Invest in Africa now, Zuma tells WEF

iol news pic Zuma 2015 WEF on Africa-2715bPresident Zuma joins a panel discussion on Meeting the Infrastructure Challenge on the African continent at the 25th World Economic Forum on Africa.

Cape Town – Africa will never go back, President Jacob Zuma told delegates to the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Friday, and wise investors would realise “this is the moment to invest in the continent”.

He said African governments had harmonised their thinking on where the continent should go, and how to get there, and that their commitment was greater than ever.

“I am convinced that, much as it looks difficult because of the size of the finances that are needed, the opportunities are big,” Zuma said at a panel discussion on the continent’s infrastructure challenge.

Former UK prime minister and WEF chair of the global strategic infrastructure initiative Gordon Brown said he believed Africa’s growth could be 2 percent higher if it solved its infrastructure challenge.

“At the moment we know 600 million people don’t have electricity, many millions of people don’t have water and sanitation, the road and rail system is inadequate to deal with internal trade and trade from Africa to the rest of the world, and we have to persuade international investors, as well as domestic investors, that the risks that people perceive are not as great as the risks that actually exist,” Brown said.

This would require political will, co-ordination of the delivery of infrastructure projects, and “a complete emphasis on getting the best results”.

But there was a global surplus of savings, and interest rates were low.

“This is a time of opportunity.

“Africa has got great mineral reserves, it’s got great uncultivated farmland, a population of young people ready to work, and we’ve got to find a way of making sure Africa’s growth can be speeded up by delivering the infrastructure that’s necessary,” Brown said.

“I suspect that Africa could grow 2 percent more if it could deal with its infrastructure problems, and that means millions more jobs as well as a higher quality of life.”

Keiko Honda, executive vice president of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, said there was a perception that Africa’s risk was higher and, while regional and local investors might understand the risks better, Africa needed to attract foreign investors to meet its estimated $100 billion-a-year infrastructure funding needs.

There were ways of “slicing” risk to deal with it, she said.

Zuma said the fact that Africa’s infrastructure push was being driven by its great need should provide confidence to investors that the political leadership would stay the course.

African leaders had never been as united on the issue, or clear about their commitment, Zuma said.

Viswanathan Shankar, group executive director of Standard and Chartered, and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Banking, said while the size of the problem was large, the scale of opportunity was huge.

Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

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