9:30-11:30 A.M. | PANEL: DOING BUSINESS IN AFRICA
In its Doing Business 2019 report, the World Bank mentions a new record set by sub-Saharan countries for the third consecutive year, namely the 107 or so reforms introduced last year. This is the logical continuation of the numerous improvements made since 2012 to facilitate business for SMEs. Noteworthy among these reforms, the fast-track creation of new businesses, better access to credit, better-enforced contracts, and the reduction, or sometimes outright elimination, depending on the country, of minimum capital requirements. As well, growth on the continent, which was 3.5% in 2018 (and 3.6% in 2017), is expected to rise to 4% in 2019 and 4.1% in 2020. These figures are indicative of constantly improving economic performances and a steady stream of business opportunities.
How can this dynamic of reform be further encouraged? How do these reforms better protect investors ? What are their implications in terms of supply and the creation of wealth for businesses and in terms of benefits for investors? What impact do new technologies have on these reforms?
NOON–2 P.M. | CONFERENCE LUNCH: THE AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA (CFTA). A PROMISING INTEGRATION IN TERMS OF TRADE AND INVESTMENT
PRESENTED BY AFREXIMBANK
On March 21, 2018, representatives of 44 countries from the 55 members of the African Union (AU) came together to create the Continental Free Trade Zone (CFTA). The zone was inspired by an alarming statistic: only 16% of the trade by African countries is with other African countries. The AU, the instigator of the initiative, estimates that the creation of the CFTA will spike intra-African trade by nearly 60% by 2022. Ultimately, this will open up access to a market of 1.2 billion potential consumers, for a cumulative GDP in excess of $2,500 billion. The introduction of this free trade zone may also boost competitiveness in other ways: the transfer of technologies, industrial development, diversification of the sources of growth, and a rise in trade within the continent.
How will the CFTA favour local industries and the economic growth of the signatory states? What impact will it have in creating a common market and an economic and monetary union in Africa? How can the CFTA attract a maximum of investors?
2:30–4:30 P.M. | THE CHALLENGES OF AFRICA’S INDUSTRIALIZATION
Despite high growth rates overall, Africa is still suffering from a number of major shortcomings. There is an overall lag in mechanization and insufficient supply in the energy sector. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), “Africa is in need of deep structural reform so it can diversify its economy.” The institution recommends two priority courses of action: industrialization, and the creation of a continent-wide market. AfDB analysts warn that “to avoid the trap of the underground economy and chronic unemployment, Africa needs to go the way of industrialization and to create added value for its abundant agricultural and mineral resources.” Moreover, as part of a new structural transformation driven by technological innovation, a new Africa needs to be shaped, as the primary and secondary sectors are increasingly subject to automation and robotization.
Why and how can Africa be (re)industrialized? What will enable African countries to build more solid economies? How can new strategies for industrialization be developed, and how can they be integrated into the plans for growth and development?
8:30–9:30 P.M. | ROUND TABLE: ENTREPRENEURSHIP AMONG AFRICAN YOUTH AND WOMEN. MORE ENGAGEMENT FOR DEVELOPMENT
The economic integration of youth and women is crucial for Africa. Based on statistics from United Nations institutions, Africa has the youngest population in the world, with more than 200 million people aged 15 to 24. According to the World Bank, this segment of the population represents 60% of all of Africa’s unemployed; the International Labour Organization (ILO) explains that young people are three times as likely to be unemployed as adults and often hold inferior jobs. Women, who make up 52% of the African population, are hardest hit, with nearly 80% of them holding down a precarious job. Yet a 2018 report published by consulting firm Rolland Berger on female entrepreneurship shows that the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity among women is found in Africa. This observation encourages further development of programs centered around empowerment and employability.
How can training programs adapted to the African job market be put in place? How can project bearers and entrepreneurs be supported in setting up business incubators?
10–11:30 A.M. | PANEL: INVESTMENT IN CANADA
Canada has been recognized in recent years as the G7 member with the best business climate, and offers a broad array of investment sectors with high returns. In addition to boasting the shortest period for establishing a new business entity, Canada has the lowest effective tax rate of all G7 countries. Several programs exist that offer potential applicants the best conditions for access to the country’s business community. Investor immigrants are particularly targeted by these programs.
How is the investment market in Canada? Which sectors are the most attractive and profitable? How does one obtain investor status in Canada and what are its benefits and limits?
NOON–2 P.M. | CONFERENCE LUNCH: PUBLIC POLICY IN AFRICA. STRATEGIES FOR BETTER GOVERNANCE
It is generally accepted that good governance depends on a strong rule of law, more effective civic participation in the affairs of the nation, the efficient management of public finances, and an environment that fosters private-sector development. In one of its reports on the topic, the World Bank recommends that “the international development community must no longer simply concern itself with knowing ‘which policy is the right one’; it needs to go further and ask itself ‘how to make the policies deliver results that improve living conditions’ ”. Africa is particularly affected by this issue, and has set in motion a number of processes that now need to be accelerated.
What is the state of public governance in Africa? Which political and economic reforms are at stake? What role do the international community and international institutions play, and how do they assist these reforms? What impact does technological innovation have on the public sector? What tools need to be implemented to ensure better management and better delivery of services to citizens?
2:30–4:30 P.M. | PANEL: DIGITAL BUSINESS IN AFRICA
Africa’s national economies are increasingly transformed by the digital shift. Even though the informal economy continues to mobilize important resources, the pull of the new economy is accelerating the adoption of new modes of doing business. The “African digital universe” is thus effervescent and attracting more and more investment, in both infrastructure and know-how. Numerous sectors require both the transfer of knowledge and support through innovative startups.
Which sectors in Africa are showing the most innovation? How can Africa-Canada digital “bridges” be created for the transfer of Canadian know-how? How can new entrepreneurs be trained? How can new startups be financed?