“There is a great sense of optimism in and around Africa these days and rightly so. Africa has over the last decade become one the fastest growing regions in the world, with eight out of 10 fastest growing economies being African in 2012 and with a 1.6 trillion euro economy growing at about six per cent,” said European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso.
“Yet there are also undeniably great challenges facing the continent. Sustainable and inclusive growth is a vital concern for both our continents and we are both aiming at generating jobs, in particular for the younger generations. I believe that by bringing public and private actors together, we can overcome those challenges, while exploring the vast potential of our partnership.”
Barroso, speaking at the 5th European Union-Africa Business Forum – a precursor to the European Union-Africa Summit, which is set to take place in Brussels, also emphasised the private sector’s role in binding the business forum with the summit.
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According to the European Union (EU), creating growth and job opportunity in Africa is crucial and the expansion of the private sector, particularly micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, can be a powerful driver of economic growth.
“These are not just abstract figures or simple demographic trends but also real-life business opportunities. There are now more than one billion mobile subscriptions throughout the region. It is expected Africa's rise will create an extra 128 million consumer households by 2020 – the potential is huge,” said Barroso.
“It is the private sector that will have to reap it. Its contribution to inclusive and sustainable growth is vital. It provides some 90 percent of jobs in developing countries. It is an essential partner in the fight against poverty, and it takes up this role with relish.”
Barroso further indicated that Africa can now rely on its stability and good governance leading to a renewed and realistic optimism amongst investors.
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“Businesses are emerging as ever more active players in the development field, both as a source of finance and as partners for governments, NGOs and donors. And together, governments, societies, international donors and businesses are already forging a new development partnership on the ground,” he said.
“Europe believes in Africa. We know the potential within Africa and are eager to unlock it. Europe believes in Africa's private sector. We see what results it achieves today and we know what it could achieve in the future. We believe that, with the right approach, any challenge can be overcome.”