I am delighted to be back in Abidjan. This time with an extra initial “S” for “Sipo”, the name I received last time I was in Côte d’Ivoire. I thank you for the invitation to participate in this year’s Academy.

Let me take this opportunity to also thank the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, for the warm welcome and gracious African hospitality, that we have come to expect in this country.

When the CGECI team came to Kigali a few weeks ago, to hand-deliver the invitation to me, I knew they meant serious business.

So, I could not resist coming. I not only happy to return, to learn more about your work to develop the private sector in Côte d’Ivoire, and the region, but also to strengthen the ties between Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda.

The Ivorian private sector is an inspiration, because of its productivity, dynamism, and resilience.

This has contributed to the recovery and rapid development of this great nation.

The potential of Ivorian business to grow and be a pillar of this region and our continent’s economy, is very evident.

For example, we would like to see more Ivorian investment and expertise in Rwanda, as well as the exchange of best practices for the creation of a strong industrial sector.

Companies in Côte d’Ivoire and around Africa can do much more to catalyse and finance local innovation.

You Ivorians understand the challenges of doing business in African markets, Rwandans do, and many other Africans do, and the benefits of nurturing local enterprise.

That is why, I strongly commend CGECI, for your commitment to the next generation of African entrepreneurs, with whom I look forward to interacting, later on.

The theme of this year’s conference, on creating a conducive business climate is highly relevant.

Efforts by many African countries, to improve their business environments, are bearing fruit, but we can all do much more.

One way to advance this cause, is through forums like this one. Coming together here, we make useful connections, share experiences, and learn from each other.

The starting point is ensuring that relevant actors, in both the public and private sectors, get involved for the right reasons.

Ultimately, what we seek is to attract and retain the maximum levels of investment we can, both domestic and foreign, to grow our economies and generate wealth for our citizens.

Some factors are beyond our control.

However, what is within our reach, is ensuring that we get the best value for every amount invested.

No opportunities should be lost to regulatory barriers, or other delays and uncertainties, of our own making.

This applies to bigger economies, like Côte d’Ivoire, as well as to countries, like Rwanda, which have had a later start.

For Rwanda, we made a deliberate effort to mobilise every branch of government, alongside the private sector, to contribute to business climate reforms.

The stakes were very high, and a consistent focus on key indicators has led to good results.

Therefore there is no reason not to do, what is within our capacity. We will all directly feel the benefits of doing just that.

The timing is right, with Africa coming together to proactively shape our future, through the African Continental Free Trade Area.

This is an exciting and very promising development for our continent.

Each country and region has to do its part, to ensure the success of the economic integration, that we all want to see.

We are counting you, and your colleagues around Africa, to sustain that momentum.

You are well-placed to mobilise our business communities to seize this exceptional chance.

Now is the time, to prepare for the implementation phase, and capitalise on the benefits that the African Continental Free Trade Area holds, for everyone involved.

The relationships represented at this forum provide ample evidence, that you have already built a solid foundation.

It should therefore be relatively easy, to take it the rest of the way.

Governments must also do their part, to listen to, and work with the private sector, to overcome existing barriers to doing business.

We must also ensure that young people are equipped with the education and training required, to take advantage of new opportunities.

At the same time, it is critical to invest in building positive mindsets in Africa’s young people, especially around entrepreneurship and innovation. Just as CGECI is doing through your mentorship programme.

Finally, we have to reach a point where our countries have the capacity to finance our own transformation or at least a bigger part of it.

Development aid has been useful, and it continues to be useful, especially when we work to get the most impact, out of every cent that we receive.

But the point has never been to remain dependent forever, when we have always had the potential to be wealthy ourselves.

Besides, there are much more productive ways for our continent to partner with various countries and regions, for mutual benefit, including those that provide aid.

This remains an urgent task, and the African private sector has an indispensable role to play.

May on this note, thank you all very much, and I look forward to more interaction.