Press Releases

    2 November 2004

    Private Sector Should Be Alive to Growing Opportunities in Africa, Secretary-General Tells Tokyo Investment Conference

    NEW YORK, 1 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Asia-Africa Investment and trade Conference in Tokyo, 1-2 November, delivered by Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa:

    I warmly thank the Prime Minister of Japan and the Japanese Government for hosting this important conference, and I convey my best wishes for its success. Your gathering, following up on TICAD III held in Tokyo last year, is an opportunity for government and business leaders from Africa, Asia and other parts of the world, as well as international organizations, to promote market-friendly investment and trade in Africa.

    Since the first Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development, many African countries have taken significant steps to modernize their macroeconomic environment, revamp their regulatory frameworks and implement more effective trade and investment policies. Thanks to these broad-based reforms, and to progress being made in the implementation of NEPAD, Africa today is significantly more open to international trade and investment.

    However, Africa’s share of private capital flows and trade is still far too small. This is partly due to institutional and technical barriers, which Africa’s governments, in close cooperation with their development partners, must continue to tackle. The perception of prohibitive risk, often exacerbated by the mistaken view that the whole of Africa is a continent engulfed in violence, must change.  While some African countries are, indeed, marred by conflict, the fact is that progress is being made in resolving many of them.  Many major multinational companies are today doing business in Africa, not only in the traditional extractive industries such as oil and metals mining, but also in the manufacturing and services sectors.  They are discovering that the returns on carefully selected investments in Africa are as good as anywhere else.  Indeed, many African economies are today registering their highest growth rates in four years -- a fact largely unrecognized in many parts of the world.

    Against this backdrop, I believe that the various participants at this Conference can contribute to promoting trade and investment in Africa in four ways. First, you can encourage and support African governments in strengthening institutional and policy reforms to increase investment and provide a politically stable environment for business. Second, Asian countries can promote and facilitate investments in Africa. Third, new opportunities can be explored to encourage private-public sector partnerships in support of trade and investment. And fourth, the business community can more actively promote Africa as a favourable business destination -- an effort ideally suited to those business enterprises already in Africa.

    As these efforts are undertaken, it is equally important that investment takes into consideration social and environmental issues and concerns, so that imbalances are addressed and economies are made more sustainable and inclusive.

    There is much good business to be done in Africa, and a long tradition of Asian support for Africa on which to build. As African countries work to boost trade and investment, Africa’s development partners, and in particular the private sector, should be alive to the growing opportunities on the continent.  If they are, they will profit -- and Africa will move closer to realizing its enormous potential.

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