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Protect our cash and we’ll do more, investors tell Africa governments

By Gathenya Njaramba | October 2nd 2014

DUBAI, UAE: Africa's new and exciting investment opportunities will only thrive if good governance and visionary leadership are adhered to, a senior global investment guru has said.

Dubai Port (DP) World Chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem told the continent's large gathering including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ghanian President Dramani Mahama and Ethiopian President Mulatu Wirtu, among several ministers and leading business people that Africa's huge growth potential and profits for investors can only be harnessed through bold decisions from the top leadership.

Sulayem was speaking Wednesday at the second Africa Global Business Forum that kicked off in Dubai on Tuesday. Dubai Chamber President Hamad Buamin said the conference's main objective is to open new doors for Dubai and world investors to the growing potential in Africa. "There are huge opportunities but also risks, which African governments must strive to eliminate," he said.

Kenyans in attendance are James Mwangi of Equity, Amina Mohammed of Foreign Affairs, Vimal Shah of Bidco, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njuguna Ndung'u and other top officials.

Sulayem urged African states to expand their infrastructure such as roads, hotels, hospitals, communications, seaports and airports to attract more investors. This, he noted, needs brave decisions and not listening to detractors. "When the UAE initially planned to expand the Dubai Airport, there were 'consultants' who advised us against it. Today, the airport has opened new opportunities and made Dubai what it is," he told the forum organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

There has been controversy surrounding the Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, with several quarters questioning the tendering process, but the Jubilee Government has insisted the railway heading all the way to Sudan, will be constructed.

Kagame said African countries face similar challenges, but which offer global investors huge opportunities. "Infrastructure development, skills and knowledge enhancement, energy production, exploitation of natural resources, adding value to our products is what will encourage inclusive growth in Africa," he said.

Ethiopian President Mulatu Wirtu called for stability, peace and democracy among African States to lure more investors. "What are the comparative advantages of each African state? Identify them and the investors will come," he said, while his Ghanian counterpart rooted for increased trade among African countries, reduced cost of doing business and accountability to fight corruption.

"Africa is on the cusp of exploiting new and exciting opportunities, but more needs to be done, for instance producing more energy to reduce the cost of power," he said.

Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote called for free movement of goods and people across the continent to increase trade - creating large market for foreign investors.

Dangote noted that investing in agri-business would ensure more inclusive growth through job creation. "Africa's population comprises more than 70 per cent of young people aged 20 years and bellow. The world and African governments must tap into this huge human resource to make development all-inclusive," he noted.

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