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At the World Economic Forum in Davos, held last week in Switzerland, much was said about the crisis. The war in Ukraine and its consequences on energy and food prices. But also the worsening of inequalities in the world with, for the first time in 25 years, the increase in extreme poverty or even the climate. But Davos is also the meeting place for the world’s economic elite with a concentration of multinational CEOs looking for investment opportunities. Can Africa and its continental free trade area, Zlecaf, be part of it?
From our special correspondent in Davos,
Convincing investors in Davos that the Zlecaf is a market for the future is the mission entrusted to it by its secretary general, the South African Wamkele Mene. ” We have had meetings with CEOs of multinationals from the automotive, commodities, and agribusiness sectors, and they all want to know more about the potential benefits that the Zlecaf market can offer. says Wamkelemene. ” Especially in these times of geo-economic stress, investors are looking for niche markets where they can invest and establish alternative supply chains. »
However, according to Bob Moritz, CEO of the audit firm PwC, which for 26 years has published a study on investment projects around the world, the continent is not a priority. ” CEOs of multinationals still see Africa as an investment opportunity, but on a 20-30 year horizon, not 10 years. “, he believes. “ It is for this reason that CEOs are very lightly, very moderately involved in Africa. For them, it’s more about planting some seeds, either politically or commercially, for future developments. They are not going to invest as much as they have in Asia or as they are now doing in the Middle East.. »
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These CEOs are wrong, replies Wamkele Mene. ” If you’re a forward-thinking CEO, you know that by the beginning of this century, the largest workforce will be in Africa – one in four workers. “, he argument. “ We have more than 60% of arable land. 35 % of world mineral reserves. If you are an investor who identifies growth potential. You would start entering this market now. »
And for those, many in Davos, who ask why he allowed China to dominate the African market, Wamkele Mene remains a pragmatist. ” China is planning for the long term. Why not? If China started investing in Africa 20/30 years ago and if it has intensified its investments year after year, you should wonder what China has seen in this market. So stop projecting without doing anything because you will be excluded from this market.. »
But at a time when investors are more wary of world turmoil than ever, they aren’t sure this message will be heard.