NEW YORK, United States of America, October 2, 2023/ — In the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, UCLG Africa (http://www.UCLGA.org), the umbrella organization representing the voice of African subnational and local governments on the African continent, organized the very first US-Africa Municipal and Sub-Sovereign Investors Forum at the Wall Street Hotel in New York City. The Forum brought together around 100 participants representing the African Union institutions; the USA cooperation agencies; Black Caucus USA State legislators; Africa and USA Mayors and Leaders of subnational and local governments; Africa and USA Development Finance institutions; Africa and USA business community.
The proceedings of the Forum were structured around three sequences: the official opening session; the session on market practices, collaboration and investment opportunities in Africa; and the session on investors response to the call to invest in Africa.
The opening session was moderated by Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General, UCLG Africa.
At the official opening ceremony of the Forum, Hon Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City, delivered an inspiring address, highlighting the timely significance of the Forum and the opportunity it offers to have a new look at the huge potential of Africa in terms of investment and business opportunities, particularly in her cities. He underscored the good momentum for organizing this Forum in New York City, USA, since African American Mayors are managing the bulk of major cities in the country, representing 1/3 of the USA GDP. The mayors of these cities shall therefore be at the forefront in mobilizing their business community, including the SMEs, to explore the possibility to develop their business through investment projects in Africa.
Mayor Adams insisted that the Forum should be seen as a starting point for a new conversation on investment in African cities and was happy that UCLG Africa announced the holding of a second edition of the Forum to be held in the framework of the 10th edition of the Africities Summit scheduled in December 2025 in Cairo, Egypt, at which he would be happy to participate.
The opening session was also marked by the statements by the following speakers: Hon Laura Hall, President, National Black Caucus of State Legislators; Hon Shawyn Patterson-Howard, Mayor Mt Vernon, NY, President of African American mayors Association; Madam Nardos Bekele-Thomas – CEO, African Union Development Agency-NEPAD; Dr Julius Garvey, Board-Certified award-winning surgeon, medical professor and investor. Son to Marcus Garvey; Mohan Vivekanandan, Group Executive, Client Coverage, Development Bank of Southern Africa; Solomon Quaynor, Vice President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, African Development Bank.
Throughout the opening session, the speakers highlighted the need for strategic investments to unlock Africa’s untapped development potential. Discussions revolved around unity, responsible investment, and leveraging Africa’s demographic dividend to accelerate economic growth. Place-based investments were advocated for more impact on the people where they live. Commitment to delivering on development promises and building hope through sustainable investments were recurrent themes.
The second session on market practice exchange, collaboration and Investment opportunities in Africa was moderated by Ambassador Seyni Nafo, Coordinator, Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI).
The session was introduced by a powerful statement by Hon. Rohey Malick Lowe, the Mayor of the City of Banjul in the Gambia, and also the President of the Network of Women Local elected officials of Africa (REFELA from its French acronym). Hon. Lowe put the spotlight on the necessity to invest on women economic empowerment and on opening up opportunities for the youth, through vocational education and investment in the digital transformation.
The discussion was organized around presentations by Yofi Grant, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Investment Promotion Centre; Yves Millardet, Chairman of the Executive Board, Agence France Locale; Valerie White, Social Impact Investment and Equity Executive; Clayton Banks, Co-Founder & CEO of Silicon Harlem; Johanna LeBlanc – Partner, Adomi Advisory Group, PLLC; Dr. Edward Kofi Osei, chairman, national homeownership, Ghana.
Key messages included the importance to adopt a disruptive narrative on the perception of risk in doing business in Africa; to prioritize investing in technology, infrastructure, data collection and processing for a smart management of cities; to focus on women and youth empowerment; and to not hesitate to support ATIA, the special purpose vehicle aiming to facilitate access of African cities and territories to investment and the capital market.
The third session on investors’ response to the call for expression of interest to investing in Africa was moderated by Ms. Zienzi Dillon, CEO, Carmel Global Capital and former Head, Public Sector, Corporate and Investment Banking, Barclays Bank, South Africa.
The third session received communications by Ms. Agnes Dasewicz, Chief Operating Officer, International Development Finance Corporation (DFC); Mr. Mohammed Abbadi, Senior Investment Manager, Local Development Finance Practice, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF); Mr. Rene Awamberg, Directeur and Global Head and Client Relations, Afreximbank; Ms. Donna Sims Wilson, Chief Operating Officer, Kah Capital Management and former US National Association of Securities Professionals; Ms. Isabelle Lessedjina, Senior Vice President, TCX Fund; Mr. Craig Cogut, Pegasus Capital Advisors; Mr. David Ziyambi, Partner, Finance Department and Africa Practice, Latam & Watkins.
The response of the above investors was globally positive as all of them appreciated African cities as a new horizon for investment and business opportunities. A proposal was made to identify two or three cities in Africa in collaboration between the US Mayors and UCLG Africa to serve as a pilot to test the way to mobilize investors and partners to invest in African cities, including with the support of DFC. All of them supported the setting up of ATIA as an innovative mechanism that can assist in attracting funding for investment in African cities and subnational and local governments.
Four points were retained as way forward:
- Institutionalize the US-Africa Municipal and Subnational Investors, the next edition of the Forum to be organized in December 2025 in Cairo, Egypt, in the framework of the 10th edition of the Africities Summit
- Sign the MoUs between UCLG Africa with the African American Mayors Association on the one hand, and with the National Black Caucus for State Legislators
- Mobilize US and Africa partners to participate in the establishment and operation of ATIA through financial and non-financial support
- Scale up the capacity building program targeting two objectives: (1) set up an observatory on local finance to have the needed financial data to back access to the capital market; (2) define a training program targeting African CFOs and professionals aiming at preparing African cities and subnational governments to transact on the capital market.
In concluding the proceedings of the Forum, the CEO of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD expressed greetings to the delegates that spoke with their heart and insisted on the fact that it is time to move from commitments to action on the ground: “Let’s commit to work the talk and do it for ourselves”.