Five years ago I lived on a small island of Pemba outside Tanzania. When I first arrived at our little town Wete, we only had electricity every other day and the electricity was fuelled by an old diesel generator. When the island got connected to the main grid, it was quite a shift. Suddenly the fishermen could store their catch in freezers, an internet-café popped up and in short, the framework for business shifted dramatically.
My story, is to show the impact of infrastructure on society. Infrastructures reduces cost, infrastructures bring new business opportunities. Infrastructure is a business opportunity on its own. Norwegian African Business Association (NABA) choose infrastructure as this year’s theme because of its exponential impact. It can put more cash in people’s pockets, accelerate a business from a village to the city and increase a country´s trade. That was the welcome address given at the opening of this year's NABA Summit by the managing director of NABA, Eivind Fjeldstad.
A successful summit which attracted most companies in all sectors of Norway that were interested in investing in Africa especially with the opportunity availed the investors in meeting the special guest of honour, the President of Republic of Ghana, H.E President John Dramani Mahama who came with most of his key cabinet ministers to the summit. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Børge Brende was also there, Dr. Fatih Birol, the Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA), Sir Paul Collier, Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University. Fifteen African embassy representatives, investors, companies and a host of other important people.
Mr. Mark Eddo, the moderator for the main plenary session introduced the Norway Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom he referred to as Afro-optimist by his famous quotes "Many challenges remain for Africa but if the continent continues to accelerate its economic diversification, boost strategic infrastructure and unlock talent especially its youth, it could grow in line with the Asia tigers and ultimately achieve GDP per capital than some northern European countries. The rich world can and must help achieve these goals. A prosperous stable African is in all our best interest” those were the words of Mr. Børge Brende.
The Norway Minister of Foreign Affair Mr. Børge Brende, thanked all the delegates that were at the summit and he said "If someone had said ten years ago that seven out of the ten fastest growing economy in the world will be in Africa, l think it will be in question. We all remember the front page of the economist ten years ago saying, this was a continent with a lot of hopelessness and now you see the front page of the same economist saying this is a continent of hope"
He went on further to say that this only illustrates that things can change very fast and its really up to us to change the circumstances, this we can do by securing investments, business engagements, infrastructures, electricity and also creating middle class in the society.
On a clean energy investment in Africa, Børge Brende said that Norway and United Kingdom are working together to stimulate private investment in renewable energy project in Sub-Sahara Africa, through the green African power fund in which Norway's contribution will be increased to $45million in the coming three years.
In his conclusion, he said the priority of his foreign affair office was investment in infrastructures, renewable energy, so that the people of Africa and developing countries will have access to modern energy and electricity and that Norway was ready to build partnership in these sectors and revitalize their corporation with Africa.
The Ghana President in his opening keynote speech said “There is a great interest in Africa because Africa is changing” He continued further and l quote "Our countries are beginning to enjoy democracy dividends. Africa has come a long way from Independence celebration from colonial domination to excitement of post-independence, then to lost decades of 70s and 80s when most of Africa was dominated by military dictatorship and the economy of the continent was shrinking rather than growing.
The period also witnessed brain drain where lots of the best and brightest left for areas where they could find better opportunities. However, today the narrative is different because, all across Africa you begin to find entrenched democracy,more respect of human right, independent media, increased peace and stability. Most countries in conflict and are now involved in post conflict reconstruction which creates atmosphere for investment to continue flowing”
Marketing Ghana as the gateway to West Africa market, he said Ghana was among the seven African countries that were included in the ten fastest growing economy in the world with over 7 % growth in the last five years. He said there was an increased opportunity for private sector to invest. He highlighted further on the strength of Ghana economy; On oil and gas sector, he said although it is new but its quite growing fast from its contribution to the economy from below $300 million to over $800 million in 2013 and that there were lots of opportunities for investors in drill, shift and engineering in the country.
On the mining sector, Ghana is one of the top ten Gold exporters in the world and it has been a very important sector of the economy. President John Dramani Mahama said there were lots of gold mining that takes place and that Ghana have up to 300 to 400 years of Gold reserve through export. He however said in order to diversify from exporting its gold in raw form from the country, they are looking at setting up refinery to process the gold and set up jewelry factory and have jewelry for export. He however acknowledged that one of the most binding constraints in the energy sector was power and that these are the sector his government was concentrating on to keep up with the demand.
In his closing remark, he commented on the role of Norfund (the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries) that even though they have been active in East and South Africa but the time to have Norfund in West Africa was long overdue especially in Ghana.
After the keynote speech by the President of Ghana, Dr. Fatih Birol, the Chief Economist at International Energy Agency (IEA) presented the Africa Energy Outlook while the African Infrastructure was presented by Sir Paul Collier from Centre for Study of African Economies, Oxford University and moderated by Mr. Mark Eddo.
The plenary section two focused on Africa’s infrastructure deficit equals opportunity with Ms. Helen Hai, (CEO, China Africa Consulting). Mr. James Mworia( CEO of Centum Investment). Mr. Mark Davis (The head of Department for Clean Energy in Norfund ) also contributed in this section.
The Parallel session at the summit was divided into four areas; Agriculture and Aquaculture, Oil and Gas in West Africa, Renewable Energy and Impact Investment.
The summit was organized by Norwegian African Business Association (NABA), a platform that serve as a bridge between Norwegian and African communities, promoting business opportunities on the African continent in Norway and advocating for more, better and safer business collaboration
(Read more about NABA here: www.norwegianafrican.no )
M.Eddo(moderator),J.D Mahama(Ghana President), B. Brende(Norway foreign Affair)
Panel Discussion on finance and infrastructure
Sir Paul Collier
Dr. Fatih Birol
Panel discussion on opportunities in Africa’s infrastructure deficit
Cross section of people at the summit
Mr. Børge Brende (Norway Minister of Foreign Affair)
NABA team with President of Ghana John D. Mahama
Ambassador Benedict Amobi (Nigerian Ambassador to Nordic)
Eivind, Collier and Felix
NABA team with Norway Foreign Affair Minister
Janvier Nzigo with other NABA team before opening
Photograph by: Nissor Addourazakov
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