GBF Africa 2021 is wrapping up its Day 1 sessions with many outstanding insights and takeaways to be availed and thought over as paradigm-shifting, in a world where the new normal has become, well, our standard normal.
The high-level event brings together government and business leaders from the UAE and Africa to explore bilateral trade and investment opportunities touched upon many diverse subjects such as digitisation, financial inclusion, energy transition, foreign investment, capital markets, governance, investment-friendly legislation, amongst many other topics in which Africa ranks among the most promising and fertile grounds with enormous potential and room for growth.
Today, African and UAE business leaders shared their views and insights on key investment trends reshaping Africa and explored new ways that markets across the continent can attract foreign investment.
A session titled ‘Africa: The Final Investing Frontier’ brought together Hisham Abdulla Al Shirawi, CEO of Oasis Enterprises; Patricia Obo-Nai, CEO of Vodafone Ghana; and Risana Zitha, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Head of Investment Banking in Africa at Renaissance Capital – South Africa.
In this particular discussion panel, Risana Zitha weighed in his own assessment and pinpointed healthcare and the digitisation of the economy as the two biggest areas where investments will be heading in a post-COVID-19 era.
“We have realised that there are certain sectors that have to be developed to help us get through this. A lot of countries demonstrated resilience in the face of the pandemic because of our young populations, but the funding needs of African countries have grown and we are witnessing many countries raise capital to meet their objectives,” said Zitha.
“There has been an incredible amount of investment into tech-led initiatives. Over US$2 billion has gone into over 500 African fintech companies just this year and seven companies have become unicorns. We have also started seeing venture capital funds focusing on diversified teams and women-led teams. This is all very encouraging, because it shows that investments will go where investors believe there will be a return, where they address a real problem,” added Zitha.
For his part, H.E. Hisham Al Shirawi emphasised that Africa remains a very high-growth-potential market and should be better promoted as such among other regions around the world to “attract investments and create a win-win situation. For its part, Africa must get the basics – including regulation and infrastructure – in place to spur growth in key sectors,” he urged.
“To attract further investment, governments and businesses on the African continent will have to cultivate deep relationships with other regions, not just for investment but also as markets for their products, suppliers of critical raw materials and knowledge partners in implementing industry best practice,” said Al Shirawi.
Al Shirawi identified fintech, telehealth, digital platforms for farmers, logistics, e-commerce and retail as key sectors offering tremendous potential. GCC-based companies are making progress on transport and energy infrastructure in Africa, while UAE companies are expanding their telecommunications infrastructure across the continent, he explained, adding that such developments are vital for enabling e-commerce, fintech and education, among other sectors, to thrive.
Joining the session remotely, Patricia Obo-Nai asserted that “businesses that incorporate technology into their processes will see the most investments coming through.” Around 3.7 billion people in the world don’t have access to the internet simply because they don’t have the devices in their hand, said Patricia, who underlined the huge opportunity that this presents for Africa to work on closing this gap, entering the market, assembling smartphones, putting devices in people’s hands.
Vodafone Ghana’s CEO said that a majority of women in Africa worked in the informal sector and have demonstrated tremendous potential once they were trained to use smart devices. She urged investors to not look at the size of the woman’s business, but see the potential instead.
GBF Africa 2021 is being held at the Dubai Exhibition Centre North and we at FurtherAfrica were very pleased with all aspects of the event’s organisation (we will make sure to be visiting the awe-inspiring Dubai Expo 2020 complex as soon as we say our goodbyes to all the incredible people we met and connected with). It feels good to finally be able to be out and about.
GBF Africa’s Day 2 programme is set to be even more inspiring, when heads of state, ministers and high-level African leaders take the stage, among which President of Rwanda,H. E. Paul Kagame, Vice President of Zimbabwe, Hon. Dr Constantino D.N.G. Chiwenga, Mozambique’s Minister of Industry and Trade, H.E. Carlos Alberto Fortes Mesquita, and many others.
Check back tomorrow for more on African development, straight from the source!