By Bernhard Schell
CAIRO (IDN) – “I stand here on behalf of the United Nations system and reaffirm our strong commitment to the member states and the people of Africa,” Secretary-General António Guterres told the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU), adding: “I strongly believe Africa is one of the greatest forces for good in our world.”
The UN chief said that in just his first year in office, the Organization has entered a “new era” of partnership with the AU, recalling the holding of the first UN-AU Annual Conference at the summit level, as well as the signing of two landmark framework agreements, respectively on enhanced partnership in peace and security, and, just yesterday, on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Precisely in that spirit, the recent two-day Africa 2019: Investment for Africa Forum in the New Administrative Capital in east Cairo provided an excellent platform for bringing together all stakeholders: governments, private sector, civil society, and International financial Institutions.
It was also an opportunity for forging investment deals and making announcements of numerous Mega Projects that will contribute to an inclusive and sustainable growth in the African continent.
The Forum showcased flagship operations, projects and investments in the areas of infrastructure, digital transformation, mass transportation and renewable energy, as well as, success stories of young entrepreneurs and startups with a focus on youth and women.
As Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said in his welcome remarks, the Forum on November 22-23 encouraged partners in the Forum to “explore together new horizons that will shape a better future for the people of the African continent and achieve their development priorities within the framework of the ambitious African Agenda 2063”.
During its leadership of the African Union, which concludes in February 2020, Egypt has worked with the African countries to translate the reform programs into operational steps that reinforces them and makes them a reality.
In this context, Africa has made an important historic step on the road to continental economic integration, namely setting the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement into action and the launching of their implementing tools at the Exceptional African Union Summit in Niger on July 7, 2019.
This Summit also witnessed the endorsement of the completion steps for the liberalization of trade and services, the completion of competition regulations, disputes resolution and intellectual property protection as the main pillars in opening and controlling markets to encourage all investors from different countries to invest in Africa aiming to achieve mutual benefits.
Besides, the African countries are taking strenuous steps towards achieving sustainable and inclusive development under the 2063 Agenda, and in this context, seeking to build successful partnerships with international and regional financial institutions that will enable them to achieve their ambitious development agendas by providing the funding required to support the infrastructure projects, and the continental connectivity projects that will prepare and create an attractive and competitive environment for the domestic and foreign investment.
As the African Union chair, the Egyptian President pointed out, “Sustainable development is a necessity for the people of Africa and we will achieve it with more cooperation, mobilizing efforts, increasing trade, boosting investment and promoting more private sector participation while emphasizing the commitments at the highest political level of the reform efforts, capitalizing on the potentials and competitive advantages possessed by the African countries that enable them to grow sustainably.”
The most significant of these advantages, widely recognized, is that Africa is a young continent’s with a young population, youth account for the highest percentage of its population, which encourages us to continue investing in our human capital, health and education, through building cadres and skills.
Among non-African participants was a high-level mission from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Director of UNIDO’s Department of Programmes, Partnerships and Field Integration, Ciyong Zou, took part in the panel discussion on Leveraging Partnerships for Inclusive Development in Africa: Upgrading Infrastructure.
He addressed the importance of visionary leadership as the main route towards route towards inclusive and sustainable development. He also emphasised the importance of coordination to advance FDI (foreign direct investment flows) and steering these towards the much needed infrastructure development in Africa
Another panellist, Prime Minister of Rwanda, Dr. Édouard Ngirente, stated that Africa needs more political and economic stability to attract investment. He also talked about the correlation between strategic planning of investment and optimizing its outcomes.
Elysée Munembwe Tamukumwe, Deputy Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, spoke about regulations of Public Private Partnerships and investment laws as crucial instruments to protect investors’ and governments’ rights. In addition, she emphasized the great potential of infrastructure development and its relation to utilizing the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Stephanie von Friedeburg, Chief Operating Officer of the International Finance Corporation, highlighted the success of the solar energy project in Aswan as a result of the political will in Egypt. It is considered to be the largest solar energy project in the world. She stressed the necessity of partnership among donors to support development in African countries.
The Islamic Development Bank President Dr. Bandar M.H. Hajjar discussed the importance of partnership in mobilizing resources for economic development in Africa, while the African Development Bank Vice-President Dr. Khaled Sherif stressed the value of policy reform to trigger continent’s development.
As a concluding remark, Egypt’s Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, Dr. Sahar Nasr, pinpointed the magnitude of economic reform and its impact on sustainable development, as well as the significant role of international financial institutions in financing development projects in Africa. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 December 2019]
Image credit: UNIDO
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