Closer collaboration between the public and private sector to release untapped private finance for investment in Africa topped the agenda of the 2017 Development Finance Forum (DFF), held on May 31-1 June, in Accra, Ghana. The two-day event was organised by the World Bank Group and supported by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET). DFF in Ghana is one of three events taking place in West Africa to explore the World Bank Group’s instruments to unlock opportunities for private sector investment. Two other sessions took place on May 29 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Some 300 public and private sector leaders attended the event, which offered insight and solutions to the issues of unemployment, income inequality, energy security, availability of infrastructure, job creation and poverty reduction.
In his keynote address, the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, said Ghana is a land of opportunity for private capital and called for stronger cooperation between the public and private sector to increase private finance for development. “We need to cooperate more and cooperate smartly to mobilize more financing for each other’s success”, said President Akufo-Addo.
He further highlighted a stable macro-economic environment as fundamental to private investment in Africa and listed various initiatives as proof the government is committed to unlocking private financing in Ghana. Initiatives include the abolition of taxes on some imported products, digital house numbering, biometric national identification cards, the Planting for Food and Jobs program. “We will very soon issue a $2.5 billion energy sector bond to retire the legacy debt of the energy sector, and create space for increased investment in the sector,” the President said.
Panelists in a session on Private Investment in African Markets: Setting the Agenda, explored how the government could do better by reforming government policies to increase private investment. The panelists also put forward strategies to promote regional integration in Africa’s development and agreed that the informal sector is the basis of economic growth in Africa.
“Power underpins every aspect of our lives. It is vital for governments to persuade consumers to pay for the power they consume”, said Helen Tarnoy, Managing Director of Aldwych International.
Aliko Dangote, Chairman & CEO of the Nigerian-owned Dangote Group, stressed the need for government to ease policies to boost private investment. “Government must tackle the issue of inconsistencies in government policies”, said Dangote.
Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta highlighted human capacity building as key to development “We need to build the skills of people to take advantage of opportunities being created in the economy”, said Ofori-Atta. For his part, Côte d’Ivoire’s Budget Minister, Abdourahmane Cisse, said that infrastructural development is key to regional integration. “Regional integration requires intra-regional infrastructure”, Minister Cisse said.
The International Development Association (IDA) Private Sector (PSW) as a Catalyst for Growth and Stability in Africa session highlighted economic stability, radical transparency to fight corruption, technological transfer and human capacity building as critical in drawing increased private sector development. “Stability of the economy is key to private sector investment”, said Hon. Momodu Kargbo, Minister of Finance, Sierra Leone. But he pointed out the negative impact of corruption. “Some cultural practices are beginning to transform into corruption, Minister Kargbo said, additing that Sierra Leone has set up an anti-corruption body.
“Technology transfer and capacity building are essential to job creation in Africa”, said Olivier Lafourcade, Chairman of the Board of Investisseurs & Partenaires. Thisy view was shared by he World Bank’s Vice President for Development Finance, Axel van Trotsenburg, who stated: “We need to create jobs and tackle the issue of fragility in Africa head on”.
A third panel on Private Investment in Africa: A Call to Action discussed the creation of venture fund and macro-economic environment to unlock private investments in African markets.
Closing the forum, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia charged governments to manage state-owned enterprises efficiently and effectively to boost macro-economic stability. “Key to obtaining and sustaining private investment is for countries to maintain macro-economic stability. State-owned enterprises must be managed efficiently to positively boost macro-economic stability,” Dr. Bawumia said.
ACET is a Pan-African economic policy think tank supporting Africa’s long-term growth through economic transformation. The World Bank Group is a unique global partnership comprising five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.