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New York Forum meets in Gabon to help Africa realize its potential

Updated: 2014-05-26 11:12
By Zhang Yuwei and Joseph Catanzaro in Libreville, Gabon ( China Daily USA)

New York Forum meets in Gabon to help Africa realize its potential

Speakers participate in the panel on transforming the African media at the third edition of New York Forum Africa in Libreville, Gabon on Sunday. From left: Richard Attias, founder of the New York Forum Institute; Youssou N'dour, former minister of tourism and culture of Senegal; Dominique Flaux, director of Ecofin Agency in Switzerland and China Daily Deputy Editor-in-Chief Gao Anming. The forum brought together more than 800 people from the US, China, Latin America, Africa and Europe. Zhang Wei / China Daily

Partnerships, cooperation rather than competition seen as the key

Partnerships that help Africa to embark on a transformation of the continent to unlock the competitiveness of its economy will promote further growth opportunities, said business leaders and politicians who attended the third edition of the New York Forum Africa in Libreville, Gabon during the weekend.

The event brought together more than 800 business leaders and politicians to discuss growth strategies for - what they call - the most "promising continent of this century".

Richard Attias, founder of the New York Forum Institute and co-founder of the New York Forum Africa, said partnership across different continent with Africa - instead of competition among foreign investors - will help create more jobs.

"Global partnerships can help create local jobs," said Attias. "If we put Chinese companies together with US and European companies and maybe build joint ventures in Africa, this is the future of our economy."

Major economic giants such as the US, China and Brazil should team up to work in partnerships instead of heavy competition."If you compete instead of sharing, at the end of the day you kill jobs," said Attias.

In a panel where two African presidents - Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba whose country hosted the forum for the past three years - exchanged ideas with three former heads of state from Latin America on the roadmap for growth for Africa.

Alejandro Toledo, former president of Peru, said if Africa wants to be a promising continent, it has to eliminate poverty, reduce inequality and work for social inclusion.

"The return in investing women is much higher than investing in men," said Toledo.

Jorge Quiroga, former president of Bolivia, said it's important for Africa to develop the internal integration including infrastructure and gas lines inside the continents. "We are very good at setting up infrastructure to export to other countries, not very good at linking to each other," said Quiroga, adding that countries like China and the US are good at internal integration which has helped the two largest economies to advance.

"We always talk about trade, common currencies, but we never see the basic things we have to hook up in terms of sharing energy and electric rates," said Quiroga.

This year's forum hosted about two dozens of Chinese companies from China and from operations of Chinese firms based in Africa. The Chinese participants echoed the idea of creating partnerships.

Liu Wei, chief economist at Beijing Uni-Construction Group Co. Ltd, in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, said public-private partnerships are what Chinese investors should look into to expand its local presence in Africa.

Li Dongwei, director at the representative office of China-Africa Development Fund in Zambia, agreed, saying the PPP will also help Chinese companies to be more involved in the local economy and will leave a "longer term" impact.

"These kind of partnerships help build different local projects - most of which couldn't start because the lack of capital - and the form of a partnership, instead if one-way investment, will receive a longer-term impact," said Li who came for this year's event to explore possibilities in PPP.

Chinese investors have tapped into most of the industries including in health, education, transport and storage sectors. There are now more than 1,600 Chinese development finance projects worth $75 billion in more than 50 African countries.

China Harbor Engineering Co is building an iconic waterfront for part of the city center development in Libreville. The deal was signed during last year's New York Forum when the company, after competing with four other foreign companies, won a public contract with the Gabonese government.

About 100 local employees and some 30 Chinese workers are engaged in the 14-month project, said Zhao Yang, China's Harbor's deputy director for Gabon operations, who signed the deal $120 million land reclamation project on behalf of the company last year. Zhao said it will change the face of the nation's capital.

About seven months after the work began, some 40 percent of the planned 350,000 square meters of land has been reclaimed from the ocean, and the tenders to build the infrastructure and skyscrapers and public buildings proposed to grace the new crescent moon shaped promenade are expected to be awarded in the near future.

The reclamation stage, which includes a 300m causeway that finishes in a 200sqm man-made island, is expected to be completed before the end of this year.

Zhao said local employees had received extensive training for the project.

Twenty-six-year old Gabonese engineer Wissu Ipemboussou is one of the local workforce on this project.

"Right here where we are standing, six months ago, this was water," Ipemboussou said.

"When I was young I used to play there," he said, gesturing towards what used to be coastline. "It was a holiday park. Now, it's becoming something much better."

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