By Andualem Sisay Gessesse – President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda today call on American businesses to take opportunities in Africa and invest in the continent that has 1.2 billion people.
“…But somehow your spectacles don’t see very well the opportunities in Africa,” President Museveni said, addressing a day-long African Business and Investment Forum opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this morning.
“…You have private and public savings; you have technology and you have entrepreneurship, although your spirit of entrepreneurship is going down. I think the Chinese are more entrepreneurs than you. This is because an entrepreneur has spectacles to see opportunities. If you don’t have the spectacles, the opportunities will be there but you don’t see them. I think the Chinese have better spectacles than you people [American businesses]. Because they are coming to my country and see the opportunities and taking advantage,” Museveni said, during the panel discussion that focused on trade and investment in Africa.
He further stated that the fact that the purchasing power of Africa, which was $500 billion ten years ago has now reached $8.2 trillion shows that there is a big market for American investors to meet the demand of the growing population of Africa. The purchasing power of Africa by 2050 with population of 2.5 is expected to reach $30 trillion, according to the statistics President Museveni quoted calling it an underestimation of Africa.
Organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Corporate Council on Africa, Africa Business and Investment Forum is held on the margins of the 30th African Union Summit with the aim of linking U.S. and African private sector executives and share insights with African leaders.
“You can count on us that we will make such dialog a tradition,” said the new President of the African Union President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who noted that African development cannot be attained in the absence of private sector.
The representatives of Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing have stated the critical role commercial aviation plays is facilitating trade and investment within Africa.
African governments don’t need to interfere with the businesses of their commercial aviation to make their airlines successful, according to the representative of Boeing, who also advised the continent to have a common aviation regulation to ease the movement of people and goods within Africa using cheaper air transport as compared to the expensive road and railway networks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya who spoke on another panel discussion on investment in Africa’s energy sector also stated that there is no better time to invest and prosper for Africa. “This is not the Africa 20 years ago. This is the new Africa with increased opportunities. We are looking for partners. We are not looking for help,” he said.
“I am here to encourage you to partner with us and help us drive what they call youth bulge to youth dividend,” President Kenyatta said, stating that the challenges that Africa is facing today are all opportunities for the private sector to invest in solving them and make profit.
He further noted that with the involvement of the private sector, which he called ‘profitable and viable’; access to energy in Kenya has increased to 60% today from 28% in 2013.