BusinessDay

At Africa Investment Forum, we do deals, deals, and deals – Adesina

Despite some obvious challenges not peculiar to the continent, Africa remains a conducive continent for investment. This was a cardinal truth that was told at the just-concluded Africa Investment Forum Market Days 2022 in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire.

Led by Akinwumi Adesina, president, Africa Development Bank (AfDB) Group, and joined by some presidents, Vice Presidents, prime ministers, and leaders of global establishments and players in various sectors of their countries’ economy, the Forum urged investors to come to Africa for investments that would yield good returns.

For the three days that the event lasted, the market was full and lively. The products were there for buyers. Fantastic deals were sealed. Over one thousand participants were in the market. The venue, the Sofitel Abidjan Hotel Ivoire, was convivial.

Welcoming investors and all, Adesina set the tone for a successful event, when he said: “Africa beyond aid is an Africa driven by investments! I warmly welcome all the investors from around the world for being here. They are here with one purpose in mind: to seek opportunities for investments in Africa, to prospect, to identify, and to invest in bankable projects. You are in the right place: Africa!”

He informed that “Africa has shown resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign direct investments in Africa declined from $47 billion in 2019 to $40 billion in 2020 because of COVID-19. Africa recovered in 2021, as Foreign Direct Investments rose to $83 billion, doubling the flows in 2020. Africa is the place to be.”

To chase away any iota of doubt about the readiness of Africa for investment, the AfDB president, said: “Just think of the following: By 2050, Africa will account for over one quarter of the world’s population. Africa has the largest sources of renewable energy in the world. Africa has 65% of the uncultivated arable land left to feed the world.

The future of electric cars in the world depends on Africa because it has the largest sources of cobalt in the world, with massive sources of lithium in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, Mali, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is the largest free-trade zone in the world connecting economies worth $3.3 trillion.”

And with a sonorous voice like a conqueror he is, he intoned: “So, Africa cannot be ignored. If you are not investing in Africa, think again! Africa is the investment frontier in the world – today and in the future.

Invest in Africa today, benefit from its great future.

The Africa Investment Forum –Africa’s premier investment marketplace—helps to connect investors to Africa. Four years ago, we began a journey together –the African Development Bank, the Africa Import-Export Bank, the Trade and Development Bank, the Africa Finance Corporation, the Development Bank of South Africa, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and Africa 50 — when we established the Africa Investment Forum.

“It was a journey to mobilise investments for Africa, a journey to showcase Africa, a journey to say to the world: Africa is bankable. The Africa Investment Forum is delivering amazing investments for Africa.

In four years since the Forum commenced in 2018, it has helped to mobilise $110 billion in investment interests to Africa. At the Africa Investment Forum, we do deals, deals, and deals. And they are transformational deals.

“The $600 million securitised finance to support the cocoa board of Ghana, has helped Ghana to grow its cocoa production by one million metric tons, with infrastructure for warehousing and cocoa processing.

The landmark $24 billion Liquified Natural Gas Project of Mozambique which was structured and closed at the Africa Investment Forum, is the largest ever foreign direct investment in Africa. It will turn Mozambique into the third-largest exporter of natural gas in the world and add $66 billion to its economy.

“At the virtual Africa Investment Forum held in March this year, we secured $15.6 billion in investment interest for the construction of the Lagos-Abidjan Highway. The highway, which carries 75% of trade in the West Africa region, will help unleash greater growth, trade, and investment across the region.”

True to his optimism, by the time the 72 hours elapsed, Adesina announced with air of fulfillment that Africa Investment Forum Market Days 2022, drew about $31 billion in investment interest from African and global investors.

He also announced that “Combined with $32.8 billion from the rescheduled 2021 Africa Investment Forum Market Days, which took place as virtual boardrooms in March this year, the forum has mobilised a total of $63.8 billion of investment interest this year.”

At the event, the leaders chaired boardrooms and led transactions with potential investors. They included Vice President Tiémoko Meyliet Koné of Côte d’Ivoire, who represented President Alassane Ouattara.

Others were President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia; President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe; Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor of Liberia; Vice President Philip Mpango of Tanzania; Prime Minister José Ulisses Correia e Silva n of Cabo Verde; and Prime Minister Patrick Achi of Côte d’Ivoire.

This year’s Market Days event, third since 2018, took place under the theme: ‘Building Economic Resilience through Sustainable Investments.’ It was held amid global economic challenges that have been compounded by the impacts of climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The founding partners were all present. They are the African Development Bank, Africa50, Afrexim Bank, the Africa Finance Corporation, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Trade and Development Bank.

The partners said in unison that “the results this year have exceeded expectations, given that the world is currently grappling with so many unprecedented economic challenges.”

Benedict Oramah, Afreximbank president, said: “This year’s Africa Investment Forum reflects, in the number, attitudes and diversity of its attendees, the interest and optimism of global investors towards the continent and its opportunities. We close, knowing that the AIF, Africa’s largest transactional investment marketplace, continues to be a huge success. Moreover, the event serves as a measure of international confidence in Africa’s economic and political development, and the unmatched investment opportunities this is creating.”

Chinelo Anohu, Africa Investment Forum Senior Director, said: “A lot of the successes recorded by the Africa Investment Forum are domiciled in the spirit of the partnership. It’s up to us to ensure the continent is what it ought to be.”

Since its inception in 2018, the Africa Investment Forum platform has mobilised over $100 billion in investment interests.

The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, represented at the event by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, expressed confidence that the Nigeria Startup industry was doing very well, noting that there are five unicorns already in the country, and therefore, the digital city would give opportunity for growth and development to investors and entrepreneurs in that value chain.

“This morning there was a plenary session on sports business. The Nigerian government in its agenda 2050 plan had defined and planned for sports to become a business and the Minister of Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare had last week launched a sports business policy.

“So, we have to run that path. Gradually, we have to make it attractive for investors to invest in the sports as a as a business. There is a huge opportunity to create large number of jobs and all kinds of value chain activities where youths and small businesses can flourish,” she said.

According to the minister, “Nigeria is doing a lot to improve the business climate. If you look at the ratings of Nigeria and the World Bank ease of doing business, we have been consistently progressing. Nigeria was rated in the last assessment as one of the top 10 reforming economies in the world.

And also we are doing a lot in terms of building our infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, airports, and power, those are things that government has a responsibility to do. So the businesses don’t have to make those investments. So, it will reduce the cost of doing business in Nigeria where you don’t have to generate your own power. When the trip you have to take to deliver your goods is more efficient in terms of time, you will improve the business.

“We have started, and have done a lot in terms of infrastructure, but there is still a long way to go, and we are sure that the next government will also be doing the same thing because every government must seek to improve the infrastructure deficits in our country.

“So we are very hopeful that with the work that government is doing with incentives that have been provided, more investors both locally, as well as external investors will invest in Nigeria.

“The startup bill is one of the tools that government has undertaken to ease business for the young startup companies that will make all the registration processes, the clearances, the environment, better in addition to the expansion of broadband access.

“The law now provides backing for digital businesses to operate in an easier operating environment in Nigeria, and Nigeria is one of the first countries that have done such; so it is a plus for us. The Nigeria agenda 2050 is our long term plan, and part of the goals is turning sports into a business, but the targets that we set for the sports ministry is within the medium term plan of 2021 to 2025. So within up to 2025, we must have been able to push sports into the business arena.”

At the Forum, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Exchange Group, Oscar Onyema, stated that the capital market has done very well considering activities on the equity side of business, which he described as being very active, “in fact, we have had record equity trading. As you know, we have had the MTN Initial Public Offering (IPO).

He further explained that the market has had capital raising from a number of other companies in terms of rights issues, special placements and others.

Onyema also stated that on the fixed income side, the market has seen a lot of activity in terms of issuances such as federal government, corporates, and States.

He hinted that the capital market is a very viable and credible alternative for capital raising.

According to Onyema, “There are some challenges around requirements to be expected given that you are now in the public market, and there is a lot of retail, not just institutional, but you also have retail participation.

“Given what we are seeing especially development around blended financing, there is now complementarity between capital markets, private markets, and even all the way to philanthropy, catalytic finance and the rest of it. So there is a whole range of financing alternatives that are designed to solve wicked problems, and those are the big problems that affect society, and so they have social impacts.

“The Nigeria Fintech space is very active, and received a lot of investments, most of them are in the private sector. Yes. And so certainly we are very keen to crowd in those types of investments into the public markets as well. At the exchange, I am aware that NGX is working on the technology board, which is designed to really be attracted to FinTech companies, and other high tech companies that already exist in an ecosystem. The Nigeria Startup bill is also good one because it gives you that legal framework under which these types of activities can be supported with the necessary institutional frameworks.”

At the event also was Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian-Kenya-Canadian professional basketball executive and president of Basketball Operations of the Toronto Raptors in the National Basketball Association (NBA), who called on African countries to take sports seriously by looking at it as a business rather than mere recreation, urging them to emulate Rwanda.

He urged African governments to refocus sports as a business that should be creating wealth for their countries and to build a formidable future for the younger generation.

Read also: AfDB mobilises $31bn investment interest

“Sports is a recreation no more. It is a business. When I look at my country and the continent, I can’t find them doing great things in sports. Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana- none of these countries has an arena that you can play an NBA or do other things that can give you that big money,” Ujiri said.

He commended President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who he said had taken the initiative by establishing the Kigali Arena currently branded as BK Arena.

He also said that the initiative was born following discussions with President Kagame as they watched NBA All-Star Game in Toronto Canada in 2016.

Ujiri, who also is the founder of Giants of Africa (GOA), disclosed that he has acquired land in Kigali City where he is building ‘Ujiri Court’ as an investor. He explained that it was a business ecosystem that would positively impact the economy of the country going forward.

Speaking on a panel ‘Sports as a Business Catalyst’ he urged investors to see opportunity in investing in such ventures.

He also lamented the way sports was being handled in Africa, citing instances with the appointment of novices as sports ministers and allowing sports facilities to rot without any investment to resuscitate them.

“I feel the impact of sports as a key pathway to peace, apart from money. Many of our National Stadiums in across Africa have remained a dump. I want investors to think how to revamp those facilities rotting away in those countries to create what President Kagame has done in his country.

“The private sector needs to get involved. In America, government does not run sports; that’s why I am encouraging the private sector to invest in sports. Since I first got the job on NBA in 2010, I have never had any call from any president or minister on how to develop sports in their country,” he said.