African Investments and Business Forum held in Algiers

Described by organizers as the first of its kind, the African Investments and Business Forum was held in Algiers over the weekend, December 3-5. The Forum, organized by the Government of Algeria and Algerian business leaders as well as partners including the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), attracted about 1000 participants, including representatives of private and public sectors from more than 40 African countries. The Forum, with its theme, "Towards a new dynamic", focused on how to stimulate and promote intra-African trade and partnerships, good governance for pro-growth public-private partnerships, and the promotion of continental integration through joint infrastructure projects and human capital development.

Delegates called for more intra-Africa trade and more African solidarity to unleash the continent's economic potential and prosperity. Ali Haddad, President of the Algerian CEOs' Forum which co-organized the summit with the Algerian government, noted: "Against the backdrop of current geostrategic upheavals, the need for exchanging with our closer friends is overwhelming. Each one of our nations chooses its path depending on its experiences but we are convinced that no state in Africa can alone address the looming future challenges on its own." He said: "We are bound to unify ourselves for the good of our continent and people," and urged African leaders to embrace Pan-Africanism ideals of solidarity. Experts, who made presentations at the forum, urged African governments to create a good environment for intra-Africa trade; they also called on African entrepreneurs to be more creative and move into industrialization and big-cash investments.

Delegates concurred with the need for increased intra-African trade and urged African governments to create a better environment to ease internal trade across the continent, starting with a functional transport infrastructure. Amina Mohamed, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, pointed out: "It took me about 20 hours to come to Algeria. We need to be better connected in order to work together," The former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Carlos Lopes, challenged his fellow Africans to explore the economic benefits of manufacturing by raising the case of yoghurt: "Yogurt is imported at 83 per cent in Africa. What is complicated in making yogurt?" He accused African financial institutions of being "lazy", saying that they aren't doing enough to support small businesses while they sit on US$80-billions of capital that remains non-invested and sits idle in the banks' coffers as they fear to invest it on the continent. He said, "It's a paradox that people outside Africa see it as an investment opportunity but Africa-based operators keep talking about perceived risks for investments."

An Ethiopian private sector delegation, led by Feyisa Ararssa, Deputy Secretary of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations and President of the Adama Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations, took part in the sessions on energy, infrastructure, ICT and agribusiness. During the Forum, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ethiopian and Algerian Chambers of Commerce. The MoU, a first between the two Chambers, is expected to lay the basis for the strengthening of relations between the two countries. It is also expected to lead to a future visit by the Algerian Chamber to Ethiopia.  The Ethiopian delegation, comprised of various public and private companies, had fruitful discussions with Algerian and various other companies from African countries.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, speaking at one of the high level plenary sessions on agri-business, explained the developments of the agricultural sector in Ethiopia and the policies focused on small-holder farmers that had helped the country register tremendous growth over the past decade. Dr. Tedros also detailed the current initiatives of the government, in coordination with UNIDO, to develop agro-industrial zones to advance and change the agricultural sector in Ethiopia. He stressed that "Ethiopia is open for business" and invited Algerian and other African countries' investors to come and invest in Ethiopia.