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African Business Leaders Discuss Corporate Governance to Enhance Economic Development

(Addis Ababa, 22 January 2008) – The 2008 African Private Sector Forum kicked off yesterday, 22 January 2008, at the headquarters of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Held under the theme “Africa’s Industrial Drive: The Private Sector and Corporate Citizenship », the Forum has been jointly organised by the African Union Commission, and the United Nations Global Compact.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, the Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the African Union Commission, Dr. Maxwell Mkwezalamba, said, the theme of the Forum was a clear recognition of the importance Africa attaches to the private sector in shaping the future of the continent and the key role of the private sector in bringing about the much needed economic progress and sustainable development in Africa. “Preparations are under way for the commencement of a study on the harmonization of investment policies across the continent; the harmonization of business laws across the continent is being considered; the development of a continental business directory is planned for 2008,” he explained, adding that plans are underway to establish an African Investment Bank to finance regional infrastructure projects as well as private sector activities that cut across boundaries. According to Commissioner Mkwezalamba, the only means for Africans to deal with economic instability is by putting more emphasis on value addition and move away from total dependence on the export of raw materials.

In his opening statement, the Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, Mr. Georg Kell thanked the African Union Commission for the opportunity to co-host this important event. Mr. Kell highlighted the enormous potential of the private sector, when rooted in universal principles, to fast-track economic growth and development. He also noted that business responsibility is increasingly seen as an opportunity that can significantly strengthen business operations. He therefore encouraged the participants at the Forum to provide constructive recommendations during their deliberation to enable policy-makers to develop incentives that reward good business practice – which at the same time will deliver value for business and society.

Ato Tadesse Haile, Minister of State Responsible for Industry, Ethiopia, pointed out the need for a larger market space in Africa. According to the Minister, a critical analysis on how the private sector can contribute more effectively to accelerating and enhancing continental integration needs to be done given its catalytic role in fostering economic growth within the continent. (See the complete speech on the African Union Website: www.africa-union.org)

Captain Gunnar Wieslander, Secretary of State for Trade in the Government of Sweden, stressed the role of trade as a key instrument to make the benefits of globalization accessible to all. "Economic growth and a more open and fair international trading system are needed if we are to achieve the goals that we have set in order to eradicate poverty in the world," he said.

Other keynote speakers at the Forum included: Mrs. Elizabeth Tankeu, Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the African Union, and Mr. Basil Omiyi, - Chairman Shell Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria.

For two days, participants at the African Private Sector Forum examined the role of the private sector in accelerating Africa’s industrial drive and showcase good practices that contribute to sustainable development.

The 2008 African Private Sector Forum was attended by over 200 high-level representatives from the African public and private sectors as well as some regional and international organisations.

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Mr. Kola Badejo
Senior Advisor
UN Global Compact

Ms. Cecilie Hultmann
UN Global Compact

Further information:

The final statement of the Private Sector Forum will be presented to Heads of States and Governments at the upcoming African Union Summit on 1 February. The statement will be made available on this website.

Click here to access more information on the African Private Sector Forum.

Click here to download the new "Inspirational Guide - Africa", published by the Global Compact Office.

Click here to download the speech of AU Commissioner Dr. Maxwell Mkwezalamba

Click here to download the speech of State Secretary for Trade Gunnar Wieslander (Government of Sweden).

(Last updated on 26 Jan 2008)