Terrorism among Africa’s business threats

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Terrorism ranks high among Africa’s business challenges, along with everyday regulatory and infrastructure shortcomings, a Cape Town summit on the continent’s economy heard this week.

Donald Kaberuka, a Rwandan economist and former head of the African Development Bank, told a gathering of investors, business and government leaders from across the world that fighting continental terrorism needed global support though.

In reference to rebel groups and religious extremists, Kaberuka said “well-armed non-state actors (are) destabilising African economies”.

“Africa is at war with non-state actors who want to take the continent… It’s not Africa’s war. It’s a global problem. We need to work together,” he said.

At a business dinner on Tuesday night (February 23), Kaberuka shared his views with delegates of the one-day Bloomberg Africa Business and Economic Summit at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town.

The summit is to be held on Wednesday (February 24) and was organised to “foster meaningful discussion and debate about the opportunities and challenges for investment and growth in Africa, for both foreign investors and African companies”.

Discussion topics would include “financial transparency, the advantages of mobile technology, capital access, Africa’s energy needs and infrastructure challenges (and) the future of Africa’s relationship with China”.

Kaberuka, who now works with the African Union’s Peace Fund, treaded between optimism and realism.

He said 25 years ago businesses were concerned about nationalisation of the African economy, said Kaberuka, but now the business risks were multifold.

This included whether Africa’s independent regulators were “independent in law and fact” as well as trying to do business “where there’s no power (electricity) or infrastructure”.

Kaberuka turned east and said China’s economy slowdown meant African countries needed now think about how “we make our countries ready to attract investors from China”.

He said also that it was a “misleading” story that China was a new colonial power in Africa, which in some quarters seems to have become a standard narrative of China-Africa relations.

Minister in president Jacob Zuma’s office, Jeff Radebe, was also a guest speaker at the pre-summit dinner.

Radebe pointed out the summit was taking place on the same day when finance minister Pravin Gordhan was set to deliver his budget speech in Parliament.

“Your meeting is held at a busy time in our political calendar,” said Radebe.

He did not hold back: “We are in a very difficult space as a country.”

Radebe said South Africa was experiencing a “very strained fiscal and social economic environment”. He mentioned the country’s “food security risk” as drought continued to affect farmers.

Radebe remained upbeat towards the end of his speech though.

“We are open for business… We remain confident and optimistic that in the medium to long-term we shall prosper,” he said.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille meanwhile marketed her city to summit delegates. She promoted the one-stop business desk in her office “so that any investor knows the first port of call is the office of the mayor”.

“We will take you through all the needs, office space and what’s available in Cape Town. All the information you would pay a consultant for is available for free in the office of the mayor,” said De Lille.

The mayor promoted Cape Town as a home for international businesses – “like Google” – and talked about the 750km long broadband laid out across the city “for our own needs and renting it out to stimulate competition”.

“Cape Town has a fundamental role to play in the Africa Rising agenda,” said De Lille.

“We understand what business needs from government. I need to make sure this city is conducive to business.”

Bloomberg, a global business information provider, said this summit formed part of its ongoing US-Africa Business Forum gatherings.

It said the last meeting, held in Washington D.C. in 2014, “convened nearly 50 heads of state and government and more than 300 global CEOs, demonstrating the enormous interest in the growing African markets for U.S. investors and companies”.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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