Africa: navigate the new realities
19th New Africa Business Development Forum
With a special focus on the private sector, women and youth, this 19th edition of the New
Africa Business Development Forum aims to provide a platform for Business and economic
cooperation. NABDF celebrates its 19th anniversary this year: 19 years at the service of a
better integrated and more prosperous Africa. Over the years, the event has brought together Africans, Mediterraneans and Europeans, from here and elsewhere, who all share the conviction of the economic development of the continent.
NABDF is a space for sharing and exchange aimed at assessing the impact of the crisis on
African economies in the sub-regions and coming out with recommendations for economic
recovery and a more resilient post-COVID Africa.
These informative and interactive sessions will offer direct contact with the prime movers of
the infrastructure sector across various spheres, such as government, policymakers, industry leaders, academia and future investors, to explore new potential areas for financial assistance, as well as access to finance to the infrastructure players.
Africa’s path to the future has never been clearer: boost economic integration, invest in infrastructure, improve health and education, and strengthen governance in general. This agenda will increase productivity in all sectors, including agriculture, which remains the largest employer on the continent, and could spur a boom in private sector investment in manufacturing. It will also create the jobs that Africa needs to reduce unemployment. Africa must be united, with the ultimate goal of building a prosperous continental economy based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, an economy that supports and timulatesentrepreneurship and wealth creation. In this same spirit it is up to us to conduct future negotiations on equally important issues, such as the conditions for healthy
ompetition, respect for intellectual property and investment promotion. Only then can we give Africa a unique commercial voice. Africa is a huge and diverse continent that cannot be described with a single and unique narrative, as the gap between the richest countries and the poorest is substantial. Despite the differences, there are also common concerns. For example, political risk still contaminates states and internal and crossborder conflicts affect dozens of them.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which was signed by 54 African countries, aims to double intra-African trade by 2035. Currently at 18%, intra-continental trade is relatively low compared to America’s 47%, Asia’s 61%, Europe’s 67% and Oceania’s 7%. In this sense, the African continent faces several challenges, such as low levels of trade specialisations, small economies, fragmented markets and lack of industrial capacity. In order to face this, the agreement includes a single set of rules to be adopted by each member with the objective to accelerate intra-African trade and boost Africa’s trading position in the global market.
Consequently, the AfCFTA is set to become the world’s largest free trade area, with a single market that straddles economies with a combined GDP of $3 trillion. It is beyond argument that the continent needs a network of logistics infrastructure to drive intra-continental trade.
Great economic opportunities are waiting to be unlocked in Africa. However, from global trade wars to poor infrastructure, Africa’s economy is struggling to keep pace. Investors must see themselves as stakeholders in Africa, just as Africa must grasp the opportunity to become a stakeholder in the global economy. There is a positive course for Africans and African businesses to chart by 2050, but it will be up to Europe and the Mediterranean region to capitalise on the opportunity.
In Africa we must create wealth and contribute to the common good by strengthening the social fabric in a sustainable way that respects human dignity and nature. It is known that one flower does not make spring, but a hundred flowers in full bloom make spring breathe everywhere. Perhaps the African spring is yet to come.
Everyone believes that Africa is the next centre of the world. But the most important thing is that Africans also believe it. Africa must trust Africa, especially their youth and women, to face the upcoming challenges.
SESSION 1 – THE PRIVATE SECTOR, AN ENGINE OF DEVELOPMENT AND AN CCELERATOR FOR PRODUCTIVE TRANSFORMATION AND AFRICAN INTEGRATION
African economies have recorded a solid annual growth rate over the past few decades. This economic growth, although having made it possible to transform societies and promote the development of populations, is however insufficient to reduce unemployment and poverty.
After all, growth must create jobs, which is one of the main development priorities. And nowadays it is undeniable that these jobs prospects will increasingly come from the private sector. Indeed, at the global level, the private sector produces a large part of the goods and services that contribute more than 80% to the public revenues of low-income and middle-income countries.
Moreover, it is the responsibility of the African private sector to foster the promotion of women and the breaking of the glass ceiling, as well as the reduction of professional inequalities. The role of government agencies in public-private cooperation is to reduce the tax burden to support enterprises.
Creating effective conditions for networking is key for African private actors in favour of the integration of Africa. In this sense, both the AfCFTA and the reorganisation of global value chains caused by the pandemic could foster the continent’s productive transformation.
Digital transformation in Africa is already well underway and can be a powerful lever to accelerate both productive transformation and continental integration.
It is up to the States to improve the business environment to enable the private sector to generate this job-creating growth.
- What are the key challenges and instruments for Africa’s private sector when it comes to business development and investments?
- What are the priority areas for accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA?
Public – Private: Thinking and acting together to achieve African integration
- How can we take full advantage of the digital momentum in Africa to accelerate thetransition to modern food supply chains – that will in turn create more stable jobs?
- How can public and private stakeholders better bridge the spatial and social gaps in howthe benefits of digital innovation i4s spread out today?
- An integrated framework to support diaspora investment
- What sources of financing are available for the private sector in Africa, and how to diversify them?
TALK PANEL 1 – THE INDUSTRIALISATION OF AFRICA?
The export performance of the African continent from October 2020 to October 2021, which is largely based on shipments of materials in their raw state, once again poses the problem of the continent’s industrialisation, erected as an emergency by the United Nations and African Union development agendas.
In the meantime, the private sector is taking the bull by the horns, especially regarding Africa’s natural wealth, which currently makes the continent the world’s champion in exports. However, Africa is composed by 54 countries, and isn’t the industrial dynamic of each country necessary to form a much more “explosive” whole on the large commercial market?
In other words: when will the general industrialisation of African countries begin?
TALK PANEL 2 – AFRICAN WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS AND WALLS
Entrepreneurship is key to women’s economic liberation. Africa has one of the highest rates in the world, with 7.5 million microenterprises and SMEs working in the formal sector led by women, and four times as many in the informal sector. Women can play a key role when efforts are directed at bridging and financing the closing of economic gaps in Africa. But 42.000 million dollars are needed in the
financing of projects aimed at women. Thus, unlocking the investment would allow for incredible returns.
Many women dominate key sectors of the economy. A successful female ntrepreneur guides others and reduces the barriers that create gender gaps when it comes to accessing opportunities.
Unleashing the potential of African women beyond borders is key to develop the skills of women and young social entrepreneurs in Africa and enable their full participation in the influence of their countries and the African continent.
The session will shed light about African women entrepreneurs, their daily challenges, the constraints they face due to the predominant culture, and above all, it will highlight the value of their contribution to the African economy and its prosperity.
TALK PANEL 3 – SMES
SMEs are potential to be exploited. After all, very small and medium-sized enterprises are the true pillars of the African economic life: they contribute nearly 33% to the African GDP and provide 85% of jobs in the private sector.
Therefore, improving their financing should be a priority of public policy in order to allow the growth of private companies in Africa as well as the enhancement of their productivity, a sine qua non for the creation of sustainable jobs and the improvement of living conditions in these countries. Especially since these companies have been weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
TALK PANEL 4 – INVESTORS
Investors ought to investigate each country within Africa differently as opposed to considering the continent as a block. These countries have different cultures and different ways of doing business. However, one aspect that is common to Africa is that it has a young population and a growing market. Most importantly, Africa requires long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships that are not pegged on conditionalities.
TALK PANEL 5 -YOUNG ENTREPRENEURSHIP TO TRANSFORM AFRICA
Africa’s main asset is its youth. While some fear the population explosion, others see it as an opportunity to be seized. According to the United Nations, it is estimated that by 2030, 30 million young people will enter the labour market each year. Therefore, the challenge will be to create employment for these new generations, and this is precisely the opportunity that the arrival of digitalisation promises.
After all, “Africa must harness the trust of young people”. Africa’s ability to lift itself out of poverty and inequality depends on its youth. Africa should envision a future in which domestic resources account for most of investment in development. This would require urgent and coordinated action to end the $90 billion in illicit financial flows leaving the continent each year. So, the question remains: how can entrepreneurship and innovation transform Africa?
The objective of this session is to identify opportunities for collaboration and find effective ways to cocreate wealth for Africa and its youth and economy. Also, the panel will tackle whether it is possible to bring visions closer together and to promote understanding between political and economic actors, whose cohabitation is not always easy.