Tap domestic sovereign wealth funds to build Africa back better
The head of the Africa Investment Forum, African Development Bank Senior Director Chinelo Anohu, has called for stronger strategic partnerships and greater involvement of African sovereign wealth funds to rebuild the continent’s economies following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anohu made the call while giving a keynote address to Brown Capital Management Forum’s third high-level meeting for Africa sovereign wealth funds on 11 August.
The Africa Investment Forum is Africa’s premier investment marketplace to accelerate transactions that close Africa’s investment gaps.
The Wilson Center, a Washington, DC think tank, hosted the two-day event titled Strengthening the Role of African Sovereign Wealth Funds in the International Financial System. Since its 2015 launch, the Brown Capital Management Africa Forum has served as a platform for US and African business leaders, policymakers and experts to discuss advancing sustainable development and commercial relations.
Representatives of 16 African sovereign wealth funds attended the meeting, the first held in person since 2019. Various international financial agencies, US government officials, and members of the diplomatic corps also attended the event.
Anohu said the Coronavirus crisis had eroded 20 years of development gains in just two years. “Forty million Africans have been pushed into extreme poverty, especially women and youth, as the pandemic exposed systemic vulnerabilities in Africa’s physical and social infrastructure,” she said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has deepened the effects of the pandemic. The war has caused a spike in food and fuel prices. Anohu stressed that Africa’s recovery will require investments in critical infrastructure of at least $1.2 billion per year. “Africa cannot afford to be caught in the middle between geopolitical competitors, nor left behind,” she said.
Other speakers at the event were Wilson Center President Mark Green and Brown Capital Management Chairman Eddie Brown. The Wilson Center’s Africa Program Director, Dr. Monde Muyangwa, moderated the discussion, which she said, “could not be timelier.”
Muyangwa’s tenure at the Wilson Center has come to an end following her confirmation by the US Senate to be President Biden’s Administrator for Africa at the United States Agency for International Development. She was recognized for her achievements at the Center at the closing ceremony.
“This really is a crucial moment all of us to think about these challenges, but also how we pursue opportunities that will take us through these challenges,” said Mark Green. “How can sovereign wealth funds also adapt to these changing times, and what role can they play in stabilizing economies and creating that vibrant economic growth that is so key to the continent’s future?”
Eddie Brown said: “The world is changing at a rapid rate, and it is imperative that governments and financial systems adapt to it.” He said sovereign wealth funds should be an integral part of the conversation on navigating these challenges. “Early on its establishment, the Wilson Center African program recognized the critical role of sovereign wealth funds to transform Africa’s economic development, yet these institutions were not widely known.”
In her keynote address, Anohu noted that Africa’s sovereign wealth funds collectively invested about $12.7 billion in 2020—three times as much as in 2019— in response to the pandemic’s impacts. Still, she pointed out, they are seen as lacking the tools needed to identify and evaluate quality projects for investment.
“This is a gap that the Africa Investment Forum stands ready to fill,” Anohu emphasized, inviting meeting participants to attend the Africa Investment Forum’s 2022 Market Days this November. She explained that financing Africa’s ambitious development agenda demanded an enhanced role for African sovereign wealth funds.
The Africa Investment Forum Market Days, to be held from the 2nd to 4th of November in Abidjan, will bring together investors, deal sponsors, and government ministers from across the world to advance transactions that have been prepared for investment-to-investment closure. The past two Market Days events—in 2020 and 2021— were canceled because of the pandemic. As a result, there is expected to be pent up demand in November as Africa’s economies show signs of rebounding from the effects of external shocks.
The Africa Investment Forum held virtual boardroom sessions this past March. Those sessions drew $32.8 billion in confirmed investment interests, with the potential to create some 3.8 million jobs, a third of them targeting women and women entrepreneurs.
The Africa Investment Forum is an initiative of the African Development Bank and seven partner institutions: Africa 50, Africa Finance Corporation, Afreximbank, Development Bank of Southern Africa, European Investment Bank, Islamic Development Bank and Trade and Development Bank.
The Africa Investment Forum has been cooperating closely with the US Trade and Development Agency since the two entities jointly signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2021 to share deal flows. The agreement is expected to harness the US agency’s project preparation expertise and the Africa Investment Forum’s effectiveness at mobilizing capital.
The two partners are also expected to participate in a United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit to be held in Washington, DC from the 13th to 15th of December 2022.