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African heads of state and government at the Africa 2016 Forum in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt (© AKDN / Zahur Ramji)

Egypt encourages African integration in Sharm el Sheikh

The Africa 2016 Forum, which took place in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el Sheikh on 20-21 February, has called on African countries to create greater trust and co-operation between governments and the private sector. The Forum, the first international business and investment forum of its kind and that was aimed at strengthening business ties within Africa, also charged African businesses to look beyond their borders for partners and opportunities.

His Highness Aga Khan, chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, who delivered a keynote address at the event attended by many presidents and business leaders, highlighted the African opportunity as well as the need to build layers of trust. “My enthusiasm today is especially strong because of the message which is at the heart of this Forum and that message is, quite simply, that Africa’s moment has come. We need to address a problem that has long plagued the human race. I refer to the fear we so often have that others will control our environment – to the point where we distance ourselves from potential worthy partners… a difference that can lead to fragmentation of society.”

During a frank interview style debate, Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, noted that the Africa Rising story is not an African construct but a foreign narrative based on a few successful trends that do not take into account the lack of transformation of Africa’s economies.

Dr Lopes stated that Africans have to concentrate on what matters and what matters is structural transformation, what he calls growth with quality. Moreover, this transformation required concentrating on two pillars, which are improving agricultural productivity and building manufacturing capacity as well as growing the formal economy and tax base
Throughout the Forum, it was agreed that Africa’s long-term success is underpinned by strong demographics, rapid urbanisation and the digital revolution. However, if there is an opportunity it is because there is much to do and that this responsibility and leadership to change the continent is no longer about heads of state alone. This leadership in Africa is widespread and is not just about a few individuals, it includes the private sector, civil society, individuals in academia, as well as innovators.

The Forum, opened by the President of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fateh El-Sisi, was initiated by the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD), the development arm of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last June, three African regional economic communities, COMESA, SADC and the EAC signed a tripartite agreement in Sharm el Sheikh creating the biggest free trade area on the continent.
Eighteen hundred participants from public and private sectors attended the Africa 2016 Forum, the first Africa-to-Africa business and investment forum. Six African heads of state were present as well as a number of special guests including Cheikh Modibo Diarra, former Prime Minister of Mali, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Dr Benedict Oramah, President of the Afreximbank.

Ken Kamara

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