10 interesting quotes from the World Economic Forum on Africa

John Mirenge, CEO of Rwanda's national carrier RwandAir

John Mirenge, CEO of Rwanda’s national carrier RwandAir

At this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa, business leaders discussed various topics regarding the continent – from power to banking to industrialisation. Below are 10 interesting comments made by speakers at the forum held in Kigali, Rwanda.

John Rice, vice-chairman of General Electric

“We live in a world where increasingly the cycle is around the next election, and when you are talking about infrastructure investments and power projects you have got to have the ability to get way past the next election. And if you don’t, those projects probably aren’t going to happen.”

Colin Dyer, president and CEO of JLL

“Across our corporate base globally the interest in Africa is high and growing, and I would say it is about the level that it was in Asia 30 years ago. And if you look at how developing Asia has moved on, that is good news. It means there is interest and that means there is money and intellectual property wanting to get into Africa.”

Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Company

“In almost every single industry or sector that you look at in Africa… including agriculture… is an ICT business. The technology revolution going on and how you manage dairy herds [for example], is quite remarkable. We can apply that and improve the productivity of what we do. Healthcare is a screaming need across the place – [in] some economies it is only 2% of the GDP and in other economies in western Europe and the United States it is 12% to 14%. ICT and the fourth industrial revolution, I think is going to allow us to revolutionise that and provide healthcare, by the way, in a profitable manner.”

Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank

“We have got to be so impatient with moving Africa forward relentlessly – we have no choice. In 2025 there is absolutely no reason why Africa should not be totally lit up with the power it needs to industrialise, because we must not forget, no economy ever develops unless you have the base load power to drive industries and to be competitive. So while we must explore every single thing – we will use the sun until the sun becomes the moon… we will tap all of that renewable energy. But let’s not forget for this continent to create the jobs it needs fast, we must have base load power. So I believe that in ten years… we absolutely must develop Africa with pride and have universal access to electricity.

Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings

“I have investments in 21 African countries and despite the dwindling commodity prices and all the concerns being raised by the world, my investment appetite in Africa has not dwindled – it has not gone down. We continue to make investments. In fact, in the next one month plus we will be doing a US$2.1bn energy transaction… and that is an investment we are making, not in this case, out of philanthropy but because we see the returns on investments is quite high in Africa.”

Adewale Tinubu, CEO of Oando

“In Nigeria we suffered by subsiding power and what happened was with the consistent demand pool… we ended up producing 50% of our electricity via private diesel generators owned by homes at approximately 20 cents per kWh when we could have had industrial power generated at 4 cents or 5 cents. What was missing was having an enabling environment, which the government has finally realised and has privatised the power system, liberalised tariffs and in the process we are now seeing the private sector getting involved in building new power plants and we are now attracting global capital. The difference is: power is now seen as a business opportunity for investors to make a return.”

Jasandra Nyker, CEO of BioTherm Energy

“In my company, we [moved] from site identification to… providing power to the grid, it took us 36 months and we did that twice. So if a small company like mine can do that, I think [there are] more and more players out there that can actually do it.”

Hendrik du Toit, CEO of Investec Asset Management

“We just mobilised – I just counted this year – almost $1.5bn [or] $1.3bn for long-term investment where the premiums that you can get now are significantly higher and actually you can do pretty well if you have a long enough [view]. So just understand, investors sometimes like it when the froth is out.”

Bob Diamond, founder and CEO of Atlas Merchant Capital

“Global banks, because of regulatory capital charges and concerns, are exiting Africa. There is no new global bank saying ‘this is an opportunity’ and so what we need to think about is this is going to be an African solution. It is about African banks, and what we need to do is to get long-term international investment into African banks and stop thinking about getting international banks into Africa.”

John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir

“For now, most of the African sky is not liberalised so we as [local] operators are extremely uncompetitive. We are exposed to airlines beyond the continent that have more access to [Africa] beyond what we as operators within the continent can even access.”