Our Founder and the most prominent champion of entrepreneurship in Africa, Tony O. Elumelu, CON was on the presidential chat at AFDB’s Africa Investment Forum alongside African Heads of States & public sector leaders to discuss the topic, ‘Championing Investments: Conversation with the Private Sector.’
Read the transcript from this session below:
Question: In Africa, one of the things we are really good at, if we look at the number of conversations, we have had is that we are really good at building plans and I would like to have your view on whether we are really good on following through and implementing those plans. We have heard a range of plans and programs, what are the things that have been done on ground that have mattered?
That would be nice, it will be good for Ethiopia to open up the economy so that people can invest. Talking about, you know we commend President Adesina and his wonderful team for this. He has been a great transformative person right from when he was a Minister in Nigeria to where he is today, so we are not surprised by what he is doing, we are proud of you.
Indeed, we are having this convening not because people don’t want to invest in Africa, we need to live with that, there is so much private global capital looking for destinations, but they go to destinations that they are welcomed. If there is one lesson, we need to take away from this investment forum in my viewpoint is that:
- It is good to sign deals but beyond signing deals, we need to make sure that those deals work. So one thing we need to take away is that we should go back and reform our countries/economies because there is indeed so much capital looking for the right places to go.
- in talking about plans and investment, I often ask myself, I’m not in the public sector but as a private sector person, there are two things we do and try to do very well. First is the ability to articulate great plans but more importantly is executing those plans. Thinking through policies and plans very well. We heard almost all the private sector people who have spoken here today talk about policy consistency, richness and robustness of policies. This is very good to attract investment but equally important is how we execute. You know one of the Presidents spoke earlier on and said, ‘Private sector and public sector are not in competition’. We should work together, we should develop policies consistently that would encourage the private sector to invest. If we have private sector invest, we would be able to deal with most of the issues and challenges that even government on a daily basis is trying to address.
- talk of unemployment, government on its own cannot provide employment, government needs to facilitate economic agents and actors that will help to create employment and that’s the private sector. The private sector/SMEs that is where you create employment but why therefore is it that the SMEs don’t do well?
They don’t do well not because people are not intelligent, enthusiastic to succeed, energetic, not because they don’t work hard, it is just because the operating environment is totally stifling. If you don’t deal for instance with the issue of mass transportation, how can SMEs succeed? If you don’t deal with the issue of access to reliable electricity, how can private sector/SMEs succeed? and if they don’t succeed, the economy doesn’t make progress and if they succeed, they on their own out of their own successes would attract massive investment into the continent. So, whilst we hold the forum and investment sessions like this to attract investment, we need to think also about retaining the investment that we attract. Think of showing buckets of successes in Africa that will encourage others to bring capital to Africa to invest.
If you look at the power sector you see some countries want to be serious about power realising that access to electricity is key for development but then people who go into the power sector are burnt. If they are burnt, other investors are watching. There is no amount of investment ratio you do that would encourage them to come there. When people see successes, others follow. In the past I know a telecommunications company that came to Nigeria to invest, they came to the country, they were burnt, the investor community punished them for coming to invest in Nigeria but as they succeeded many other global telecommunications companies wanted to rush to Nigeria.
There is nothing that attracts investments more than success. Foreign investors want to see how local investors are succeeding as they succeed others would come in.
So for me, a key take away from here should be to make sure that we go back as government to keep in sincerity working on hand to improve the operating environment, making examples of SMEs having them succeed so we can attract more for private sector. We must also understand that in Africa, where you have massive unemployment, the success of one person or one company is nothing, we need to think holistically. So, for us also the private sector, we must think holistically and in a manner that is all inclusive to identify the SMEs and the young ones to give them economic opportunity, hope and help them to succeed. That would help us as a continent.
Watch session here