Cairo: Under the slogan “Unleashing Africa’s Investment Potential,” the African Stock Exchange Association (ASEA) held its 16th annual general assembly and flagship conference in Cairo. The chairman of the Egyptian Stock Exchange, Mohamed Omran, inaugurated the conference by speaking of the current challenges faced by the Egyptian economy. “Let’s not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in caution,” Omran said. “We need to unite and aim high,” he added.
Omran spoke of the potential the African continent harbours, with ever growing purchase power, a projected annual growth rate of 5 per cent in the coming years and a resilience towards global crises; all these factors will allow the creation of a “new Africa,” according to Omran.
The perception of Africa was at the core of the speech delivered by Sunil Benimadhu, the president of ASEA. He said that the image of Africa has changed over the past decade, from “the hopeless continent” to a more positive one.
In 2050, the top 10 economies will include two African countries, namely Nigeria in sixth place and Egypt in 10th place, India will replace the United States as the leading economic power in the world followed by China, according to forecasts shown by Benimadhu.
ASEA president gave a recipe to double Africa’s GDP growth; he emphasised the importance of continued improvement in business climate, the implementation of inclusive growth, the enhancement of democratic principles and the substantial improvement in infrastructure.
Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said that a future democratic Egypt offers great opportunities for investors. “You are witnessing history, and we are proud of writing it,” said Qandil.
Qandil went on to discuss the preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and suggested it paves the way to receive the necessary financing, and acts as a certificate of confidence for the Egyptian economy.
In his speech, the prime minister talked about the position that Egypt occupies as a major player in the African continent, a “continent full of potentials,” natural resources and human capital, which allows it to increase its GDP to $2.6 trillion in 2020 from $1.6 trillion today.
He concluded by calling upon attendees to improve the technical and legal infrastructure to achieve the desired integration between African markets, and asking the investors to invest in Africa.
Political developments and the democratic process were highlighted by the Investment Minister, Ossama Saleh. Saleh pointed to what he called “historical changes” that took place over the past year.
“How to draw investment flows to the African capital markets?” was the main theme of a panel that encompassed financial and economic experts. Erik Bergolf, the chief economist and special counselor to the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, spoke on future measures: establishing macroeconomic stability, ensuring the health of the banking sector, developing local capital markets, improving general business climate and generating inclusive growth.
Muna Zulficar, the non-executive chairperson at EFG Hermes stressed the necessity of strong and committed investment banks for attracting capital flows and the independence of the judiciary to reduce risks of investment.
Zulficar said the Arab Spring has slowed investment in the short and immediate terms because of the perception of the transitional period, but has not stopped it completely. After the completion of the transitional period, “flows of investment will come back to Egypt in a more active way,” she added.
The chairman and president of African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Jean-Louis Ekra, said that attention should be given to investment coming from African countries, the same as for investments coming from European and Asian countries.
During the day Benimadhu announced the launch of an ASEA Pan African Index based on the FTSE methodology.