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Notes on the new paths to African prosperity via the Africa CEO Forum

By Dolapo Aina, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire
19 June 2022   |   11:43 am
With the theme; “Economic sovereignty, green growth and industrial transformation: new paths to African prosperity”, the much-awaited Africa CEO forum 2022 kicked off on Monday, 13th to Tuesday 14th of June in the city of Abidjan, the capital of Cote D’Ivoire. And this year’s forum was the largest yearly gathering of Africa’s private sector leaders,…

With the theme; “Economic sovereignty, green growth and industrial transformation: new paths to African prosperity”, the much-awaited Africa CEO forum 2022 kicked off on Monday, 13th to Tuesday 14th of June in the city of Abidjan, the capital of Cote D’Ivoire. And this year’s forum was the largest yearly gathering of Africa’s private sector leaders, probably after the covid pandemic which ravaged the globe for two years.

This year’s forum was primarily a clarion call for all players and stakeholders to strengthen collaboration and cooperation with the rest of the world in order to achieve b sovereignty in all ramifications for the African Continent.

Giving the opening remarks, the President of Africa CEO Forum, Mr Amir Ben Yahme stated that; “In a world that is becoming multipolar, against a backdrop of deglobalisation and decarbonisation, the African Continent can acquire her own strategic autonomy, by promoting local industrialisation. He also went further to opine that Africa’s mining and energy resources are regaining a central place in global geopolitics and have become equally essential to energy stability and transition.”

During his remarks, Makhtar Diop, the Managing Director of International Finance Corporation was of the opinion that; “Africa is at a crossroads and we need to turn the current crises into a moment of structural transformation. Opportunities abound and we must seize the moment. More than ever, the private sector must be the engine of development. It will be instrumental to ensure that growth is not simply driven by commodity prices but we need businesses capable of competing globally and seizing the opportunity of regional integration to create economies of scale and reduce Africa’s dependence on the rest of the world.”

The Africa CEO Forum had the crème de la crème of Africa’s top players in the corporate and government sectors who graced the two-day summit. The Continent’s economic players, heads of state and ministers and delegates, dissected, deliberated and discussed the economic future of Africa and investment opportunities and also strong opinions on the demerits of not seizing the opportunities available.

Noteworthy is the fact that the summit was the first physical edition of the Africa CEO Forum since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic crisis of 2020. 

Some of the players in the corporate and government circles who graced the 2 day-forum included President Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; President Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana; Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of the Republic of Nigeria; Abdul Samad Rabiu, Executive Chairman of BUA Group; amongst others.

During the opening ceremony just before the opening session, the CEO of Jeune Afrique touched base on Africa’s economic benefits, economic challenges and economic possibilities. Whilst the Managing Director of International Finance Corporation Mr Diop spoke about IFC and its impact on the African Continent with some successes highlighted and he was of the firm belief that the needed economic goals are attainable.

During President Allassane Outtara’s opening speech, he highlighted his country’s rapid economic transformation with some projections for the future which is now.

During the first session, CNN’s Eleni Giokos sat down with the founder of the BUA Group and asked some salient questions which were answered adequately by the chairman and CEO, Mr Abdul Samad Rabiu. He said that; “Africa needs to produce; the Russian war in Ukraine has exposed Africa. We need to produce in Africa and we need to invest in infrastructure.“ He further hammered home on some statistics; “Africa sits on 60 percent of the world’s arable land. We have 30 percent of the world’s mineral resources, that is most of the mineral resources of the world’s natural resources are on the African Continent.”

During the first impactful session titled: “Economic Sovereignty: From Ambition to Action” which had President Nana Kofo Addo, Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Kate Kanyi Tometi Fotso, CEO of Telcar Cocoa; Dr. Patrick Njoroge, Governor, Central Bank of Kenya; and Makhtar Diop, Managing Director, International Finance Corporation; a lot of insights were espoused by the eminent panellists.

Ghana’s President Addo stated via a rhetorical question, “What needs to be done on the Continent? A policy framework needs to be put in place. Fundamentals that need to be done? Basically, do it yourself, build capacity for yourself as an African country.”

Vice President Osinbajo of Nigeria stated that, “We need to be self-sufficient in food development and energy sufficiency. But we must also be a bit careful with the concept of sufficiency sovereignty. We have got to look into other areas like tech and at the same time, we have to look into taxes. But we don’t have the capacity to tax such new players in the tech space because their terrain is different. A lot of money is being made by the tech firms but we have to be careful how we tax them. We need to have a critical look at what is being done in other areas and see what the template is and how the template can be adapted and how it fits in each African country.

Kate Kanyi Tometi Fotso was forthright in her comments when a question was posed at her by the moderator. She stated that, “As an African, I always ask myself and I ask us here, how do we see ourselves? The industrialised world plans ahead, gather material(s) and send it to us. But so long as we sit at the table but not united as a bloc, we would keep on just talking about it and not proffering solutions. We need to know who we are as a collective bloc instead of protecting just individual states. We ought to be holistic in our bargaining power instead of going on the global stage as individual states.

Makhtar Diop, Managing Director, International Finance Corporation (IFC) asked categorically; “Why are things imported into Africa? Because they are cheaper? Why are they cheaper? They are affordable.” He stated further; “The sense of urgency is very important on the African Continent. We have to be very practical in what we do. If there is a problem, we must try to solve it. If we need to produce top-quality things on the Continent, we need to ask ourselves, what does it take? African investors do move fast and well if and when the right opportunities on the Continent are available.”

Patrick Njoroge who is the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya stated that; “We need to look closely at the financial sector for it is key and very essential. Whatever business modules we are thinking of; we need to think of the people. Africa is a very useful Continent. The opportunities and challenges are widely known. But we need to up-skill the youth on the Continent. And we need to teach them flexibility too. By 2050, the principal demands of the globe would be on the Continent.

There were in attendance six Heads of State, over 1800 attendees and 60 impactful sessions. From a writer’s perspective, there was something different about this year’s Africa CEO Forum which was the seriousness of every delegate who flew into Abidjan, the capital of Cote D’Ivoire. It was truly a collective zeal to re-connect, re-boot and re-shape the present.