This year’s Global Business Forum Africa not only highlighted the massive potential of African economies in the post-pandemic era, but also offered vital lessons from Dubai and the UAE in leveraging the power of public-private partnerships to drive sustainable economic growth, according to the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo.
Speaking on the first day of the two-day GBF Africa, Tshisekedi urged companies from the UAE to tap into the DRC’s potential as a hotbed of investment, stressing that the country offers great potential in terms of international trade and commerce, as well as resource-rich land and a young population.
Opportunities beckon UAE investors
“GBF Africa highlights the recovery of African economies in the Covid-19 era, as well as new structures and policies that promote economic integration on the continent,” Tshisekedi said. “Africa and specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo offers lots of opportunities in areas such as renewable energy – being the second largest green lungs of the planet. We also need to understand that Africa is urbanising rapidly, and consumption is growing massively. African companies need market access and investments in infrastructure,” he added.
Tshisekedi was speaking as part of the session titled Unleashing Africa’s Power at GBF Africa, along with Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai.
Observing that the UAE sees tremendous opportunities from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to strengthen its already-robust trade relations with the continent, Al Hashimy noted that the key to achieving this was not only through business connections, but also people connections.
“From infrastructure and agritech to ports and digitisation, our partnerships in Africa aim to showcase how to create situations for benefitting the community and country. We admire and support the development plan of Africa – and our message is both at the business and human levels: the more we get to know each other on equal footings, the better progress and prosperity it will bring,” she said.
Platform for showcasing capabilities
Al Hashimy pointed out that for the first time in the history of the World’s Fair, all African countries are represented at Expo 2020 Dubai – thereby becoming a critical platform for these nations to showcase their potential to the world. Africa continues to see UAE as a base for exploring other markets around the world, she noted, adding that the UAE and Africa can learn from each other on how to tap into new digital opportunities and use technology to drive progress.
Pointing to the wealth of opportunities in Congo, and the country’s infrastructure, logistics and mining sectors in particular, Al Hashimy said that digitalisation itself is expected to create exciting growth prospects in the African market. According to economists, the DRC is the richest country in the world with regards to natural resources, with untapped deposits of raw minerals estimated to be worth more than $24 trillion.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is estimated to have 70 per cent of global coltan – a key raw material in smartphones and laptops - one third of the world’s cobalt, 30 per cent of the world’s supply of diamonds and 10 per cent of copper. The growth potential of the DRC can be gauged from the fact that the country has 80 million citizens, 54 per cent of whom are aged 20 years and under, and has an area of 2.345 trillion sq m, with the largest forest reserves outside of the Amazon.
Need for infrastructure investment
Acknowledging that economic growth has led to better management of finances of the DRC in recent years, President Tshisekedi stressed the urgent need for infrastructure investment across the country. “Good policies or fiscal management are not enough – we need good reforms to attract foreign direct investments… The Democratic Republic of Congo would ask the emerging countries, especially the UAE, to associate with this great modernisation to one of the most important countries of the African continent, and to help this huge reconstruction,” he said.
“My country would like to learn from the lessons of the UAE to have the appropriate capacities into the PPPs. With the UAE at the forefront to support us in our new development, we will be more than happy to reinforce our ties to the infrastructure, energy, and development of human resources, to the SMEs, and agriculture and new technology and communication,” Tshisekedi said.