The Significance of the African Investment Forum
in helping us overcome our socio-economic challenges

By: Lebogang Maile

Over the past few days the African Development Bank in partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government co-hosted the inaugural African Investment Forum (AIF), a platform to facilitate intra-African transactions as well as promote much needed investment.

This event is significant, in that it brought together stakeholders from all over the continent, in order to address our continent’s most pertinent socio-economic challenges through investment promotion and facilitation as well as providing further evidence of the success of our bidding and hosting strategy as a provincial government, with all the economic spinoffs that come with it. The AIF further shows the seriousness with which our government is approaching the investment drive of US$ 100 billion over five years announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this year in order to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and improve the quality of life of our people.

The continent continues to attract high levels of interest as an investment destination, and is in fact now considered the second most attractive investment destination in the world. With 6 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies in the world in 2018 emanating from Africa, the AIF once again positively affirmed our belief in the critical nexus between investment and economic growth towards long term economic development.

Gauteng, as the economic hub of the country and the continent has positioned itself as a leading player in the drive towards the sustainable growth and development of the continent, the re-industrialisation of the continent, greater regional and continental integration as well as increased intra-African trade and investment.

An example of this is our focus in the Gauteng Economic Development Plan on developing and enhancing our agro-processing capacity from an understanding that agriculture, which remains a backbone of many African economies as well as being the largest employer, holds huge potential to provide solutions to our socio-economic problems.

Agro-processing has the potential to become an industrial impetus for Africa and with its strong upstream and downstream linkages as well as being a subdivision of the manufacturing sector, can play a significant role in reviving manufacturing on the continent. With the increased demand for value-added goods, it can also help us address the need for further economic diversification and value-addition as well as tackle the challenge of food security by turning Africa from being a net importer of food to a net exporter, given the fact that the continent contains 65% of the world’s most arable, uncultivated land.

Foreign direct investment in agriculture and agribusiness has experienced enormous growth in the past few years, with investors seizing the opportunity to invest in the continent’s largely undeveloped agro-processing potential. It is such kind of investments, with developmental and socio-economic impact that we are pursuing through the AIF. Another sector which has experienced incredible growth on the continent is the ICT sector, as the continent readies itself to become a notable player within the Digital Age. Through the AIF, we are working towards bringing in catalytic investments in such sectors, as well as in big infrastructure projects, which are material in terms of removing some of the bottlenecks to economic development that countries around the continent are faced with.

Africa’s GDP has expanded impressively over the past decade, with major technological advancements, better cooperation between the public and private sectors, improvements in health and welfare amongst other things playing a critical role but there are still many challenges to be overcome in order to take the continent towards its ultimate developmental objects and it is through initiatives such as the AIF that we can come together and find common cause as Africans in pursuit of what has been dubbed the “African Century.”

A wise sage once stated that, “the opportunity of a lifetime, must be taken within the lifetime of that opportunity.” There is a window of opportunity for us as a continent to work together, build interdependency and develop the capacity that we need in order to attain the objectives so well articulated by former President Thabo Mbeki in his address at the United Nations University in April 1998, “We must succeed to rebuild and reconstruct our economies, achieve high and sustained rates of growth, reduce unemployment, and provide a better life for the people, a path on which we have embarked.

We must succeed to meet the needs of the people so as to end poverty and improve the quality of life by ensuring access to good education, adequate health care, decent homes, clean water and modern sanitation, and so on, again a process on which we have embarked.” Through the deals and transactions that have been concluded at the AIF, we have indeed taken a quantum leap towards a “New Dawn” for South Africa and the rest of the continent.