It is always a pleasure for me to be back in Brazzaville.
Let me start by thanking His Excellency, President Sassou-Nguesso, for the kind invitation to participate in this investment forum.
I also wish to commend the Governments of the Republic of Congo and the People’s Republic of China, as well as the World Bank and the China Development Bank, for this good partnership that is maintaining much-needed focus on business and investment in our region and on our continent.
Africa, as we know, is blessed beyond measure, particularly with hard-working Africans, expanding middle-class, and dedicated men and women who are ready to seize all the opportunities we are able to generate.
We, therefore, have everything to gain by continuing to strengthen the foundations of strong, dynamic national economies, which form the building blocks of successful regional integration.
We have much work ahead to ensure that we maximise Africa’s generally favourable economic outlook. Allow me to touch on a few areas, that hold game-changing potential.
First, the African Continental Free Trade Area is now in the implementation phase. This means more opportunities than ever, for everyone involved.
While the more industrialised countries are better placed to take advantage of the opportunities for manufactured goods, the less industrialised can benefit from linking into regional value chains.
For example, countries that are mainly agricultural can gain from meeting Africa’s growing food security needs.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is also expected to bring about faster customs clearance and more efficient logistics, which are particularly meaningful for perishable agricultural products.
It is up to us, how fast we move forward.
An important factor is closer collaboration among African governments, as well as between government and the private sector.
In addition, productive and mutually beneficial global partnerships are key, for the continent to fully benefit from this historic agreement.
Second, our continent lacks sufficient regional infrastructure. It also has logistical challenges, low internet use, and device affordability, as well as limited payment infrastructure.
Although these have long been obstacles to economic development, they must be looked at as an opportunity for public-private investment.
Appropriate technology will allow us to produce much more wealth, with the same amount of labour and financial capital.
An example is the vast opportunities offered by e-commerce to trade with each other and the rest of the world.
Rwandan producers and service providers are starting to sell directly to more customers than ever, through the Alibaba Electronic World Trade Platform.
In fact, Africa is coming late to the game, but there is no reason we can’t catch up, so long as we collaborate to overcome the barriers in the digital sector.
African governments are providing some solutions, like the Smart Africa Alliance, now comprising 24 countries, representing over half of Africa’s population.
Smart Africa is taking the lead in establishing the One Africa Network and Digital Identity, among other initiatives.
Third, is free movement. People cannot trade or invest if they cannot move. Our citizens want to be moving to see an Africa that works together, and on their behalf, allowing more interactions and activities
The African Union’s protocol on the free movement of people reinforces other protocols on trade in goods and services.
Several countries including Rwanda, have eased visa requirements, which is a good thing. But we can all do more, faster, to make free movement in Africa a reality.
Finally, we must continue building positive mindsets of success in Africa’s young people, as we equip them with education and skills, and support entrepreneurship and innovation.
Young Africans have to see our continent as a place to build successful careers and businesses and be empowered to chart their own futures.
Let me conclude by reiterating that Africa has never had as much freedom as we currently do, to come together, and assert our interests with one voice.
We are already making progress in building a solid foundation of security and political stability, which allows us to focus on entrenching good governance and a culture of accountability.
That is why we welcome this investment forum and look forward to strengthening the partnerships represented here in this room.
I thank you and wish you fruitful discussions.