African Business

EIF 2024: Experts support African leaders with solutions to boost investment

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The Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) Investment Forum (EIF) 2024, has opened up diverse discussions on the critical areas African leaders can focus on to boost investment on the continent.

According to experts at the forum, African countries need to do more to attract investment to improve energy development, create jobs for the youth through agricultural and renewable energy, and also to bridge the infrastructure deficit.

The EIF 2024, which was organised by the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) in partnership with the Togolese government, in Togo, was themed: “Transforming ECOWAS Communities in a Challenging Environment.”

The forum’s primary focus is to stimulate economic growth, create sustainable jobs, and help member states build resilience in the face of global challenges. The forum also focused on the region’s strong investment potential; facilitated partnerships among key stakeholders, and provided a platform to discuss crucial issues such as food security, infrastructure development, and climate change mitigation.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) noted that despite the economic challenges emanating from the global pandemic, the ECOWAS region can bost investments if members focus on regional integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area, commercial services, especially digital services and youth driven workforce.

She further noted that ECOWAS countries account for 0.7% of global trade, mainly focused on exporting raw materials, while Africa as a whole accounts for 3% of global trade.

Touching on how to achieve globalization, Dr. Iweala said, “African governments must work to reduce commercial costs within the ECOWAS region and improve physical and digital infrastructure.”

Mrs. Kanayo AWANI, EVP AFREXIM said Africa’s persistent infrastructure deficit which amounts to between $130 and $170 billion per year, or 2% of GDP each year, can be resolved if the region pools resources towards sustainable “innovative financing mechanisms and regulatory frameworks that encourage collaboration.”

She added “AFREXIM Bank have implemented projects aimed at developing infrastructure: 300-megawatt combined-cycle gas power plant in Senegal, floating dry dock in the port of Takoradi, Ghana, road linking Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal, complete LNG train in Nigeria.”

Speaking on food security on the continent, Mr. Vikramaditya Ugra emphasized that the agricultural sector accounts for nearly 65% of employment, stressing that despite the increase in fertilizer cost and inflation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are avenues for improvement.

He noted that Africa needs to attract investors to boost the agricultural chain and create jobs by adopting new agricultural practices, implementing smart agriculture, and enhancing training for those involved in the chain.

According to Dr. Mabouba Diagne, Vice President in charge of Finance and Institutional Services, there is an urgent need to focus on the production and processing of agricultural products.
He added “with the assistance of our banks and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), we can establish a circular economy and successfully tackle challenges.
According to Dr. Ing Oyétoundé DjIWA, West Africa has 236 million hectares of arable land, but only 10% of these lands are irrigated and thus utilized, with 38 million people suffering from food insecurity.

He said the current state of West Africa’s agriculture is only exploiting 25% of its production potential. “We need to make agriculture more attractive to encourage young people to enter the sector, attract investors, and promote innovation.

Climate change is affecting food security, with droughts and floods. This poses a real challenge to the survival of certain communities and sustainable development. Resilient agriculture and the implementation of environmentally friendly agriculture practices are necessary”.

On his part, Geoffrey Nsofon, Head of Private Sector Engagement at TAAT Clearinghouse, said it is crucial to enable farmers, who constitute 50% of our population in West Africa, to produce with the best technologies and necessary investment.

He was of the view that for Africa to establish mechanisms to utilize funds secured from the annual export of $50 billion worth of food, the continent will need to prioritize technology in public projects and programs and government investments and also encourage the private sector to invest in agriculture.

On the continent’s infrastructure, Helen Aigbe BRUME, Director of Project and Asset Financing at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), emphasized the importance of fostering partnerships between the public and private sectors in collaboration with countries. She stressed the need for resources to support all those in need of investment, urging them to seek local investors to avoid repayments in local currency for dollar-denominated amounts.

According to Christopher Balliet BLEZIRI, Resident Representative at the International Finance Corporation in Togo, there is a need for Africa to “demystify the concept of infrastructure and focus more on government development and job creation.”

Touching on ways to resolve youth unemployment through green economy, Dr. Kandeh YUMKELLA, Chair of the Presidential Initiative on Climate Change, Renewable Energy, and Food Security for the Government of Sierra Leone, noted that, “there is an urgent need to educate youth on climate change and potential solutions. This requires leadership and action from our governments. To be competitive in green economies, African governments must assess the continent’s green assets. Collaboration with banks is necessary to establish sustainable support mechanisms for renewable energy actors. Industrialization within our countries is not an option, as evidenced by its impact on China. Renewable energies serve as a catalyst for youth and employability.”

Ing Francis SEMPORE, Executive Director of ECREEE, highlighted that there are 12 million jobs related to renewable energy. “To seize this opportunity, ECOWAS has introduced certifications in various fields for youth. These certifications are adaptable to the population regardless of education level in the renewable energy sector. The goal is to train a skilled workforce for each level of project intervention within the ECOWAS region.”, he added.

The event showcased the commitment of EBID and its partners to fostering regional integration and economic development in West Africa. The EIF 2024 emphasized the need for public-private partnerships and innovative solutions to address the region’s development challenges.Key outcomes of the forum included increased awareness of investment opportunities, enhanced collaboration among stakeholders, and the identification of priority areas for future investment and development initiatives.

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