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African business leaders root for infrastructure development to drive investments, growth

African business leaders have stressed the need for self-reliance and domestic resource mobilisation on the continent. This, they said, will attract new investments into Africa to boost economic growth and development, as well as job-creation, a statement by the organisers of the just-ended Africa 2017 Forum, indicates. The event was held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el Sheikh.

“There is need to set up joint projects, particularly in infrastructure, to support investment and trade among African states, and implementation of programmes that encourage entrepreneurship and also increase youth participation in the African economy,” the statement added.

Other recommendations include the promotion of women empowerment in all fields of economy and considering them as “active members in the process of developing Africa and achieving economic stability”, and enhancing the role of the private sector to increase investment rates in the continent.

The three-day event, organised by Egypt’s Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA), attracted over 2,000 delegates from 75 countries.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi of Egypt hosted five African Heads of State and top business leaders from across the continent during the event.

Intra-Africa trade, China-Africa cooperation

Meanwhile, the forum rooted for policies that will help increase intra-Africa trade and drive inclusive growth, and stronger China-Africa cooperation, especially in terms of technology transfer.

According to the statement, the event also discussed the industrial revolution for Africa and China-Africa economic relations.

Ambassador Helen Hai, the CEO of Made-in-Africa initiative, China, said the continent needs to be in the driving seat when it comes to discussions about the China-Africa relationship.

She said the relationship was moving from resources to partnerships with African countries, “but they need to be clear about what they want from China”.

She said 85 million jobs were likely to be exported from China in the next few years as labour costs increased in the Asian country, noting that Africa was well-placed to attract them. This would lead to economic transformation on the continent,” she said.

However, Carlos Lopes, the former executive secretary of UNECA, said it was not inevitable that the jobs would migrate to Africa. He warned that many jobs that could move out of China could be replaced by robots and automation, not Africans, and that other regions would also compete for the kind of jobs that Africa seeks – those at the lower end of the value chain.

Lopes, who is also a professor in the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice at the University of Cape Town in Guinea-Bissau, said: “This huge move to get jobs can be elusive if we are not fast enough in creating opportunities. The window is closing very fast.”

“We need to move quickly and do so in a way that is commensurate with the interests of China’s strategy,” he addd.