Opening Speech By Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina President, African Development Bank At The Inaugural Africa Investment Forum, Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg, South Africa November 7, 2018

Thank you very much Premier of Gauteng province, Mr. Manemolla Makhura, for those very warm words of welcome to your beautiful and dynamic business city of Johannesburg, and also for the superb job that you and your team have done in planning this event in this impressive venue where the work is proudly by more than 90 percent local suppliers.

Johannesburg means business, and business has come to Johannesburg. We are proud of South Africa!

Your Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Excellencies, President Macky Sall, President Paul Biya, President Alfa Conde, President Akufo-Ado, the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, The Prime Minister of Mozambique, Prime Minister of Niger, the ministers representing the King of Morocco, President of Côte d’Ivoire, President of Egypt,  President of Gabon, President of Tanzania, Governors of the African Development Bank,

Now, you may think I forgot my protocol and left out the President of Ethiopia. No, I didn’t! Women deserve a very, very, special place. Welcome to Africa’s newest – and only female – President, President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia!

Honorable Ministers, CEOs of private sector companies, project sponsors, institutional investors, and colleague Presidents of African and multilateral development banks and other international finance institutions, eminent members of the press, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to the inaugural Africa Investment Forum! What an impressive gathering!

Your presence here shows you care about Africa, and that you have confidence to take up more investments in Africa.


Let me congratulate President Cyril Ramaphosa for hosting us in South Africa, Africa’s second largest economy. I commend your bold efforts on infrastructure development and for South Africa’s recently concluded investment forum to mobilize investments for South Africa – an example of South Africa ‘Inspiring New Ways’. You are a successful businessman so you know the importance of business investments.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, you are on the right continent. Think about it: where’s the continent that will have the highest number of youths in the world and could become the workshop of the world? Think of China and India today – this will be Africa in 2050.

Which continent will have a continental free trade area that’ll be the largest in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organization? And which continent will have consumer and business expenditures that reach $5.6 trillion in just seven short years? Don’t think far: Think Africa!

Some say we can’t invest in Africa because of risks.

Risk is not a reason not to invest. What’s important is how you de-risk, manage risk and optimize on the returns. It’s a risk-return world. Africa is not riskier as an investment destination than other regions.

What’s often the problem is perceived risk in Africa is higher than the real risks. We must therefore reduce perception risks. We must market Africa better, we must showcase our opportunities and we must brand Africa. Africa is not a country. It’s made up of 54 countries all brimming with opportunities.

Yes, Africa has massive infrastructure deficits, from ports to railways, roads, energy and IT infrastructure needed to spur its competitiveness in global markets. The African development bank estimates the continent has a financing gap of $68-108 billion per year for infrastructure.

But it’s all about how you see it: a glass half empty or a glass half full. Let’s see it as a glass half full. That means Africa has an investment opportunity of $68-108 billion a year for infrastructure alone!

Africa is impatient to develop. It will grow faster by providing universal access to electricity. The power sector alone provides a $30 billion annual investment opportunity, tapping into Africa’s vast resources of gas, solar, hydro, wind and geothermal. Huge investment opportunities abound to make Africa the leading region on renewable energy in the world. That’s why the African Development Bank is spearheading the development of the Desert to Power to develop 10,000 MW of solar across the entire Sahel region. This will become the largest solar zone in the world.

Vast opportunities exist for food and agribusiness companies. Just think about it, the population of Africa will rise to 2 billion by 2050, bigger than China and India combined together today. They will need food. And 65% of all the uncultivated arable land left to feed the world is in Africa. The top most populated cities in the world will be in Africa. The market for food and agribusiness alone will reach $1 trillion by 2030. Amazing!

The opportunities are there, now let’s do deals. Africa offers the world the biggest deal of all.

So, what makes the Africa Investment Forum a truly innovative and unprecedented game changer different from any global investment forum?

The Africa investment Forum is a 100% transactional platform to develop projects, de-risk deals, fast track the closure of deals, and improve the business environment for investments to thrive in Africa. The goal is simple: allow investments to land smoothly on investment runways in Africa.

At the Africa Investment Forum, we have 306 project transactions valued at $208.8 billion that have been developed.  Over the next three days, 60 projects and deals worth $40.4 billion will be discussed in Boardroom sessions by investors and promoters to fast track closure of deals or to remove policy and regulatory constraints to deal closure. An additional $28 billion of projects will be showcased in “gallery walks” which have yet to move to boardroom investment conversations.

Over 330 investors will be in those Boardroom investment conversations and I must say the demand by investors has been overwhelming, so much so that 92% of the investments Boardrooms have been oversubscribed. That’s remarkable for a first inaugural investment forum!

The African Development Bank is not alone. We are on this platform together with our co-partners, the Africa Exim Bank, Trade and Development Bank, the Development Bank of South Africa, Africa 50, and the Islamic Development Bank.

The platform also involves several multilateral development and finance institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.

We are doing business differently. The Africa Investment Forum platform helps to intermediate and cut back search costs for investors, and create an open platform where public and private sectors interphase with investors.

We are here together with one goal: to fast track investments in Africa. And we have to. Africa wants to create wealth and unleash prosperity for its people. Africa is open for business, and African countries are ready. The facts speak for themselves.

Africa leads the world in terms of the total number of business and regulatory reforms, two years in a row since 2016. The G20 Compact with Africa, which is partner with the Africa Investment Forum, is showing results. Of the 101 policy, business and investment regulatory commitments made, 98 are on track. As a result of these reforms compact countries are attracting significantly increased levels of investments.

Reforms are difficult. They take time. But when they work the dividends can be massive.

Senator Chris Coons in announcing the recent establishment of the new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation said “We always asked what’s the next China after China? Well, appropriately, China figured it out. It’s Africa”.

President Ramaphosa said last week in Berlin: “see Africa as an investible continent”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “In the past we have looked towards Asia. In the future we should look more to Africa”

That future, ladies and gentlemen, is now. And Africa knows it!

Africa-to-Africa investment is rising, reaching $12 billion in 2018. And we have here today so many of those making these investments. Africans are investing in Africa, because Africans believe in Africa.

Just like the lion walks the Savanna lands of Africa, assured of its place and confident in its capacity; so must Africa arise, confidently overcoming all obstacles surging forward through investments.

Mountains loom large and prevent us from seeing the lush plains. Mountaineers don’t get deterred. They persevere and carefully climb them, managing the risks and adeptly they reach the mountain crest, from where they see the hidden lush plains.

In the same way, let us not be deterred by the scale of the investment challenges. Rather let us deploy our resources, collectively, de-risk investments and accelerate the closure of project deals. Like drops of water they will soon fill the investment buckets.

And those investment buckets will be clean – very clean. We are ensuring transparency. We are ensuring accountability. We are ensuring fairness. We plan to introduce innovative technologies to help improve transparency, traceability, immutability and integrity of all transactions.

There’s no doubt that we are all here at a historical defining moment for investments in Africa. Africa is truly open for business! And the Africa Investment Forum provides you the right transactional platform, and a smooth landing strip for your investments in Africa.

Now, let the deals begin! All Systems Go! Thanks very much…….