. There are a lot of funds available for such projects when they are well-packaged. With the profile of investors coming to the forum, some of them are looking to put their money into such projects.
This summit is also expected to introduce the Tripartite Free Trade Area to the continent, especially the private sector. What will be the role of the private sector increasing the dream of the Tripartite Free Trade Area?
It’s not just the private sector; you have heads of state and leaders of governments who have committed to implementing the Tripartite Free Trade Area. We have the political will at the highest level. What follows is to integrate the works of the regional blocs and turning them into a common market. It’s not an easy task.
The private sector has an important role in enabling the realisation of a common market through investments and providing expertise which will link up the continent.
The private sector can play a very innovative role in linking up the continent while the public sector can facilitate their work through conducive policies.
The summit comes at a time when there is quite a large number of start-ups in Africa seeking funding. However, due to the volatility of their investments, it has been quite difficult to access funds. Could the summit provide the much sought capital?
One of the assumptions we come across often is that in the African market there is no access to capital to fund start-ups, but when we talk to investors, they say they cannot find a good project to invest in. There is a mismatch between the two while other times there are issues of packaging of opportunities. Such summits will provide a link between the two.
This year alone, there have been multiple forums calling for investments in Africa as well as the Africa rising narrative. From your perspective, is this viable or just hype?
Africa offers tremendous opportunities and that is why there is a large number of participants here for the summit. Is it going to be easy to realise this vision? No. Is it going to be quick? Probably not. But most people coming here are coming here for the long run and want to make it work. It may take hard work and time but it is definitely viable.