State House, Freetown, Thursday 12 November 2020 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has addressed the second annual Pan-African development conference on innovations in agriculture, trade and investment titled: “Creating the Africa, We Want, Creating the Sixth Region We Want – through Agribusiness, Research, and Innovation”.
The virtual meeting, convened by the African Peer Review Mechanism, APRM, a specialised agency of the African Union, and the Centre for Global Africa at Delaware State University in the United States, is also the first global summit on the promotion of agribusiness between the APRM and its people in the diaspora.
In his opening statement of the 3-day event, President Bio said that: “The focus of this conference on executing joint Africa-Diaspora initiatives to accelerate the AU’s Agenda 2063, while simultaneously advancing Diaspora interests in ways that are problem-solving, capacity building, revenue-generating, and mutually beneficial, is something that I value immensely as an African Leader. But this conference is also critical because it may help us design, structure, and concretise official channels and linkages for unimpeded two-way transactional activities that will help Africa and the Sixth Region create ‘The Africa We Want’.”
He told the audience that they were now being given three key but interrelated tasks of how to identify the opportunities, structure linkages and investment interventions and create a conducive win-win ecosystem to support inclusive and sustainable development in Africa.
“Africa is home to more than a billion people, and home away from home, both culturally and historically (however, distant or near), for hundreds of millions more in the Sixth Region. It is a rich and diverse community of resourceful and talented citizens, full of enthusiasm, energy, and great optimism,” he said.
He also noted that Africa had a young and rising consumer population and a large potential market of 1.2 billion people suitable for different potential diaspora investment portfolios and scales. He added that as African leaders their task was to first lower the risk profiles of African countries by improving good governance, fighting corruption, fostering national cohesion and peace, and creating an even, fair, predictable, and simplified investment landscape.
“My Government has focused on addressing all the foregoing perceived challenges. In most of our countries, we are working toward establishing a structured and firm bedrock for inclusive and sustainable development. In Sierra Leone, our Medium-Term National Development Plan lays out our development priorities that are moored on Human Capital Development (access to free quality education, quality healthcare, and food security). We also recognise that we can reduce poverty by creating jobs, lower import-dependency, and enhance food security if we invest heavily in the agribusiness sector,” he said.
The President also reminded the meeting of their responsibility as governments to establish the right context that would facilitate Diaspora investments in innovation and technology, adding that in Sierra Leone he had established a Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation to explore, develop, and deploy technology and innovation to support governance, business, healthcare, and research.
“This institution is a local partner that has worked with Governments, multilateral agencies, and the private sector to develop innovative technology-mediated solutions for Sierra Leone including in managing the COVID-19 epidemic. But I also see potential for Sixth Region investments in knowledge transfer, innovation, and technology entrepreneurship that will develop bespoke solutions that address Africa’s development challenges”.
The organisers said they believed that the conference would trigger the development of a trade policy framework that could assist many African countries that did not have guided trade and investment policies.
“Historically Black Colleges and Universities, along with panel of experts, will support countries in efforts to draft and craft new trade and investment policies and partnerships, based on the framework that will emerge from the conference, for desiring governments and private sector stakeholders,” they stated in their concept note.
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