Africa CEO Forum – The quest for champions for tomorrow’s economy: 1,800 top business leaders, heads of state and government, business leaders in the broadest sense of the term: the Africa CEO Forum, the continent’s largest private sector gathering, opened in Abidjan on June 5, 2023 (Hotel Ivoire). Discussions will focus on the emergence of future economic champions in Africa.
Africa CEO Forum – The quest for champions of tomorrow’s economy
Côte d’Ivoire plays host to Africa’s annual private sector rave for two days, with 2,000 public and private decision-makers in attendance. The region’s economic powerhouse is enjoying stronger growth and lower inflation than its neighbors. The $3.5 billion plan recently granted by the IMF should also encourage investment.
As our correspondant, points out, African economies, with their very disparate situations, must not miss the train of global restructuring. The countries of the South certainly have their cards to play. What’s needed are companies capable of carrying out large-scale projects, like Nigeria’s Dangote Group.
There are around 300 companies on the continent with sales in excess of one billion dollars. That’s ten times more than in Europe or Asia. It’s a question of economic sovereignty and strategic autonomy. In agriculture, energy and digital technology, we need national champions with global reach. The private and public sectors will therefore be looking for solutions together at this 2023 edition of the Africa CEO Forum.
It was against this backdrop that the ceremony was opened on Monday by Makhtar Diop of the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank organization dedicated to the private sector. He recalled the continental economic context, with a difficult post-Covid recovery, high inflation and falling investment.
Continental integration in focus
The Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire then took the podium. He congratulated his country on its good results. The PM recalled the extreme youth of the Ivorian population, which can be “our greatest asset, if we invest”. He stressed the importance of the close relationship between the State and the private sector for Africa’s development, and the need for continental integration to rationalize and strengthen value chains.
This is the whole project of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), but it suffered a serious setback at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Now the countries themselves have to be sufficiently productive. But the second problem is, once again, infrastructure and transport logistics.”
The AfDB estimates that $170 billion a year is needed to invest in the various infrastructures that would enable a continuous flow to a unified African market. The continent is still a long way from achieving this. But Tahirou Barry, Financial Director for Ports and Terminals at African Global Logistics, remains optimistic: “States, development aid institutions and private operators are mobilizing to develop this infrastructure sector. AfCFTA is a reality, since the treaty signed in 2018 is in force, so we’re talking about a unified market. The objective today is to see how we can unleash the potential to enable Africans to trade.” The demand is there, and it’s not likely to stop growing in the coming years. By 2050, the continent alone will account for 2.5 billion consumers.
Finally, Monday June 5 also marked International Environment Day, which is taking place in Abidjan. The two speakers, Makhtar Diop and Patrick Achi, recalled that Africa was “the only continent that has not experienced its green revolution”. Both called for environmentally-friendly and sustainable economic development.