Africa’s economy shrank by 2.1 percent in 2020 and is expected to grow by 3.4 percent in 2021 as the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe impacts, according to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi A. Adesina.
Adesina made his statements during the Africa Investment Conference, a virtual one-day event organised on Wednesday by the UK Department for International Trade, which brought together UK and African business and government leaders to discuss investment and partnership opportunities.
The conference focused mainly on four sectors, including sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy, financial and professional services, and agriculture and agri-tech.
Adesina affirmed that Africa remained fertile ground for investment, adding that it possesses the same fundamentals that had driven the continent’s phenomenal growth over the past decade.
“The continent offered ample opportunities in terms of natural resources, vast tracts of arable land, and a young and rapidly urbanising population, especially with the potential presented by the newly launched African Continental Free Trade Area”, said Adesina.
“The fundamentals in those phenomenal growth rates in Africa are still there. Africa still leads in terms of ease of doing business, and the digital explosion that you see in Africa today,” Adesina underscored.
“Many things have changed since last year. There is one thing I can tell you that has not changed: that is my ambition for the UK to be Africa’s investment partner,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Emma Wade-Smith reviewed the UK private sector’s strengths and values, and business-to-business opportunities working with the UK government that can be tapped for the continent in the coming period.
She noted that ten of the fastest-growing economies were still in Africa, adding that there was not enough awareness of how much innovation was happening in the region.
“There was an opportunity to blend African and UK innovation. I’ve been struck by how many opportunities there are”, said Wade-Smith.
The participants urged the UK, during the conference, to pay attention to Africa particularly in healthcare and innovation investments, especially that there are 365 pharmaceutical companies in the continent, compared to 7,000 in China and 11,000 in India, as individual countries with comparable population sizes.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Minister for Africa James Duddridge, Minister for Investment Gerry Grimstone, as well as business leaders from Standard Bank, pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca, and mobile operator Vodacom participated in the conference.
In 2019, the UK-Africa Investment Summit, hosted in London by the UK’s Prime Minister, resulted in 27 trade and investment deals worth £6.5 billion and commitments valued at £8.9 billion were enclosed.