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African conference highlights international optimism

Article - October 12, 2015

The Financial Times held its second Africa Summit at the prestigious Claridge’s, London, on October 4-5, 2015. The sold-out event convened a delegation of 300 senior attendees and an expert speaker panel of finance ministers, investors and business leaders from around the region.

THE FT AFRICA SUMMIT 2015 HIGHLIGHTED THE POTENTIAL FOR BUSINESS WITH THE CONTINENT IN VARIOUS SECTORS, SUCH AS INFRASTRUCTURE, MINING, FINANCE AND TRANSPORTATION

“We wanted to talk about Africa in a serious way, to move beyond the, if you like, ‘Africa rising’ story and look at the forces – the economic, political, social, financial forces – shaping the continent’s future,” commented Lionel Barber, Editor for the Financial Times, in his welcoming speech to attendees.

Dr Any Jadesimi, Managing Director of Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), believed the conference to be “one of the most significant summits that has taken place on Africa in London, I think because of the quality of people that attended,” and remarked on “the intelligence and openness” of how people spoke at the event.

A CEO debate at the event brought candid and topical discussion points into the spotlight, while standout topics at the summit also included corruption, security, infrastructure, mining, transportation, finance, and job creation.

Yvonne Ikem Managing Director and Head of Sub-Sahara (Ex-RSA) for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, observed: “We do need more government policies in some areas, but the most important driver of development in Africa now will come from the private sector, led by the entrepreneurs.”

Backed by a special report by the FT, the summit looked at the slowdown in commodities, discussed whether capital flows are on the rise, and contrasted new money inflows from countries such as China against traditional investments from Europe. 

“If you look at the opportunities in Africa, infrastructure, from power, roads, rail, and also the growth of the economy, an economy where spending by 2020 will be about $1.6 trillion,” commented Aliko Dangote, President and CEO of the Dangote Group. “You won’t make profit anywhere more than in Africa.”

While speaking at the summit, Mr Dangote also emphasized the determination shared by many African business leaders to stamp out shady dealings. “It is zero tolerance when it comes to corruption, and as a nation we remain resilient in the face of offenders,” he affirmed.

Miguel Azevedo, Head of Investment Banking Africa (excluding South Africa and Egypt) at Citi, commended the event’s organizers on being able “to bring to London in one single day so many key players and so many decision makers that come here with a very candid view and share with us their views on the continent, I think is very timely.”

Lenias Hwenda, founder of Medicines for Africa, remarked on the noticeable positivity at the event about Africa’s future, saying, “I found it very interesting to hear about the optimism that exists amongst business leaders about economic development on the continent.”

The organizers’ next African conference in London will be the FT African Infrastructure conference on February 25, 2016, which will bring together policy makers, regulators and representatives from pension funds, asset managers, investment banks, family offices and multi-family wealth offices, along with product specialists, economic development thinkers, lawyers and consultants, to debate the potential for sustainable African growth.  

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