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Corporate Council for Africa hosts African leaders
October 12, 2017, 5:24 pm

Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Nigerian business magnate and Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote were among the guest speakers at an event last month in New York on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. The meeting hosted by the Corporate Council for Africa (CCA), the US business organization focused on connecting business interests in Africa, provided an opportunity for business leaders and international diplomats to hear about and openly converse on the challenges posed and opportunities offered by Africa as it transitions into a global economic hub.

In his speech, President Kagame called on the rest of the world to see Africa as a partner and rejected the notion that Africa is characterized by corruption. “Corruption is not African, it’s just corruption. People have developed a misconception that corruption is the way of life in Africa. This is far from the truth.”

President Kagame explained that the wrong notion has affected investments in the continent from companies and businesses who in some cases allocate funds for bribes. “In fact, in Africa when corruption occurs, it involves non-Africans … A lot of what happens in Africa, happens around the world,” he added.

Underscoring the ongoing movement to diversify African economies from its reliance on natural resources, Mr. Dangote, speaking about Nigeria’s over reliance on oil revenues, said: “We should pray that oil prices remain low. This helps wean us off the dependency on revenues from petroleum. We must take oil to be the icing on the cake. We already have the cake."

The cake, being agriculture; Dangote who plans to invest $3.8 billion in sugar and rice and $800 million in dairy production in the next three years in his native Nigeria, said that by developing agriculture, Africa could become the food basket of the world. The Dangote Group plans to increase its production of sugar to 1.5 million metric tons a year by 2020 from 100,000 tons now and is seeking to add 1 million tons of rice. The company also plans to have 50,000 cattle producing 500 million liters of milk a year by 2019.

In addition to agriculture Mr. Dangote cited Nigeria's vast mineral resources and gas as well as the need to manufacture more goods locally for domestic consumption. Both he and President Kagame cited continued need for heavy investments in education and connected the need for young people to be well trained for the jobs of tomorrow.

Often cited as one of the most inspiring business leaders in the world today and a model for young entrepreneurs, Mr. Dangote offered advice to Americans who tend to rely on outdated news and wrong perceptions of Africa, "Don't be lazy. Go there and find the real story for yourself. Things have changed." He noted the Rwanda success story as an example of positive change, good governance and leadership, and where corruption has been cured.

The CCA session was moderated by Rosa Whitaker, former US Trade Representative and author of the AGOA (African Growth Opportunity Act), whose business consultancy is credited for helping both African governments and US companies develop commerce.



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