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Mrs. Heba Salama's speech at the official opening of the Africa 2017 Business Forum

Your Excellency Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Excellences Heads of State and Government Chairperson of the African union commission Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Welcome to the Africa 2017 Forum!
Many of you have travelled far to be here. We represent different regions...
... countries...
... and businesses.
From Sharm El Sheikh here in the North .... ... to Cape Town in the South.
From Dodoma in the East ...
... to Lagos in the West.
But we all share a passion. For our beloved Africa.

And I know you will all want to join me in thanking His Excellency President Abdel Fattah El Sisi ...
... for his dedication to our continent...
... which has enabled us to come together for this Forum.
I would also like to thank all the young entrepreneurs for the great energy they showed yesterday.
Like so many of you ...
... my story crosses Africa’s borders.
I was born in Egypt and grew up in Zambia..
And it was there, that my family and I...
built successful businesses..
... leaving me with no doubt that this was a continent in which business CAN flourish.
An Africa where all dreams are reachable.
Where no ambition is too big.
Why should we not live in an Africa where most of the roads are paved?
Where everybody can access electricity and clean water? Where four in five women have access to education? Where we all have equal chances...
... and where it is easy to establish a company ... ... and to do business?

Ladies and gentlemen ...
... you can call me a dreamer.
But, as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf once said:
“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
I’m not just telling you tales about our future... which I cannot predict.
But I dare to bring it! ...
as I am certain that all of us here can make it happen.
In fact, it is really happening and we ARE taking part of a historic shifting tide.
We just need to look around us:
Do you know which country in the world ranks first for entrepreneurial activity?
It’s Uganda.
Our cinema industry ranks second in the world! Nigeria’s Nollywood is a 3.3 billion dollars business.
Our youth are riding the innovation wave...
...and working on projects that could change the world.
In Egypt, many companies and start ups are going green ...

... and are operating in renewables and waste management...
...making alternative energy a viable energy choice.
In South Africa, the ground-breaking Square Kilometre Array is set to be the world’s largest radio telescope.
And in Nigeria, a sci-fi enthusiast is building a flying jet car ... that can run on land, sea and air.
These are just some of so many dynamic, exciting businesses...
... sourced by Africans ...
... within Africa.
Our role ....
... is to ensure adequate environment and infrastructure which remains the main obstacle towards achieving the continent’s full growth potential...
It is a challenge...
but at the same time it translates to tremendous investment opportunities.
But why investors remain hesitant to invest full scale in African Infrastructure?

And why have FDIs fallen off,
from 6 percent of the world’s FDI stock 4 decades ago, to just 3 percent today?
Our problem is not one of inactivity... ... but of perception.
Perception here often overshadows reality.
Which is why the risk-premium associated with Africa is always overvalued.
And in gathering here ...
... our biggest challenge ...
... is to put across the right narrative of African business.
We must also note the significant disconnect,
...between intra-African trade and investment.
For every dollar we trade with the outside world ...
... only 14 cents are traded with each other.
And yet 73% of announced African outward greenfield FDI remains in Africa.
I believe this illustrates how...
... with better infrastructure ...
... and more seamless regional integration ...
... our cross-border trade will naturally accelerate.
As most of you already know ...

... our biggest hurdle in this respect ... is our infrastructure gap.
Indeed, by 2020,
we will need 93 billion dollars annually.. to upgrade our infrastructure.
On the upside ...
... the capital is available globally. But we have to tap into it.
And to do so we’ll have to modernise our regulations ...
... enhance the depth and liquidity of our capital markets ... and pave the way for new funding mechanisms.
Ladies and gentlemen ...
.. Like all delegates from the private sector present here today, I listen to you first to really feel the pulse.
In the past 18 months ...
...Zimbabwe’s Liquid Telecom took over Neotel’s operations ...
... for 430 million dollars.
The result?
Africa’s biggest broadband network.
Borders crossed ...
... business done.

Morocco’s OCP is building multi-billion dollar fertilizer plants... in Ethiopia, Gabon and Nigeria.
Dangote has expanded to 14 African countries ...
... and Ecobank to 36.
Our businesses are spreading outside too.
Angola Telecom is due to open a 180 million dollars data centre in Brazil.
Algeria’s Cevital is expanding in Italy, France, Spain and beyond.
Meanwhile, the Africa business magnet strengthens. Airbus, Renault, General Electric and mobile phone makers such as China’s Oppo ...
.... are amongst those setting-up manufacturing and assembly plants across Africa.
This is all uplifting.
By 2025, a total of 5.6 trillion dollars in business and investment opportunities are projected to be available. 2.1 trillion from household consumption ...... and 3.5 trillion from business spending.
And this is just the start. Opportunities are immense.

There is so much potential still to untap. And we will realise that potential ...
... when our ability ...
... is matched by our self-belief.
As my Secretary General, Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya, has observed ...
.... we Africans have so often treated others better than we treat ourselves.
It is often easier for foreigners to travel across our borders than it is for us.
This will only change as we strengthen our economic ties. Encouraging trade and free movement.
Working together.
Which brings us here, today, at the Africa 2017 Forum... ... there are 2,000 of us ...
... representing 75 countries ...
... and over 600 companies.
We are in a unique position to develop dialogue between young entrepreneurs ...
... governments ...
... investors ...
... and businesses.

We, together, are joining forces to make a difference... To share ideas.
To work out how to facilitate trade. To help businesses navigate through the Continent’s red tape.
And, ultimately, to help make life easier for the people who can push African ideas ...
... and outcomes ...
... to the international top table.
It is no coincidence that we meet here in Egypt. Where a home-grown economic reform programme is leading – directly – to annual FDI inflows for the past 3 consecutive years.
Let this be an inspiration to us all.
As it has been to those of you from sub-Saharan Africa ... ... where almost a third of global business reforms were initiated last year.
So this is a message to us Africans
...let us leave our bubbles,
... let us blurr our borders, our boundaries, ... let us break the patterns,
... write our own story,
... and become its leading actors.

And to every young entrepreneur in this room. Thank you.
Not just for being here ...
... but for what you do.
The energy and dynamism you bring. The ideas you share.
Our future is in your hands.
You will make the business narrative about Africa ... ... the most amazing success story ever told.
I wish you a fruitful Africa 2017 Forum. Thank you.