Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivers his opening remarks  to 'Africa 2016' international business forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Saturday.  Picture: REUTERS
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivers his opening remarks to 'Africa 2016' international business forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Saturday. Picture: REUTERS

SHARM EL SHEIKH — A two-day African economic summit in Egypt ended on Sunday amid calls for investment as organisers said several business proposals were negotiated to help boost growth.

More than 1,200 delegates, including some heads of state, attended the conference at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, aimed at attracting private sector investment. Delegates to the  gathering organised by Egypt and the African Union (AU) included the presidents of Sudan, Nigeria, Togo, and Gabon, and dozens of African ministers and senior trade and investment officials.

Organisers of "Africa 2016" did not reveal the overall investment figure agreed, but said several memorandums of understanding were signed for projects in sectors including infrastructure, health and information technology.

"What is needed is mega African projects to attract investments," said Egypt’s Investment Minister Ashraf Salman in remarks as he closed the summit.

Mr Salman said Egypt, an organiser of the summit along with the AU, already has investments worth $8bn in Africa, and more projects were planned.

"Egypt is part and parcel of Africa. We share a common destiny," he said.

On Saturday, leading bankers said that despite several challenges, including states fighting or emerging from terrorism, Africa remained an investment destination.

Africa Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina said the bank planned to invest $12bn in the continent’s energy sector over the next five years. Africa still had 645-million people without access to electricity, he said, and the only way to address the issue was to widen private sector participation in the energy sector.

Africa’s economy was projected to grow by 4.4% this year and 5% in 2017 against 3% growth expected in developed countries, he said.

"Africa is doing well despite the challenges it is facing," Mr Adesina said.

Analysts said that despite the economic growth rate Africa still accounted for about only 2% of global trade.

Delegates also pushed for increased trade and investments between countries on the continent despite infrastructure hurdles and the growing threat of terrorism, most notably Islamic State-aligned Boko Haram and al-Shabaab militants.

Organisers hoped the conference would build on a 26-nation free-trade pact signed last year to create a common market on half of the continent.

In his opening remarks on Saturday Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the continent should push forward trade and investment to strengthen Africa’s place in the world economy.

Organisers had been keen to turn the spotlight on Egypt’s sluggish economy after years of political turmoil following the overthrow of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

Heavily dependent on tourism, Egypt’s economy was dealt a body blow when a Russian airliner broke up in mid-air last October 31, minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people on board, mostly Russian tourists, were killed when the aircraft blew up over the Sinai Peninsula. IS said it brought down the jet with a bomb. Egypt says it still has no evidence that a bomb downed the plane, although Moscow has acknowledged that a "terrorist attack" caused the disaster.

Sindiso Ngwenya, head of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), said intra-Africa trade will improve global investor confidence. "When our own people invest then other investors get convinced," he said. He added that trade and investments within Comesa had surged from $837m in 2007 to $12bn currently.

"Rail will do to Africa what it did to agriculture in Asia and even in America. If you have power and rail, Africa will explode," said Benedict Oramah, president of African Export-Import Bank.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari warned against growing international terrorism. "The new problem affecting investments is international terrorism … lot of resources that could be used for development are being diverted to address security issues," Mr Buhari said.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is fighting a brutal insurgency launched by Boko Haram in 2009. The group has killed about 17,000 people and forced more than 2.6-million others to flee their homes since the insurgency began.

AFP