The Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) 2021, which took place from 15 – 21 November 2021, hosted on November 18 a day focusing on investments and investment opportunities: The Investment Forum looked at Africa’s investment landscape, with a focus on opportunities across four strategic sectors: Agriculture, Logistics, Technology and Tourism.
With over 10,000 registered participants, IATF was Africa’s largest in-person B2B and B2G event of the year. The opening ceremony featured seven Heads of Government from Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe. The seven days programme organized by the African Export-Import Bank alongside the African Union put the spotlight, through various debates and discussions, on how the African Continental Trade Agreement will unlock Africa’s economic potential, enabling greater cross-border trading and developing industrial capacity which will take advantage of the continent’s natural wealth.
During one of the panel discussions, Dr. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, noted that: “The IATF is not an ends in itself but rather is a means to an end. And the end game is the Africa we want; an integrated Africa that trades with itself, that uses trade to restore the dignity of Africans, and for trade to become an instrument of development and that helps Africa gain respect internationally. So that others don’t see Africa as a basket case but rather as a bread basket.”
The Investment Forum took place on the fourth day of the IATF 2021 programme, showcasing investment opportunities on the continent and promoting cross-border investment by African national champions, focusing on some key sectors and learning from investors and companies who are committed and invested in the African continent. The Investment Forum also served as a platform to launch of the IATF 2021 Project Book, which, in cooperation with African Investment Promotion Agencies, showcases a multitude of investment ready projects.
While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery was a common theme across the Investment Forum, Dr. Acha Leke, Senior Partner and Chairman, McKinsey & Company, Africa, spoke of the general optimism investors feel about Africa, “The good news is that we didn’t lose 150 million jobs [in Africa in the pandemic], we did lose about 30 million. So generally, we were not as affected as we feared by the crisis which makes it more exciting on one hand for investors to come and continue to invest in these markets.” However, in his presentation, Leke did point out that Africa’s economic performance over the past few years, even before Covid-19 hit had been on a downward trajectory, something governments and investors will have to work hard together to reverse.
One path towards transformation is leveraging technology. Panellists spoke about the innovation taking place in Technology in Africa. “Over the last two years we have seen a significant acceleration in digital adoption and that’s been driven primarily by the pandemic,” commented Fabian Whate, head of South African-based tech investment company Naspers Foundry, while pointing out that at least 60% of venture capital (VC) investment in Africa is into the fintech sector. This was echoed by the Hon. Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, Former Minister of Trade, Botswana, “Covid has certainly challenged us, many governments were challenged to start delivering services to people and they were forced to start talking about digitalisation.”
Perhaps no industry was more adversely affected by the pandemic than tourism and on the Tourism sector dedicated panel, Cuthbert Ncube, African tourism board, South Africa, urged African tourism boards and governments to work together to help the continent’s tourism to recover from the pandemic, “we need to start breaking the barriers that had separated us. In the past two and half years, we have experienced the worst negative impact on our tourism sector. That brought our tourism economies to a standstill.”
The organisers announced $36bn of deals signed during the week which saw just under 12,000 attend the event in person. The fair had 1,161 exhibitors with participants from 128 countries. As well as the Fair and the Forum, there were specific programmes dedicated to Automotive Manufacturing; Pharmaceuticals; Creative Industries; Start-ups; and the Youth throughout the week.