Photograph — Africa CEO Forum

The Africa CEO Forum kicked off yesterday in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, with an opening ceremony that featured rousing speeches from the presidents of Zimbabwe, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. The annual conference began yesterday March 26 and will end Tuesday, March 27, 2018. It brings together CEOs and policymakers at the country level from every corner of the continent under one roof. On its opening day, the Forum became an avenue for calls from new Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa for investment in his country.

“Zimbabwe is now open for business” Emmerson Mnangagwa announced in a speech reasonably expected from a man desperate to bring development to his country, especially after decades of ineptitude at the hands of former president Robert Mugabe. And if Mnangagwa’s announcement last week about Zimbabweans who looted the country in the past looked like a homeowner trying to safeguard his house from thieves, his passionate speech yesterday at the Forum was like that of a homeowner desperate for visitors to come see his beautiful home.

Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe plans to invest in its infrastructures, so as to stimulate the country’s economic growth. “We plan to construct new roads and highways, while we also expand our energy production capacity”, said Mnangagwa who replaced former President Mugabe after he was forced to resign late last year.” He stated that the priority for his administration was to revive his country’s economy and also revive a failed relationship with many international communities, beginning with investors and decision makers at the Africa CEO Forum.

Ghana’s president Nana Akuffo-Addo while enthusing about his country’s business-friendly environment alluded to the young and viable population of the continent, highest among that demographic around the world, as being a major part of the business environment. According to the World Bank, Ghana could be the fastest growing economy in the world in 2018. The numbers prove that. Ghana’s economy grew by 7.9 percent in 2017 and is expected to grow by 8.3 percent by 2018, one of the highest of any country globally.

Akuffo-Addo was quick to point that the collaboration between his government and Ghana’s private sector as the reason for Ghana’s economic growth. “There is a limit to what the public sector can do. What we can do as the public sector we need to do efficiently, and the rest, let’s work with other private sectors”, he said. He also expressed his joy at the Continental Free Trade Area deal signed by 44 African presidents last week in Kigali, Rwanda, saying it shows the determination of the continent to take control of its own destiny.

Perhaps, the most important news from the opening speeches was the Abidjan Declaration, a common strategy on Cocoa production announced by Cote D’Ivoire president Alassane Ouattara at the Forum. Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire produce more than 60 percent of the world’s Cocoa needs, and despite the fact that the Cocoa industry globally is worth more than a $100 billion annually, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire only realize about $10 billion from exports in that same period.

The Abidjan Declaration would allow both West African countries to collaborate on issues that affect Cocoa globally such as marketing policies, the price variation in producing countries, funding for scientific research into Cocoa plant diseases, investments from private sector etcetera. It is hoped that the Abidjan Declaration would be in the best interests of Cocoa Farmers in both countries, and improve the economies of both countries.

President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast also in his speech said he believed the private sector is important to economic growth in Africa. He said there are four areas of collaborations to be focused on between African governments and the private sector;

  • First, diversifying African economies and improving the business climate to attract the private sector.
  • Secondly, the reduction of the infrastructure gap to strengthen our competitiveness and the mobilization of resources for financing infrastructure.
  • Thirdly, accelerating regional integration to enable businesses to access large markets and facilitate trade, a process which has been fast-tracked by the creation of the Continent Free Trade Area.
  • Fourthly, and finally, the education of young people, especially of young girls, to enable them to face the challenges of tomorrow.

He believes that if these four areas are addressed by African governments, they would definitely transform into meaningful development for the continent.

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