Africa 2018 is an annual conference bringing together the public and private sector to drive change across the African continent.
On the second day of the Africa 2018 conference, African leaders from Egypt, Niger, Sierra Leone and Madagascar gathered to debate Africa’s pressing development challenges. Opening the plenary, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said: “Brothers and sisters, today comes at a time when we are moving forward with regional integration, particularly after the African Union has launched the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).”
“We are also looking for more investment among African countries particularly within the fields of infrastructure, renewable energy, technology and ICT. We are looking forward to achieving those goals under the auspices of the AU as Egypt takes the honour of the presidency next year.”
The President continued by highlighting Egypt’s structural economic reforms which have translated to an increase in local and foreign investment. On this basis, he says, Egypt’s fundamentals have been dramatically improved.
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou echoed Sisi’s remarks by underlying the importance of the implementation of the CFTA. The benefits of the free trade area – which will be the biggest in creation since the founding of the World Trade Organisation in 1995 – are numerous and include strengthening African value chains and driving industrialisation, he says. Issoufou continued by emphasizing a need for Africa’s Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and central banks to help finance the flow of intra-African trade. “When we are divided we are weak,” he says. “United we are powerful and it [CFTA] will be one of the biggest powers in this world.”
Julius Maada Bio, Sierra Leone’s President, began by applauding the role of women in the growth of African economies saying “our women are providing excellent leadership for our development agenda.” He suggested that more work should be done to remedy the cultural and structural barriers which prevent equal opportunity for men and women. Bio finished by arguing for the need for African countries to “prime their economies for investment” in order to see the continent’s development goals fulfilled.
Finally, Rivo Rakotovao, Madagascar’s interim-President reaffirmed his country’s position within the CFTA, reminding the audience that Madagascar should not be forgotten. He expanded by saying that underdevelopment is creating many security challenges across the continent and expressed confidence that Egypt’s presidency at the AU would help combat some of the insecurity.
Rakotovao finished by underlying the importance of supporting the youth to achieve a prosperous and stable Africa. “We need a development model that will be beneficial for our youth,” he says. “We need to work quickly for the benefit of all.”