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Continental integration the hot topic at the ACF in Kigali

By Julien Clémençot
Posted on Monday, 25 March 2019 18:01

President Paul Kagame opens the 7th Africa CEO Forum in Kigali. Julien Clémençot

The Africa CEO Forum (ACF), the main private-sector event on the continent, opens on Monday 25 March for two days in Kigali.

Nearly 1,800 participants are expected, including 700 business leaders, four heads of state – Paul Kagame, Félix Tshisekedi, Sahle-Work Zewde and Faure Gnassingbé – and some 30 ministers. African economic integration and women’s leadership will be at the heart of the debates.

For its seventh edition, the ACF, co-organised by Jeune Afrique Media Group (JAMG) – publisher of Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report – and Rainbow Unlimited, invited the private sector to meet in Kigali on 25 and 26 March.

  • “Rwanda was the obvious choice because it allows us to bring together all the continent’s business communities. For the first time, 62% of the participants will come from English-speaking countries and 38% from French-speaking countries,” said Amir Ben Yahmed, president of the ACF and executive director of JAMG.
  • “Rwanda, which will commemorate in a few days’ time the 25th anniversary of the genocide, offers the face of ambitious African development under the banner of innovation, the promotion of education and good governance,” the event’s founder also stressed.

About 1,800 participants from 70 countries, including 700 business executives, are expected during the two-day forum. Among the distinguished guests are: Tewolde GebreMariam, managing director of Ethiopian Airways, Mohamed El Kettani, CEO of Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank, Senegalese entrepreneur Yerim Sow, his compatriot Alioune Ndiaye – who is the managing director of Orange Africa and the Middle East – Nigerian Abdul Samad Rabiu, CEO of the BUA Group, Turkey’s Selim Bora, president of Summa International Construction Group, former prime minister of Benin Lionel Zinsou and his partner in the SouthBridge Bank, former AfDB president Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda.

$1bn in projects to be financed

The debates will be structured around around 40 conferences and workshops. For this edition, a little more than a year after the signing at the Kigali AU summit of an agreement for the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the ACF has chosen to put the theme of economic integration at the heart of discussions. Amir Ben Yahmed said that the topic should not be the exclusive domain of governments. The ACF is at the heart of the news as 21 states have already ratified the creation of the AfCFTA out of the 22 necessary for its implementation.

The presence of the presidents of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Togo will give this event the feel of an “African Davos”. Paul Kagame, Félix Tshisekedi, Sahle-Work Zewde and Faure Gnassingbé will all be invited to address the assembly of decision-makers. Some 30 African ministers will also participate in the event to promote investment opportunities in their respective countries. Approximately $1bn worth of projects will be proposed to funders over the two days. In addition to the governments, some 30 companies will present their development plans, which require between $5m and $20m.

As in 2018, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has joined the event this year. “Through the quality of its participants, the ACF is an excellent tool to advance the reforms the continent needs for its development,” said Serge Pimenta, the IFC’s vice-president in charge of Africa and the Middle East. The World Bank’s private-sector arm is being joined this year as an ACF partner by the Rwanda Development Board. For its deputy director general, Emmanuel Hategeka, the ACF offers an international showcase for the potential of his country and for local know-how in the field of business tourism. Approximately 140 media, radio, television, online newspapers and print media will cover this edition of the ACF.

Women leaders

In addition to regional integration, female leadership will once again be honoured. In July 2018, as it announced at the Abidjan forum, the ACF launched a network dedicated to women leaders. Three hundred members have already joined. To affirm its commitment in this field, the organisers will for the first time award the Gender Leader of the Year prize, which will reward the company that has shown the strongest initiatives for the promotion of female leadership, particularly on executive boards.

In addition to the traditional CEO, African Champion and Multinational of the Year awards, the Disrupter of the Year award will also be presented, highlighting a particularly innovative young company. Finally, the organisers announced the launch of the Africa CEO Network, an “online and offline” network that will bring together ACF participants throughout the year. Since its creation in 2012, this event has already connected more than 5,000 managers.

This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.

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