Dr Adesina Tells the Invest Africa Debate – 'We're Taking Africa to the World'

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The 10th Invest Africa Debate has opened in the City of London’s prestigious Guildhall with a fireside chat between the president of the African Development Bank Group Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Africa Finance Corporation CEO Samaila Zubairu and the UK’s Africa Minister Andrew Mitchell, which highlighted a range of exciting business opportunities across the continent.

Adesina addressed more than 200 African investors with a rousing appeal on trade and investment into Africa:

“Infrastructure is essential for trade. The Bank has invested $50 billion into Africa in the last eight years. That’s the largest of any institution. There’s now no project that the Bank can’t finance and that’s a different Africa. We’re taking Africa in the world and bringing the world to Africa.”

He added it was important to debunk certain myths and stereotypes.

“Africa is not any riskier than any other part of the world. It’s important to give people the confidence to invest. That’s why the Bank supports investors.”

Adesina said that a 2020 study by Moody’s Analytics shows Africa has the lowest risk of default on infrastructure compared to its peers. “The fact is, Africa is the least defaulting continent, with just a 1.9% default rate compared to Eastern Europe at 12.4%, Latin America at 10.1%, North America at 6.6%, and both Asia and Western Europe at 4.6%.”

Reforming credit rating agencies to convey the right perceptions about Africa’s real risk is therefore no longer a luxury, but a matter of utmost necessity. Doing so, will reduce debt service costs and release additional financing for Africa’s structural transformation. A study by the UNDP shows that African countries could save nearly $74.5 billion in excess interest if credit ratings were based on more objective assessments of risk.

Adesina called for Africa to have its own credit-rating agency to assess risk on the continent. “For Africa to rise and shine brightly among the global community of nations we must accelerate structural transformation and finance its implementation. This is the key to unlock Africa’s development opportunities,” he said.

On the topical issue of climate finance, Adesina said climate change was the biggest risk to Africa, and that the continent needed $277 billion for climate adaptation:

“40% of all our lending is going into climate finance, and with the Global Centre on Adaptation, we’re implementing the African Adaptation Acceleration programme (AAAP) which is mobilising $25 billion for climate adaptation–the largest in the world. We are also funding renewable projects like the Desert-to-Power programme, the largest solar power project in the world. By 2030 we will give power to 300 million people.”

Fellow speaker, Africa Finance Corporation President Samaila Zubairu added that his organisation was also building renewable projects including re-forestation and was using insurance programmes to de-risk pension funds. The moderator, Mitchell, said that the UK government was increasing its climate adaptation investment into Africa to $1.5 billion by 2026.

Adesina also addressed the importance of energy to the transformation of Africa:

“Without energy we can do nothing. We’ve moved from 32% of Africans with power to 57%, but we still have 600 million people without. The Bank aspires to achieve 100% universal access to electricity by 2030.”

The Invest Africa Debate was opened by Mark Simmonds, Chair of the Invest Africa Advisory Board. He said that Africa is the second fastest-growing region of the world and that there is “real progress by venture capital funds into Africa, particularly in Fintech, Edtech and digital platforms.”

Invest Africa Executive Chair Karen Taylor said the debate would look at Africa’s leadership on the international stage: “Africa is taking on a critical voice in the world. Its role in global energy and a revitalised global economy is important.”

Taylor revealed that the UK-based Invest Africa Debate would be replicated in Dubai this October and that she had plans to take the Debate onto the African continent.

Earlier, Adesina visited the London Stock Exchange (LSE) where he was given the honour of ringing the opening bell to signal the start of the day’s trading. The LSE is the most valued stock exchange in Europe with a total market value in excess of $3.1 trillion.