By Kembet Bolton

The President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has said that Africa will remain a fertile ground for investment, but this is much hinged on the continent’s ability to boost its healthcare sector.

Speaking during the Africa Investment Conference, a virtual one-day event organized by the UK Department for International Trade, which brought together UK and African business and government leaders to discuss investment and partnership opportunities, Dr. Adesina stated that, Africa still possessed the same fundamentals that had driven the continent’s phenomenal growth over the past decade. 

As part of the conference, Emma Wade-Smith, Her Majesty’s UK Trade Commissioner for Africa, joined Adesina in a fireside chat on the theme “Building back better – utilizing UK private sector strengths and values, and business-to-business opportunities working with UK government and others going forward.”

Four key sectors were under the spotlight: sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy, financial and professional services, and agriculture and agri-tech.  Speaking further, Dr. Adesina said that the continent offered ample opportunities in terms of natural resources, vast tracts of arable land, and a young and rapidly urbanizing population. The potential presented by the newly launched African Continental Free Trade Area was also highlighted in his speech.

According to Dr Adesina ‘’ The fundamentals in those phenomenal growth rates in Africa are still there.” He also added that, “Africa still leads in terms of ease of doing business.” Dr Adesina also stressed that the mergers and acquisition among African firms also presents an exciting scenario. 

During their exchange, Wade-Smith tapped Adesina’s views on the impact of vaccines on Africa’s economic outlook. In his response, Adesina maintained that the issue was long-term. She said she was heartened to learn that 10 of the fastest-growing economies were still in Africa, adding that there was not enough awareness of how much innovation was happening in the region. She said there was an opportunity to blend African and UK innovation. “I’ve been struck by how many opportunities there are,” Wade-Smith said.

Africa has a mere 365 pharmaceutical companies, compared to 7,000 in China and 11,000 in India, as individual countries with comparable population sizes. British investors were urged to pay attention to Africa. “That’s where the next frontier is,” Adesina said.

Other participants included UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Minister for Africa James Duddridge, Minister for Investment Gerry Grimstone, as well as business leaders from Standard Bank, pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca and mobile operator Vodacom.

Johnson earlier told the conference that although “many things have changed” since last year, “there is one thing I can tell you that has not changed: that is my ambition for the UK to be Africa’s investment partner.”