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Infrastructure development holds the key to unlocking Africa’s full economic potential.

After these two days, are you confident that we are on track?

We are on track and it’s now just a question of how we mobilize everyone, galvanize all the energy and efforts. The two days have proved to really be a platform where we feel more confident about the prospects, the future of Africa and how Mauritius can play its role, as it has done over the past 30 years.

The Africa Partnership Conference (APC) has been an eye-opener, and the African continent can do things better and in the right way, stated the Chief Executive of the Economic Development Board (EDB) in an interview with BIZWEEK. Ken Poonoosamy also spoke about the urgent need to work on our own ESG guidelines, and to set up an International Committee, with all participating countries, to pursue this agenda.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) took on the challenge of hosting the African Partnership Conference in Mauritius. Can you tell us about the central narrative of the conference over the two days?

The theme that we have chosen, ‘Unity in partnership – Facilitating Sustainable and Inclusive Investment’, fits very well. We are lending a hand of partnership to the outside world, we have got cooperation with a number of countries and Africa is full of potential and promises. Over two days, we have witnessed an extraordinary gathering of minds, with over 500 delegates from more than 30 African countries, from India, UK, France, and the USA coming together to discuss and explore opportunities for collaboration and growth.

We brought together a platform where each and everyone; thought leaders, institutional investors, private equity partners, and policymakers, have shared ideas. They exchanged about challenges and issues they face, but also, more importantly, about the opportunities and how Mauritius can be used as a platform of choice for trade, cross-border investment and as a gateway for investment into Africa. We have listened to the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which has so much potential as an enabler, an instrument for trade facilitation for cross-border trade between countries. The AfCFTA, as a landmark initiative, has the potential to unlock Africa’s immense economic potential, foster regional integration, and create opportunities for sustainable development. There is so much potential for all the countries within the continent to trade among themselves, which will lead to prosperity, job creation… Mauritius has its part to play in that.

It became evident from this conference that infrastructure development holds the key to unlocking Africa’s full economic potential. We recognized the urgent need for sustainable investment in transportation, energy, and digital infrastructure to bridge the connectivity gap and

foster regional integration. The banks and DFIs have the financing instruments in place for countries to tap into, and countries like the UK and India are ready to step up efforts for innovative financing mechanisms.

We all agreed that innovation and technology will be the driving forces behind Africa’s future growth. The transformative power of digitalization, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology was acknowledged in the conference, and the importance of nurturing a supportive ecosystem for start-ups and entrepreneurs around Fintech was emphasized.

We acknowledged the significance of human capital development and the need to invest in education and skills training. By equipping our youth with the knowledge and skills needed for the jobs of the future, we can unleash their potential and create a sustainable and inclusive workforce.

We recognized the importance of fostering an enabling business environment and promoting ease of doing business across Africa. Streamlining regulatory frameworks, enhancing transparency, and reducing bureaucratic barriers will attract investment and drive economic growth across the continent.

You have attended many conferences as CEO. What will you retain from this one?

We often go to Europe, Asia and the U.S. to talk about Africa. What we have done in the APC is to talk about the future of the continent in Africa itself, and in Mauritius. The conference has been an eye-opener; the African continent can do things better and in the right way.

I have been inspired by the unwavering optimism and resilience of the Investment Promotion Agencies in Africa. Despite the challenges we face, there is an unwavering belief in the potential of our continent, and a determination to overcome obstacles and forge ahead.

During this conference, the Investment Promotion Agencies presented a range of bankable projects that demonstrate the immense potential for investment in Africa. These projects span various sectors, including energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, and technology, and their economic viability, social impact, and potential for sustainable growth were highlighted. These bankable projects serve as a roadmap for potential investors, guiding them towards areas where their capital and expertise can make a significant difference and generate meaningful returns. Together, we can market these projects to the global community of investors and attract multinationals to invest in our respective countries. We can work on a compendium of bankable projects and see how we can use Mauritius and its Financial Centre to structure these investments.

I have been struck by the power of partnerships. Collaboration and cooperation between governments, the private sector, and civil society are essential to driving sustainable development. Together, we can create an Africa that is prosperous, inclusive, and resilient.

I am convinced that sustainable development must be at the core of our agenda. We must pursue economic growth in a manner that is socially inclusive and environmentally responsible. Let’s work on our own ESG guidelines and norms as advocated by Mr. Sanjeev Sanyal (Editor’s note: Mr Sanyal is a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India). We need to set up an International Committee, with all participating countries, to pursue this agenda.

I am confident that the Africa Partnership Conference has laid the foundation for enduring collaborations and partnerships. The connections forged and the ideas exchanged over the past two days will serve as catalysts for action and progress. We must carry this spirit of collaboration and determination back to our respective countries and organizations, and translate it into tangible results. We shall share the outcome of this conference with all our partners.

We must pursue economic growth in a manner that is socially inclusive and environmentally responsible.

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