Deepening Canada’s engagement with Africa is the theme of a three-day conference that has brought together government officials and private sector actors from Canada and the African continent together in Toronto.
The “Africa Accelerating 2023” conference, organized by the Canada-Africa Chamber of Business, is an “opportunity to deepen ties” with the continent, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his goodwill message.
“Everyone at today’s event has been an advocate for a stronger and more prosperous continent and in the months and years ahead, we will continue to be your partner,” he said. “ Because, despite our distance, Canada and the African continent have so much to offer each other.”
Trudeau’s position was re-echoed and reinforced by other Canadian government officials who appeared at the opening session. Minister of Export Promotion, International Trade and Economic Development Mary Ng fleshed out the government’s policy thrust.
“Today we reaffirmed Canada’s efforts to provide opportunities for African and Canadians alike to benefit from trade and a resilient,” Ng said in summing up the significance of the event.
Canada’s efforts to improve economic exchanges with Africa is being reviewed under a new Canada-Africa Economic Strategy. Though Canadian companies have always been active in Africa’s mining sector, officials now see a need to respond to newly emerging developments (such as the growing influence of China) and opportunities in non-mining sectors, especially with the emergence of an African free trade area.
The conference features strong business and government delegations from several African countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Economy Vital Kamerhe led a delegation that met with his Canadian counterparts.
Louis Watum, board chairman of Congo’s Kipushi Corporation SA, a mining company, outlined new, socially responsible approaches to the business that takes care of the interest of investors, the government and local communities. Describing DR Congo as the most endowed globally in mineral wealth, he regretted that current investments belie existing potential.
Kenya showcased the investment and leisure opportunities in the East African country, with Nigeria due to take the spotlight on the second day of the conference.
Canadian investments in Africa are currently worth US$15.7 billion, with African investments in Canada worth, at least, US$2 billion, according to official data. In the last five years, the value of two-way trade between Canada and African countries rose from US$9 billion to US$15.2 billion.
Canada has investment protection agreements with nine African countries, and is negotiating with more, to protect Canadian investments against risks and ensure a stable, predictable business environment for investment investors.