One man’s bold vision tilts capital flows into Africa

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Africans may not be in the forefront of technological revolution these days, but when it comes to wise sayings, Africans have some of the best proverbs on earth.

One well known African proverb says “vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”. 

That’s exactly what Nigeria-born Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, has achieved. 

When he laid out his vision to tilt the flow of capital into Africa by convening the first transaction-based investment forum, the Africa Investment Forum, many did not see what was coming ahead.

One year down the road, the verdict is undisputed.

The three-day Africa Investment Forum ended November 9th in the South African economic capital exceeding the expectations of its conveners – The African Development Bank. Beyond participants’ commendations, a preliminary review of the meeting leaves room for much optimism.

The Forum highlighted a solid pipeline of projects and wealth of opportunities ready for investors. After a final review of all Boardroom projects, investor interest stood at close to US$40 billion, the organizers said Wednesday.

Close to 300 institutional investors from 53 countries, including 23 non-African countries gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 7-9 November for the inaugural event.

“Africa is ahead of its time. Business as usual is no longer the norm…from now on it will be Business unusual. All is now set for global and regional investments to make a smooth landing into Africa. The Africa Investment Forum has turned the tide of investment into the continent,” Adesina said.

The value of boardroom projects tabled for discussion during the Forum stood at US$47 billion, up from US$40.4 billion announced on the eve of the closing. The updated figures following a final review indicated that investment interest was secured for 49 projects worth US$38.7 billion, up from US$32 billion

The projects ranged in diversity from infrastructure, Energy, Transport and Utilities, Industry, agriculture, ICT and Telecoms, Water and Sanitation, Funds/financial Services, Health, Education, Hospitality and Tourism, Housing, and Aviation. A total of 169 bilateral meetings took place in the Marketplace boardrooms. In addition, open marketplace B2B conversations went on throughout the three days.

Notable among the deals which secured investor interest are:

a US$3.7 billion railway expansion and development project in South Africa. The investment will support the acquisition of new rolling stock trains, expansion of depot facilities and upgrades to existing signaling and train control systems.

Brass Fertilizer & Petrochemical Project – a US$ 3 billion investment for the construction and operation of a world-class petro-chemical facility to produce Methanol (1.75 mil MTPA), Ammonia (1.35 mil MTPA) and Urea (1.35 mil MTPA)

In the energy sector, 400 delegates convened for focused deliberations on regulations and policy issues for the construction of the second phase of a 450 MW Power Plant in Tunisia worth US$440 million. Agreements were reached on a number of action plans designed to accelerate regulatory reforms and to unlock bottlenecks that will help facilitate investments in a sector with a potential value of US$70 billion.

In Africa’s transportation and logistics sector, a major milestone was reached with the launch of “THELO DB,” a new partnership between THELO SA (of South Africa) and DEUTSCHE BAHN (of Germany). The partnership intervenes in the critical railway sector of Africa’s economy, which has an annual deficit of around US$62 billion.

A total of 1,914 out of 2,200 registered delegates attended the event, signifying strong interest in the Forum.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa; President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia, President Alpha Conde of the Republic of Guinea; President Macky Sall of Senegal; President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana attended the Forum. Other officials included the Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo; the Prime Ministers of Rwanda, Edouard Ngirente and Cameroon, Philémon Yang, as well as ministers representing the Kingdom of Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Niger, and Gabon. In attendance also were Governors and Board members of the African Development Bank.

The main goal of the Africa Investment Forum is to catalyze investments into the continent through a unique marketplace platform designed to advance projects to bankable stages, raise capital, and accelerate the financial closure of deals.

Ringing endorsements came in from investors, multilateral development heads and key stakeholders. When a panel of investors and project sponsors was asked by African Development Bank Communication Director Victor Oladokun what they would change during the next Forum, the consensus was that the event had already achieved what it set out to do. For the first time ever, a platform had brought together all critical players under one roof – investors, project sponsors and government leaders.

According to Basil El Baz, CEO of Carbon Holdings, “I have never seen a conference like this. To the organizers, I say do not change a thing. Keep doing exactly what you are doing.”

Global financial institutions such as Africa Finance Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa, Africa 50, Afreximbank, European Investment Bank, Trade and Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, partnered with the African Development Bank to form a solid and strategic alliance around the new initiative.

The next edition of the Africa Investment Forum will take place in November 2019.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, Simon leads a brilliant team of reporters, freelance journalists, analysts, researchers and contributors from around the world to run TODAY NEWS AFRICA as editor-in-chief. Simon Ateba's journalistic experience spans over 10 years and covers many beats, including business and investment, information technology, politics, diplomacy, human rights, science reporting and much more. Write him: [email protected]

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