Southern Times Writer
London – UK companies must leap at the chance to deepen economic ties with Africa, a continent with unmatched investment opportunities, several African leaders said at a high-level panel.
At an oversubscribed opening ceremony for the 2020 UK-Africa Investment Summit on Monday, attended by dignitaries and delegates from 16 African countries, including President El Sisi of Egypt, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the case for bigger investments in Africa and called for increased and renewed partnership between the UK and Africa.
Referring to Africa as a booming continent with “staggering levels of growth,” Prime Minister Johnson said: “Look around the world today and you will swiftly see that the UK is not only the obvious partner of choice, we’re also very much the partner of today, of tomorrow and decades to come.”
The UK-Africa Investment Summit, the first of its kind hosted by the UK government, was attended by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, the international development secretary, Alok Sharma, and Prince Harry.
The presidents of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo, of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani, African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina, and Secretary of State for International Development, MP Alok Sharma, addressed a plenary panel discussion on ‘Sustainable Finance and Infrastructure – Unlocking the City of London and UK financial services for growth in Africa.’
President Kenyatta, who rang the opening bell at the London Stock Exchange (LSE) marking the launch of Kenya’s first green bond at the LSE, made the case for innovative and sustainable investments in energy infrastructure. “We all must think out of the box in terms of energy…to ensure we produce more green energy. This first-ever sovereign green bond of $41.45 million will be used to build environmentally-friendly student accommodation in Kenya.”
Responding to a question about UK-Ghana partnerships, President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a world where Africa’s wealth is undisputed, “the City of London can play a significant role in bridging Africa’s huge infrastructure gap… and LSE can be a pivot in the new relationship with the continent. Indeed, 1 in 4 consumers will live in Africa by 2030.”
Adesina announced a new $80 million AfDB-DFID infrastructure financing partnership.
He said the continent’s $68-$108 billion infrastructure investment gap per year is massive, but it depends on how you look at it. “Either the cup is half full or half empty. To us, that is a $68-$108 billion opportunity.”
Adesina added, “The issue of risk in Africa is exaggerated. The risk of loss is lower than Latin America. Yet, funds are not being channeled into Africa. There are $8 trillion of assets under management in London, but only 1 percent is invested in Africa.”
The AfDB urged investors to look to Africa and recalled the achievements of the Africa Investment Forum - a game-changing initiative led by the bank and key partners, to accelerate investment in the continent. The unique multi-sector platform is designed to advance bankable deals to financial closure. At the 2019 forum, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, deals valued at $40.1 billion secured investment interest.
President Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani of Mauritania, shared opportunities offered by the blue ocean economy and substantial reforms currently under way to attract foreign investors.
“We have reinforced security along our coasts. Other measures include the establishment of a Council on Investment. These huge efforts are showing tremendous results and it is giving comfort to investors,” he noted.
The African continent is home to eight of the 15 fastest-growing economies in the world. By 2030, 42% of the world’s youth will be African and will constitute an incredible workforce and potential consumers.
In his concluding remarks, Sharma expressed confidence in the continent. “Africa has a fabulous future.” Sharma announced five partnerships to mobilise private sector investment in quality infrastructure on the continent.
“The City of London can play a role in mobilizing resources for Africa,” Sharma said.
Speaking earlier, Prime Minister Johnson made a major announcement on the UK’s policy on climate change.
“From today, the British government will no longer provide any new direct development assistance for thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas,” Johnson said.
The declaration aligns with the AfDB’s green agenda aimed at increasing investment in renewable energy. Adesina announced last year at the UN General Assembly that the bank was moving away from investing in coal.