Last week I attended the 2019 Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, an event which has become the birthplace of a new Africa.
And an impressive new reality it is. Young, well-educated ministers are delivering on their promises. Bankers and business leaders are discussing opportunities and closing deals. Huge amounts of new money are starting to flow into Africa – we are beyond billions now, and into the trillions.
The Africa Investment Forum is a marketplace driven by one goal: closing deals. This new generation is making it happen. The dreamers have been replaced by doers, and the time for action is now.
The African Development Bank and its charismatic leader, President Akinwumi Adesina, is at the forefront of building this new reality, having succeeded in organising the most anticipated two days of the year – the Africa Investment Forum.
One of the stars of the event was Masai Uijiri, President of the Toronto Raptors. He brought with him the trophy from their fabulous 2019 NBA Championships win. Adesina noted that sport in Africa is enjoying some of its proudest moments this year: the Springboks winning the Rugby World Cup, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge making history by running a marathon in under two hours and, of course, the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championships.
For Ujiri, sport is the latest driver in Africa, its nations capable of producing the best athletes in the world. “They can compete and win on the international stage. Why are we not creating an all-African football team to compete in the Premier League?”
Recently, Ujiri tells us, Paul Kagame went to Canada to see a basketball game. During the game, the President of Rwanda became silent and thoughtful. “What’s the matter? Are you not feeling well? Are you cold?” Masai asked. “It’s fine,” Kagame responded. “I was just wondering how much it costs to build a stadium like this.”
The two men started discussing business. An idea developed, followed by a concept and, finally, a bankable plan. The brand new basketball stadium, the Kigali Arena, is a 10,000-seater indoor arena for indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball, and tennis, as well as concerts and conferences. It will host the semi-finals and the final of the inaugural Basketball Africa League in March 2020. Deal discussed, deal done.
Africa needs better branding – a brand story that includes success. Amadou Hott, Senegal’s Minister of Economy, says: “Africa is often seen as one country, and our knowledge as limited”. He is promoting the creation of an African Branding Agency, and the idea has been well received. To build our brand, we need to know our strengths and our potential, and we need to tell the world about it.
“Let’s do it, but let’s not forget that we need a war chest big enough to do the job right,” Rakesh Wadi, ABN Group founder and CNBC Africa franchisee said. AfDB Communication Director, Victor Oladokum, who chaired the panel so well, got offered the job of building up this African Branding platform. And I am sure we will see this new branding body at the next AIF Forum. Promise made, promise kept!
But the biggest news out of Africa is the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), due to come into operation in July 2020. Fifty-four nations have signed up, and 29 have ratified it. It will be the world’s biggest free trade area, with goods, services and people free to move across the continent, creating a market of 1.2 billion people. According to a recent Brookings Africa Growth Initiative policy brief, a successfully implemented AfCFTA will by 2030 give Africa combined consumer and business spending of $6.7 trillion.
Ralph Mupita, the eloquent Chief Financial Officer of MTN, explains it well: “At any given moment, MTN has 200 professionals travelling between countries in Africa to service the networks of its 230 million subscribers.” The free movement of these professionals without the need for visas enables them to provide their services anywhere. And AfCFTA will boost the growth of the African cellular networks, meaning that soon we will be able to phone across the continent without paying roaming fees.
Ronnie Ntuli, one of Africa’s business success stories and chairman of the Thelo Group, believes that the future of Africa includes a massive build-up of new infrastructure. Rail transport will be crucial – and a more environmentally friendly way to move goods. He is building Africa’s foremost railway company. Currently the engines are imported, and only 40% of the value is added in Africa, but AfCFTA will make it possible to produce and fully assemble train engines here.
Mozambique has the potential to become a driver of the African Continental Free Trade Area. It has the Maputo, Beira and Nacala Corridors, linking the hinterland to the Indian Ocean – or, better put, linking Africa to Asia. In Mozambique, we can establish rail and road transport to serve Swaziland, South African, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia.
Beluluane Industrial Park hosts the second biggest aluminium smelter in Africa. It could become the preferred location for manufacturing finished aluminium products such as cables, tins, window frames and wheel rims.
A portion of our vast gas reserves can be piped down to drive factories and produce fertiliser, liquid fuel and power for the whole region.
Mozambique also has the biggest ruby deposits in the world, and could become a primary continental jewellery manufacturer. We also have one of the world’s biggest graphite mines, with the potential to support the creation of Africa’s first battery factory.
Mozambique boasts the largest electrical power generation capacity in Africa. Let’s use this to bring light to our region. The country is starting to develop its gas fields, with over US$50 billion soon to be invested, creating the world’s most expensive real estate.
Mozambique will soon become the world’s fastest growing economy. We can be smart and take this opportunity to create a diverse economy. Every dollar we earn needs to be re-invested – to address challenges, create jobs, build infrastructure, and further diversify of our economy.
We are blessed with fertile land and access to water. We are known as the “land of the good people”, and, given our outstanding natural beauty, can become one of the most popular destination for visitors in Africa.
Mozambique impressed at the African Investment Forum with the biggest deal pipeline on the continent. Our future as a frontrunner of the New Africa has begun!
By Adrian Frey
Source: Club of Mozambique