With many African countries registering their highest economic growth rate in four years, Asian countries can promote trade with and investment in Africa by helping governments there strengthen reforms, encouraging public-private partnerships and using their successes to improve the continent's image, according to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In a message to the Asia-Africa Investment and Trade Conference in Tokyo delivered by UN Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, Mr. Annan said that since the first Tokyo International Conference on Africa's Development (TICAD) in 1993, many African countries had taken steps to modernize their institutions and policies, but "Africa's share of private capital flows and trade is still far too small."
African governments must continue to tackle institutional and technical barriers, he said, but "the perception of prohibitive risk, often exacerbated by the mistaken view that the whole of Africa is a continent engulfed in violence, must change."
The conflicts in some countries were being resolved and many major multinational companies doing business, not only in the extractive industries, but also in the manufacturing and services sectors, had discovered that the returns in "carefully selected investments" compared favourably to anywhere else, he said.
Conference participants could "encourage and support African governments in strengthening institutional and policy reforms to increase investment and provide a politically stable environment for business," Mr. Annan said.
Asian countries could promote and facilitate investments in Africa, along with exploring new opportunities for those private-public sector partnerships that support trade and investment, he said.
In addition, Mr. Annan said, "the business community can more actively promote Africa as a favourable business destination - an effort ideally suited to those business enterprises already in Africa."