Ho­gan Lovells Africa Fo­rum brings En­ergy, In­no­va­tion, In­fras­truc­ture, and In­vest­ment into Fo­cus

THISDAY - - NEWS - Jude Ig­banoi

Global law firm, Ho­gan Lovells, hosted its fourth An­nual Africa Fo­rum on Wed­nes­day, with pre­sen­ta­tions, panel dis­cus­sions, and de­bates over the fu­ture of the con­ti­nent and its chang­ing role – and its op­por­tu­ni­ties – in the global econ­omy. Over 230 del­e­gates at­tended a day­long pro­gramme at the Mer­chant Taylors Hall, and par­tic­i­pated in wide-rang­ing and pas­sion­ate de­bates around theme "Africa Stand Up".

Asked to share their "Vi­sion 2025", del­e­gates agreed that, the great­est im­me­di­ate op­por­tu­nity lies with in­fras­truc­ture, cited by 63% of del­e­gates, polled as the sec­tor most likely to at­tract in­vest­ment over the next eight years, fol­lowed by en­ergy and power (21%).

A com­mon dis­cus­sion thread through­out the Fo­rum, cen­tered on the chal­lenges still to be over­come. Del­e­gates were split in their opin­ion of the big­gest chal­lenge to growth in Africa, with 41% each cit­ing un­cer­tainty and cor­rup­tion. Gov­ern­ment poli­cies were cited as the great­est bar­rier to in­tra-Africa trade (38%), with mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion/ ac­ces­si­bil­ity and lack of knowl­edge/un­der­stand­ing of re­gional mar­kets, com­ing in joint sec­ond at 25% each. Po­lit­i­cal risk was con­sid­ered the great­est chal­lenge faced by pri­vate sec­tor in­vestors in African in­fras­truc­ture projects, by 44% of del­e­gates polled.

Devel­op­ment Banks were voted to have the big­gest role to play, in de­vel­op­ing these in­fras­truc­ture projects (41%), fol­lowed by African Na­tional Gov­ern­ments and pri­vate in­vestors, with 24% each of the vote. In con­trast, re­gional trade blocs were seen as most key to fa­cil­i­tat­ing in­tra-Africa trade by 55% of del­e­gates, how­ever, most sur­pris­ingly, none of the del­e­gates con­sid­ered these trade blocs to be 'work­ing' to full ef­fect cur­rently.

The Fo­rum at­tracted mainly C-suite Ex­ec­u­tives and Gen­eral Coun­sel, rep­re­sent­ing the African le­gal, fi­nan­cial, en­ergy, and in­vest­ment in­dus­tries. Guest speak­ers in­cluded Ken Olisa, cur­rent Lord-Lieu­tenant of Greater Lon­don, and one of the UK’s most suc­cess­ful black busi­ness­men; Ad­massu Tadesse, Pres­i­dent and CEO, Trade and Devel­op­ment Bank; Ade­bola Wil­liams, CEO of Red Me­dia Africa; Lucy Quist, CEO of Air­tel Ghana; and El­iz­a­beth Rossiello, CEO of BitPesa, among oth­ers from: Quan­tum Power, Ecobank, CDC Group, Stan­dard Char­tered Bank, WEF, Botswana Di­a­monds, An­glo Amer­i­can, Cor­nish Lithium, Rand Mer­chant Bank, African Ex­port-Im­port Bank, and Cit­i­group.

Panel pre­sen­ta­tions were fol­lowed by lively dis­cus­sion among par­tic­i­pants and at­ten­dees. Each ses­sion was com­pli­mented by shorter “straight talk” pre­sen­ta­tions, in which lead­ing African thinkers briefly dis­cussed what Africa Stand Up means to them, and a CEO Cor­ner, where in­flu­en­tial busi­ness lead­ers gave their thoughts on Africa’s fu­ture.

Four ‘break­out’ ses­sions: “Un­lock­ing Ex­po­nen­tial Growth in En­ergy and In­fras­truc­ture De­ploy­ment”; “The Role of In­no­va­tion in Africa's Resur­gence: Panacea or Pan­dora's box?”; "A New Era for Min­ing in Africa: Se­cur­ing Growth for the Fu­ture"; and "In­tra-African trade: A New Age of Op­por­tu­nity" proved pop­u­lar and pro­vided valu­able in­sights.

Com­ment­ing on the Fo­rum, Ho­gan Lovells part­ner and Head of Africa, An­drew Skip­per, said:

"Once again our Africa Fo­rum has brought to­gether, lead­ing in­flu­encers to de­bate key themes for the con­ti­nent. It has been a great success, and we leave in no doubt about the pos­i­tive en­ergy driv­ing progress and change across the con­ti­nent, and filled with con­fi­dence that with the right ap­proach and in­vest­ment, the con­ti­nent will see sus­tain­able growth. We see great op­por­tu­nity through­out Africa, and that was re­in­forced to­day by the en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion of all of the Fo­rum’s at­ten­dees."

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