The future of Africa is now!(CONFERENCE) (Conference news)

Author:Williams, Stephen
 
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The Africa Investment and Finance Conference 2008, held at the London Stock Exchange in February was charged with enthusiasm for the continent's opportunities. Speaker after speaker told delegates that Africa's time had come. As the CEO of Ecobank, Arnold Ekpe, commented; "The future of Africa is now". Who could disagree? Here are comments and chosen extracts from some of the addresses made to this well attended conference. Stephen Williams reports.

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Opening the 2008 edition of the Africa Investment and Finance Conference, the Commonwealth secretary-general, Don McKinnon gave his own homespun analysis of Africa's economic situation: "Many good things have happened in the last decade but they are not, yet, widely noticed. For Africans and non-Africans alike, those that have realised this are doing well, while others are held back by a combination of bad news and received wisdom."

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He then paid tribute to Africa, and just how serious it is about its own future, citing "the strengthened AU, a lively Nepad and the careful and sometimes painful work of the African Peer Review Mechanism ... Africa is rich with natural resources. It's in the middle of a technological revolution. Its future can be rosy, if it continues to take ownership of its future".

Arnold Ekpe, CEO of Ecobank and the conference's lead sponsor, was equally positive. He explained "an 'old' Africa is fading away with fewer conflicts. The decreasing role of the state in business, the significant structural and institutional changes are improving the terms of trade". A new generation is taking over, he told the conference, a generation that is "comfortable with international values and norms, hungry for a better life and able to utilise the new technologies that are powering this change".

Stephen Jennings, the CEO of Renaissance Capital followed Arnold Ekpe to the podium. Taking a slightly different but no less positive angle, he argued that we are now living in a two-speed world. "G7 economies have slowed to a mere crawl while emerging markets and frontier economies continue moving forward at a strong, purposeful pace, and nowhere is this truer than in sub-Saharan Africa."

"The facts tell the story: The US will grow at 1.9% in 2008, the eurozone only 2.1%, and Japan 1.8%. In contrast, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to be 7.2% ..."

Next to address the conference were the managing partner of Kingdom Zephyr Africa, J Kofi Bucknor; the CEO of Emerging Capital Markets Thomas Gibian; and the CEO of Lonrho, David Lenigas. This highly successful trio of African investment professionals represent, respectively, one of the most diverse investment institutions to focus on Africa; one of the earliest to identify and enter Africa; and one of the most forceful new...

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