Africa’s regional blocs were Monday selling themselves as best possible destinations, and not the other, on the continent at a high-level investment forum in South Africa.
A three-day Africa Investment Forum opened today in Sandton, Johannesburg. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, and Mozambique’s Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário are the leaders attending.
Except north Africa and the Maghreb, other regions had their spokesperson at the much-anticipated leaders’ panel aired live on CNBC Africa.
Though the four leaders were presented as a united team there to talk for all the 54 nations, at some point, each made it clear they are selling their country.
South Africa’s Ramaphosa, as host, spoke first. “This forum has become a marketplace for attracting investment into our great continent,” he said, adding: “As we sit here we will talk about our own countries but we want to have a broad continental look because Africa’s time has come.”
Ramaphosa then became the South African head of state, pointing out no other country was like it. He said SA was the most beautiful nation on the continent.
He noted that South Africa has got a “very attractive investment opportunities in a number of sectors.” He said his government, barely a year old, is focusing on infrastructure, energy and streamlining the laws.
“When God made Africa He spent a lot of time on South Africa to make it as attractive as it is. When you come in from the bottom you see Table Mountain…,” he said.
He also addressed the xenophobic violence that rocked the country, in which South Africans killed and looted property of Africans mainly Nigerians and Congolese. “South Africa is not xenophobic and we want other people to feel that South Africa is their homes away from home,” said Ramaphosa.
For Kagame, whom Ramaphosa has not shied from openly stating his admiration of Rwanda at other separate previous events, also spoke for the continent first. “Only Africans have let ourselves down,” he said.
“When you look at Africa as a whole, there is a lot of progress. There is a lot of activity taking place,” said Kagame. “We are raising Africa to a much higher level. I have always thought it was Africa’s time”.
Kagame also put back his Rwanda attire, touting it the best place you can invest your money. South Africa can win the beauty contest, Kagame told the business executives listening, but Rwanda is your best business destination.
Said Kagame: “For Rwanda we have concentrated on producing a conducive business environment for people to do business in Rwanda.”
“We have created a number of things: Agri-business hub, between 15,000-20,000 hectares we are trying to put under irrigation and partner with private sector in agribusiness for exports”.
He pointed out that Rwanda has been ranked as second best place in Africa by the World Bank annual Doing Business Index for quite sometime. The target is to be number one, he added.
Speaking about the East African Community (EAC) which he is current chair, and despite bitter squabbles between them, Kagame for a minute put on a brave face.
EAC is made up of Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan. However, Rwanda is at war with Burundi and Uganda. Kenya and Uganda dont see eye to eye over a small rock in lake Victoria. Tanzania, may not have particular problem with one neighbor, but it has locked other people out. South Sudan is a pie each EAC member wants a piece of.
President Kagame said today: “We have concentrated on creating a good environment for people to do business, a predictable governance system, security, in a region of East African Community that is probably the fastest growing region on our continent and Rwanda being part of and benefiting from that.”
Actually, the troubles between Kagame and Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni, are due to ex-army chief Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa who lives in South Africa. Kagame has struggled to neutralize him and his organization.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo also came out a west Africa’s champion at the forum, calling on other regions to see what is happening in west Africa.
“We need a continental framework in the way we are talking about economies in West Africa and in Africa. The African Continental Free Trade Area is a major step for us,” said Akufo-Addo, which he pointed out if it becomes a reality, “will change the dynamics of the economics of our situation.”
The ACFTA signed in Rwanda in 2017, comes into force in July next year. It will among other incentives, remove major barriers to transborder travel for goods and people.
Ramaphosa said he expects a 15-25% increase in intra Africa trade due to ACFTA.