By Boakai Fofana
Sharm el-Sheikh — Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el Sisi is calling on African leaders to invest in education so that the continent’s peoples can acquire the skills to contribute to the region’s economic growth.
“Africa needs to concentrate on transforming societies using innovation and research as a basis for future success,” he said . The Egyptian leader was speaking at the opening of an investment conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, the historic Egyptian tourist hub in the south of the Sinai Peninsula .
The two-day gathering brings hundreds of business leaders together with government officials and heads of international organizations to discuss trade and investment as engines of progress.
Several African heads of state participated, including Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon’s Ali Bongo and Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, whose global travels are limited by sanctions resulting from an International Criminal Court indictment but who is able to travel widely in Africa.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in a presentation to the conference, said “”Today, in our globalised world no country can achieve development in isolation”.
Organizers say the forum intends to strengthen intra-African business ties by reflecting on the “African opportunity,” which will encourage policy makers to take steps that will make it easier for investors to access markets. The Egyptian president said his country’s investment on the continent currently exceeds U.S. $8 billion, while the volume of its African trade has increased by U.S. $5 billion over the past 5 years.
Equatorial Guinea’s Nguema spoke of the need for African integration, which he called “the key point for our development,”
Nigeria’s Mohammadu Buhari, who presides over the continent’s largest economy, lamented the sharp fall in the price of oil on the global market, which he said has adversely affected his country’s currency, the Naira. “But we are absolutely clear about the effect of devaluing our currency”, he said , in an apparent counter to suggestions for him to do so. Unlike developed economies that compete in exportable goods, he said, Nigeria is an import- based economy and currency devaluation i s not an option.
Top African economic leaders participating in the forum include Carlos Lopes, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa and Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank.
In a welcome development for Egypt, the forum host, Adesina announced Saturday that the bank will provide US $1.5 billion towards the country’s new administrative capital, planned to be built east of the ancient, congested sprawl of Cairo, whose population of $18 million is projected to double within four decades.