Five key thoughts that came out of the 2016 Africa CEO Forum

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria, speaking at the 2016 Africa CEO Forum

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria, speaking at the 2016 Africa CEO Forum.

The 2016 Africa CEO Forum, held this week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, saw a number of business leaders and policy makers from across the continent come together to discuss how Africa can keep moving forward in the face of today’s global economic challenges.

Here are some key thoughts from business leaders and investors.

“Estimates from the African Development Bank and the World Bank reach anywhere from $93bn to $120bn dollars a year that will be needed to finance just our infrastructure… So it is very obvious that the private sector, along with the public sector, will be needed to make this happen. So what are the instruments and issues that we need to look at?

“The first is on the continent itself we have the potential to substantially raise public sector revenues. The IMF estimated that we have another four percentage points of GDP in terms of tax revenues… If you look at it, Africa’s tax to GDP ratio is about one-fifth. The OECD countries are about one-third, so there is quite a way that we can go in order to move public resources.”

– Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria and senior advisor at Lazard

“The government has to work with its community in building the interests of the global and local economies to have confidence in the management of our countries and our economies so that people will trust that if they put their money in today, it will still be worth something tomorrow.”

– Ade Ayeyemi, CEO of Ecobank

“I think this is the greatest time for somebody – for any company – to actually move in and invest, because things are down almost everywhere… We are getting massive discounts in terms of our projects… So you could invest much less and by the time all the economies of Africa pick up, you will be right here.”

– Aliko Dangote, founder of the Dangote Group

“The cost of doing business has come down in Africa. Take for example that 72 out of the over 263 business reforms that have been done globally, have been done in Africa… So Africa continues to do the right thing.

“But what must we do better? I think first we need to diversify our export mix and we also have to diversify the countries to which we export so we reduce the risk of exposure that we have. Secondly it’s fundamental for us to process and add value to everything. People say there are business cycles and commodity price volatilities – they will always happen. Unless and until Africa industrialises and increases its share of manufactured goods towards GDP… So I think the solution is not in panic. The solution is not looking for solutions elsewhere. The solution is internal.”

– Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank and Nigeria’s former minister of agriculture and rural development

“It’s easy to get the licences from the government but the key is to really get the operating licence from the communities where you operate… You really have to think about how to build an inclusive business.”

– Venkataramani Srivathsan, Olam’s head of Africa and Middle East