, SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Feb 21 – African leaders and bankers vowed at an economic summit in Egypt Saturday to push for trade and investments on the continent despite the growing threat of “terrorism” in the region.
More than 1,200 delegates including some heads of state were in talks to sign business agreements during the two-day summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, aimed at attracting private sector investment.
Organisers hope the “Africa 2016” conference can build on a 26-nation free trade pact signed last year to create a common market on half of the continent.
Analysts say that despite an economic growth rate of more than four percent, Africa still accounts for about only two percent of global trade.
The forum was aimed at “pushing forward trade and investment in our continent to strengthen Africa’s place in the world economy”, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in opening remarks.
Sisi said the conference aims to present investment opportunities in Africa and “open a direct channel of communication and cooperation” between African businessmen and overseas investors.
Organisers are also seeking to turn the spotlight on Egypt’s sluggish economy after years of political turmoil following the ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
Heavily dependent on tourism, Egypt’s economy was dealt a body blow when a Russian airliner broke up in mid-air last October 31, minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh.
All 224 people on board, mostly Russian tourists, were killed when the aircraft blew up over the Sinai Peninsula. The jihadist Islamic State group said it brought down the jet with a bomb.
Egypt says it still has no evidence that a bomb downed the plane, although Moscow has acknowledged that a “terrorist attack” caused the disaster.
“Africa 2016 forum is expected to position Egypt as a gateway for foreign investments into African markets,” Omar Ben Yedder, a member of the organising committee, told AFP.
Those attending the summit organised by Egypt and the African Union include the presidents of Sudan, Nigeria, Togo, and Gabon, and dozens of African ministers and senior trade and investment officials.