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Africa investor and Brand South Africa convene global business leaders at WEF for consultation on regional economic integration

By Staff Reporter | January 27, 2012

Infrastructure development, youth engagement and entrepreneurship and increased political will identified as key drivers to transform African growth spurt into sustainable development

Johannesburg, South Africa; Davos, Switzerland; 26 January 2012:
Today at the World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Davos, Switzerland, Brand South Africa brought together senior leaders from the world of politics, economics and international development to explore how to galvanise and sustain leadership in the private and public sectors to support regional economic integration. Infrastructure development, youth engagement and entrepreneurship, and increased political will as key drivers for future growth were the key themes to emerge.

Co-hosted by Africa investor (Ai), a leading international investment research and communications group, the Briefing was opened with a keynote speech from South Africa’s Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan who noted the need for the continent to take advantage of having a market of one billion people and some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and become a more effective voice on the global stage.

Minister Gordhan said, “The great transition from West to East and South will continue, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves that we are at the end of that – it is just beginning. You can’t ignore a continent like Africa. In the next 15-20 years the focus on Africa will sharpen. It is in that context that we take a tough – but optimistic look – at regional economic integration. ”

Panel session highlights
South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies provided remarks before a panel session featuring Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank; Maria Ramos, CEO of Absa Group; and Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel.
“In spite of the challenges facing the global economy, Africa is growing but we need to turn growth into a sustained economic development effort, based on developing productive activity within our countries,” said Minister Davies. “The barriers to intra-regional trade are not just tariffs; they also include inadequate infrastructure and the need to produce more tradable goods. We have identified the need to industrialise the continent, to add value to mineral and agriculture products through beneficiation and to develop a pharmaceutical industry to eradicate diseases specific to the continent. We can do more by acting together; turning to the continent gives us the scale to turn the growth spurt in to a sustained development effort.”

Following the ministerial remarks and panel session, attendees contributed to in-depth roundtable discussions, co-chaired by leaders in the business field and which focused on Trade and Job Creation; Inter-continental Partnerships; BRICS Partnerships; Fast-tracking Infrastructure Investments and Unleashing Agriculture Investment Potential.

Commenting on the success of the Briefing, Hubert Danso, CEO of Africa investor, said; “As we focus on access to leadership in 2012, Brand South Africa and Africa investor will lead by example by carrying forward these recommendations and outcomes. This will be pursued to continually deepen our engagement with partner institutions and public-private sector leaders who actively influence intra-regional trade and investment flows, policy and competiveness.”

He continued; “This long-term Africa investor-Brand South Africa process has been solidly established over the last year in partnership with key leaders and institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the African Union and the African Development Bank. The focus and purpose of this process was verified today, as well as in the consultations over the last year. Clearly this agenda requires a long-term and enduring leadership approach and we hope that this leaders’ public-private sector dialogue platform on regional integration is making a modest contribution in that regard.”

In his address, Miller Matola, CEO of Brand South Africa, stated, “We have covered a significant ground since we first met here last year. Many of the things we are talking about are becoming more of a reality, particularly with regards to the free trade agreement. Clearly this agenda requires a long term and enduring leadership approach and we hope that this leaders’ public-private sector dialogue platform on regional integration, is making a modest contribution in that regard.”

Supporting quotes
Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, commenting on how Africa can attract more FDI into the continent: “We have to generate the political will to do things that have to be done. We need a framework of regulations, public-private partnerships that help create investor confidence, and standardisation in our financial and services industries. These are things that are lacking, but with storm clouds in the rest of the world, we must turn to ourselves for growth.”
Maria Ramos, CEO of Absa Group, commenting on the need for increased political will and the role of banks: “This is a unique time for Africa. What we shouldn’t lose sight of is that for growth, you need financial infrastructure and to build it in the same way we prioritise energy, transport.

We need to understand what financial regulation looks like and get it done. The banking industry is excited about the prospect of building our business across the continent and we need to have good channels for our products, and the scale to deliver good products in a sensible, cost effective way. That can only be done if we get some of the regional agreements implemented. Standardising processes, ensuring we do understand that financial markets and banking are very much at the centre of the dynamic change that is happening.”

Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel: “There is a subtle difference between access and influence. Access to leadership alone is not enough. There is a need also to mobilise people in power and others who can then influence change. One of the things we hear most frequently across Africa is that young entrepreneurs feel frustrated by the lack of opportunity to influence policies. They need to be able to voice their concerns to create greater political support for successful regional integration.”

Next steps

The continent is now ready for the proper implementation of regional economic integration initiatives and this series of consultations will continue to encourage the promotion of these initiatives among business and government leaders throughout 2012 and beyond.

Upcoming engagements that are part of the Brand South Africa and Ai Regional Economic Integration consultation will include, but will not be limited to, the following initiatives:
1. Hosting an Africa Consultation at the World Economic Forum on Africa, in Ethiopia, to be held in May 2012.
2. Hosting a follow-up UN Consultation during the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2012,
3. And then return to Davos in 2013 for a Global Consultation to review progress and plans for 2013.
4. The second element of our 2012 programme will be the launch of our Thought Leadership Research Series of CEO Briefings, which will highlight African intra-regional trade and investment issues – and opportunities

In addition, the Summary Outcomes of this 2012 programme launch will be disseminated and shared widely across the various stakeholder networks. It will also be published in Africa investor magazine, with additional highlights available on Africa investor TV.

Notes to Editors

About Africa investor
Africa investor is a specialist investment communications firm advising governments, international organisations and businesses on communication strategies for capital market and foreign direct investments in Africa. Africa investor publishes Africa investor, the leading international newsstand magazine for Africa’s investment decision makers; maintains the Africa investor 40 Investors’ Index, hosts the Ai Index Series Summit & Awards and the Africa investor Infrastructure Projects Summit & Awards.

About Brand South Africa
Brand South Africa was established in August 2002 to help create a positive and compelling brand image for South Africa. At that time, the world was unsure about what to think of South Africa, with many different messages being sent out by various sources. This did very little to build the country’s brand and it was evident that to attract tourism and investment there was a need to co-ordinate marketing initiatives to make them more effective. This led to the creation of Brand South Africa whose main objective is the marketing of South Africa to domestic and international audiences.

Topics: Ai Press Office, All Sectors |