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President Julius Maada Bio Addresses Development Forum on Africa, Suggests Ways to Surmount Challenges with Investment Opportunities

Casablanca, Morocco, Thursday 14 March 2019 – President Julius Maada Bio has urged this year’s Africa Development Forum held in Casablanca, Morocco, to forget challenges of the past and explore the prospects for high profit and returns for investment in Africa.

“Let me first express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Kingdom of Morocco for hosting such a remarkable event. Allow me to congratulate the leadership and vision of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI, for convening all of us here in a country that is both a success story in Africa and one that is deeply committed to sharing its success with sister nations in Africa,” he said and also appreciated Al Mada and Attijariwafa bank for inviting them and more especially for their longstanding commitment and determination to promote private sector growth in Africa.

At the opening ceremony of the event, the President noted that Africa was indeed a place of opportunity, adding that countries the world over were launching special trade and investment initiatives in the region because they knew that the continent was prime hub of economic opportunity, growth, and expansion.

“With a population of 1.2 billion of the 7 billion people in the world, and with the most youthful population demographic in the world, Africa is a place of promise. Africa is also the second largest continent in the world and it has the most expansive and diverse concentrations of natural resources. Africa also has infrastructure needs calculated at beyond $100 billion US dollars every year. There is also tremendous potential for heavy investment in all sectors from small to heavy industry, manufacturing, technology, agro-business, tourism, renewable energy, to urban development,” he said.

He said African leaders had a responsibility to keep the democratic spaces open and to govern their people fairly and justly, noting that democratic freedoms and political pluralism would promote political stability. He said that businesses were likely to thrive best when there was political stability. He urged that they must consciously ensure that the political and, therefore, investment landscapes across the continent were even and predictable from country to country.

“We must also acknowledge that the scale and nature of growth and investment across the continent is uneven. This is because of some inescapable realities that must be addressed across board. We must address the investment ecosystem and climate from country to country. We must prime our countries for investment by removing red tape, tariff and non-tariff barriers, and other intangible barriers to investment. Tax regimes, investment codes, and laws protecting investors must be simple to understand, transparent, and predictable.

“Our governance institutions and processes must also be transparent and promote investor and business confidence. We must address corruption, shady predators, and politically exposed persons whose interests are always inimical to business. We must govern our natural resources from extractives, agro-business to the blue economy for the benefit of our respective nations and to also attract credible investors. We must also address the regulatory environment and amend laws that are not business-investor friendly. Investors and businesses should be able to make a fair profit and be able to re-invest or expatriate their profits as they deem fit. At the highest levels of governance, we must demonstrate political will to encourage, support, and provide a sustaining environment for businesses,” he stated.

President Bio disclosed that in Sierra Leone, his government was institutionalising the investment board to be co-chaired by him and Vice President Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh and creating a one-stop shop for expediting and resolving all investor concerns. He also talked about the country’s comprehensive investment code, adding that they were also working on other policies that would ease the entry into and the establishment of credible businesses and investors in the natural resource-rich West African nation.

“Beyond the business atmosphere, we must align our investment decisions with our development priorities and prospects. Our ultimate aim is to diversify our sources of growth and our sources of trade. A diversified economy is a more resilient economy. But to do so, we must identify our prospective growth sectors and ensure that investment inputs are directed to those sectors. In Sierra Leone, we have launched a medium-term national development plan that identifies clusters of growth and areas for potential investment in agro-business, tourism, marine resources, renewable energy, infrastructure, and the extractive sectors. The ultimate objective is to grow and diversify the economy through private investment growth and deliver outcomes for our people that we have set in our national development plan, in the AU Agenda 2063, and also in sustainable development goals as laid out by the United Nations,” he said.

The President told the gathering that in Sierra Leone, his government had invested 21 per cent of the national budget in equal and free quality education and 15 per cent of the national budget committed to various healthcare initiatives. He added that the new government believed that for people to be fit for purpose and be productive in the twenty-first-century global economy, they must be educated and healthy.

“Investing equally in both men and women provides an expanded and productive labour force. The more productive people are, the more productive a country is. Inclusive human capital development is therefore critical for inclusive and sustainable development.

“So, to conclude, African nations, to my mind, face challenges that also abound with possibilities. We have a unique opportunity to promote intra-African investment and trade and to continue to attract more investments if we do the right things to attract, promote, and support investors. Let us leverage our natural and human capital within a peaceful and stable governance landscape to create more and inclusive economic opportunity for our continent,” he said.

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