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Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the opening of the 2019 Africa Investment Forum, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg

Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Our Host and Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura,
President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina,
Ministers and Premiers,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the people of South Africa, it is my privilege to welcome you to this second Africa Investment Forum. 

This Forum is fast becoming the premier platform for engagement on Africa’s growth and development. 

It brings together African governments, sovereign wealth funds, the private sector, financial intermediaries and others to find ways to unlock the continent’s untapped economic potential.

If the success of last year’s event is any indication, this forum’s unique focus on deal-making through the highly impactful boardroom sessions is yielding tangible results.

Last year 350 investors from 53 countries participated. 

The Forum was instrumental in mobilising funding for initiatives as diverse – and as potentially impactful – as the Accra Skytrain, the Kigali Innovation City, the first road-rail bridge project linking Kinshasa and Brazzaville, and the $320 million African Infrastructure Investment Fund.

This is an indication of the breadth of investment opportunities that exist in Africa: in mining, in oil and gas, in infrastructure, in agricultural production, in manufacturing, in renewable energy and a range of other sectors.

Much of the economic progress over the last few years has been made possible by developments in the political sphere.

This has been a good year for the consolidation of democracy across our continent. 

National, presidential and parliamentary elections have been held in Botswana, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Mozambique and right here in South Africa. 

Global investor surveys consistently highlight political stability and security as important considerations for committing capital. 

Every election that passes peacefully and that reflects the will of the people is another step towards the attainment of the African Union’s vision of an Africa at peace with itself.

It challenges the notion that Africa is unstable and a risky place to invest.

The great interest that this Forum has garnered since it was inaugurated last year is a clear indication that the international investor community is optimistic about Africa’s prospects, excited by its potential, and wants to be part of its success.

Over the 40 years since the term ‘emerging markets’ was first coined, the economies of Africa have evolved and matured and become increasingly diverse.

Political stability in many African countries has enabled us to industrialise, and to pursue development policies that have brought millions of people out of abject poverty, resulting in rising income levels.

This in turn has attracted increased levels of investment: in infrastructure needed to connect people and goods to markets, in mining production, and in key sectors like agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and information technology.

Africa has come into its own, is pursuing growth and development in the interests of its people, and is charting its own course.

And now we stand on the cusp of a new era of African integration.

The coming into operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area will connect over 1.2 billion people and solidify a consumer market that will be worth over $3 trillion by 2030. 

It will bring into being the largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

Working with our friends and partners in the global investor community, we have an opportunity, in the words of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, to make ourselves the architects of the future.

The AfCFTA will pave the way for the free flow of goods and services, enabling businesses and entrepreneurs to access new markets.

Consumers will benefit from the removal of trade barriers, and business costs will be reduced. 

But by far the most significant potential of the AfCFTA will be in increasing the value of intra-African trade, which, by some estimates, is likely to rise by 15 to 25% by 2040.

In so doing, the Continental Free Trade Area will encourage greater self-reliance. 

Under colonial rule, Africa’s rich resources were plundered and shipped off to foreign destinations, leaving countries impoverished and under-developed.

Today we are faced with a new challenge, of being net importers of products and goods that could be produced domestically. 

This puts pressure on national balance sheets and diverts economic priorities away from vital social spending.

We want to reverse this.

We want to produce our own food to feed our people. 

We want to generate our own energy. 

We want to see greater local beneficiation in our mining and minerals industries. 

We want to produce our own goods for our own domestic markets and for export.

We want to be able to stitch, stamp and chisel the words ‘Proudly made in Rwanda’, ‘Proudly made in Ghana’ and ‘Proudly made in Togo’ onto garments, mobile phones, computers and cars.

Through innovative and ambitious platforms like the Africa Investment Forum, we are able to collaborate to enable Africa to industrialise and achieve greater heights of regional integration. 

We must contribute to our own prosperity as we position ourselves to be the critical cog in the rebalancing of the global economy. 

Investment is a fundamental basis for sustained economic growth.

It supports local businesses and industries. 

It creates jobs for our citizens and enables them to improve their quality of life. 

We are all acutely aware of the immense challenges we still face of overcoming poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

Weak economic growth still constrains the abilities of many African economies to increase social spending on poverty alleviation, among other things.

We also know the continent has a massive infrastructure backlog. 

Infrastructure is a vital driver of economic growth, and we have prioritised attracting infrastructure investment so we are able to achieve the socio-economic targets in Agenda 2063 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

It is quite clear that we cannot do so alone. 

Many African countries have constrained national budgets with little room to manoeuvre.

This means our development finance institutions must expedite project preparation, and our regulatory environment must facilitate transformative investment decisions. 

These finance institutions must assist African countries in developing credible infrastructure project pipelines in line with continental priorities.

They should be guided in this by the ‘High Five’ priority areas of the African Development Bank – which are to light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialise Africa, integrate Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

We must adopt innovative measures to crowd-in private capital, including through public-private partnerships, to speed up economic and social infrastructure development. 

This must be done in a manner that promotes greater regional integration.

Yet, enacting policies to speed up infrastructure development will not be sufficient.

We must also ensure there is strong political will to realise the expected benefits.

We must ensure that as we harness the 4th Industrial Revolution, that we do not further entrench divisions in our respective societies. 

Rapid technological advance is undoubtedly an opportunity for Africa to expand connectivity, transition to newer and more sustainable methods of development, and scale up the provision of quality services to our people.

But it also brings with it the potential of uneven development – with cities and towns benefiting at the expense of rural and undeveloped regions.

It carries the risk of increasing and entrenching inequality.

Those with skills, resources and access to the digital economy may prosper, while those without skills and on the periphery of the formal economy are left behind.

We must make a concerted effort to ensure that the investment we secure in ICT systems and infrastructure, in automated manufacturing, in robotics, in artificial intelligence and in smart technologies complement our vision for our continent: of people, planet and prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Over the next two days we will be working to ensure that deals are concluded and that project implementation begins without delay.

Behind the scenes, from Accra to Kigali, from Lome to Maputo, from Cape Town to Cairo, we are working to lay the groundwork for the operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. 

The time is now to move with speed to ensure that we unlock our potential and attain the promise of the Free Trade Area. 

It is a significant milestone, which, if approached with common purpose, will usher in greater prosperity and economic development for Africa. 

Africa is a continent ripe for investment and brimming with opportunities. 

Across Africa, economic reforms have been enacted to boost investor confidence, to broaden access to local economies, to strengthen institutional capacity, to remove bureaucratic and other investment impediments, and to clamp down on corruption. 

We are determined to make our respective countries attractive to investors and to ensure that they are not mismanaged.

At the end of these two days, let us move beyond pledges. 

Let us leave with deals that add to national investment pipelines. 

Let us, when we meet again here next year, be able to add to the impressive catalogue of projects under implementation.

Africa is a continent that has shaken off its troubled past. 

It is a place that has known deprivation and turmoil. 

But it is a continent of resilience, and of a people determined to succeed and to prosper.

As the investor community, your presence here shows your unwavering will for us to succeed. 

I invite you to join us as we pass the flickering torch of progress across every border of this great continent, until the light of development and economic prosperity illuminates every African village, town and city.

I thank you.