Africa CEO Forum: What Development Strategies Lie Ahead for African Leaders?

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African Enterprise at the Heart of Discussions

The AFRICA CEO FORUM, the first high-level international meeting of entrepreneurs from leading African firms, brought managers, investors, financial and public decision-makers to Geneva on November 20 and 21 to promote success stories of the African private sector, offer a high-level platform for dialogue and propose strategic solutions regarding the development of African enterprise and markets.   

By placing African firms at the heart of the discussions, the AFRICA CEO FORUM proposes that managers of leading firms and public decision-makers from Africa should reflect on critical development priorities and together build an economic future for the continent.

Development Strategies for African Champions

Having examined the different growth scenarios for Africa within the framework of the current global economic crisis (Plenary session 1), and after evaluating the requisite government policies for the promotion of African firms (Plenary session 2), and following a two-day discussion in which government authorities were present, the last day of the AFRICA CEO FORUM gave the floor to African managers.

For Yacin Mahieddine, a Senior Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who opened the symposium, the African continent today boasts about 100 champions – major firms present in several countries – whose development perspectives can help them to capture international markets.

The ensuing discussions examined the obstacles to be lifted to enable other champions to follow their lead. Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun, Chief Executive Officer of CGEM (Morocco), opined that if the image of Africa was enhanced on the international scene, and if government authorities were determined to promote the export action of their firms, Africa would in the next 10 years produce champions tenfold, in other words about 1,000.  

In a more ambitious tone, Thierry Tanoh, CEO of the Ecobank Group, predicted the emergence of about 3,000 to 4,000 African champions in the next 10 years “if change in Africa is pursued, if inter-African trade is promoted and if the continent increases the value-added production of its raw materials.”

Agreeing with these remarks, Mark Cutifani, CEO of AngloGold Ashanti (South Africa), and Philippe Espitalier-Noël, CEO of Rogers Group (Mauritius), drew the conclusion that Africa needs to develop faster than the rest of the world if it intends to remain fertile ground for business.

Development and Diversification of African Business Financing

According to Alain Penanguer, an Associate of Deloitte who introduced the second theme of the conference, funding sources for African enterprises are limited. Matthieu Pigasse, Vice-President, Europe, Lazard & Co., affirmed that it was time for Africa to capitalize on the new international attention being paid to the continent and to transform this advantage into financial backing.  

Moulay Hafid Elalamy, CEO of Saham Group (Morocco), added “financial resources are readily available for groups who present themselves as African; but a business leader who is simply Moroccan or otherwise is of no interest to investors.” Henri-Claude Oyima, CEO of BGFI Bank Group, launched a solemn appeal to wealthy Africans to stop investing in tax havens and support first and foremost the development of African enterprises.   

Conference Closing

Drawing lessons from the first AFRICA CEO FORUM and recognizing the satisfaction expressed by various speakers and participants, Amir Ben Yahmed, Director of AFRICA CEO FORUM and Vice-President of the Jeune Afrique Group, promised to do his best to ensure that discussions and decisions taken would be enhanced and continue right up to the next meeting, by way of a white paper to be published in early 2013 to be transmitted to African governments, and the creation of a think-tank to be placed at the service of African business leaders. On behalf of Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, Mouhamadou Niang, Manager of Industries and Services within the AfDB’s Private Sector Department, informed the meeting that an advisory board would be created to promote dialogue with the African private sector and invited participants to attend the next meeting of the AFRICA CEO FORUM. The date and venue of next year’s event are to be announced in the coming weeks.

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