The first ever UK-Francophone West and Central Africa Trade and Investment Forum was a huge success with hundreds of senior politicians and business leaders in attendance and deals worth millions of pounds announced.
The event’s aim was to show UK investors that Francophone Africa is open for business and demonstrate the wealth of opportunities available.
The inaugural forum saw around 500 delegates attend, including six UK Heads of Mission representing eight African countries, as well as politicians and business leaders from the UK and Africa. A further 300 businesses were on the waiting list but unable to gain admission due to capacity.
Organisers said the deals announced on the day exceeded £170 million.
The forum was held in Central London on Wednesday, October 19, and was organised by London-based DMA Invest in partnership with the Department for International Trade and UK Export Finance.
Sir James Duddridge, then Minister for International Trade, attended the forum and welcomed delegates and His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa, John Humphrey reflected on examples of UK investment in Africa so far, including the award-winning facility for primary healthcare in Cote d’Ivoire and an innovative infrastructure financing facility in Cameroon.
Tim Reid, Director of Business Group, UKEF said: “The UK-Francophone West and Central Africa Trade and Investment Forum had a simple aim: to connect great nations, great investors and great businesses together.
“Last year, UKEF provided £400 million in support for projects in West and Central African countries. The opportunities of the Forum will be measured not just in deals done and Memorandums of Understanding signed, but in the connections made and cemented. On all such measures, the Forum was a resounding success.”
Atam Sandhu, CEO, DMA Invest, said: “We were taken aback with the level of support and interest in the event with hundreds of people on the waiting list to attend.
“There was a real buzz around the venue all day as new connections were made, friendships and partnerships forged and multi-million pound deals signed.
“This landmark event sets the stage for ever greater economic cooperation with this fast-growing, increasingly important and strategic geographic region.”
Deals announced on the day included two landmark finance packages worth a combined £174.5 million for construction projects in Benin and Togo. The deals, funded by both Deutsche Bank and MUFG Bank and guaranteed by UKEF, were announced by Sir James at the forum.
Sam Callender, DMA’s Business and Commercial Diplomacy lead, said she hoped that the forum would become an annual event, with expansion next year to host larger numbers of delegates.
“For now, we are now focused on completing the circle in trade and in investment in the region,” she said.
“We are currently beta testing an online country community drawn from the conference audience and its waiting list to provide a real-time digital hub for all participants to extend the dialogue initiated last week – directly and personally. Furthermore, we will be taking eight trade missions to each country in 2023 and will be announcing dates for the missions in November.”
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