At a recent event focused on the promotion of investment in Africa, top UN officials lent their voices to a message that has gained a consensus of opinion: trade and investment are crucial to achieving the development objectives across the African continent. In remarks about the “dynamism and promise” of a continent where overall growth is expected to exceed 5% in 2015, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that there is untapped potential for the current flood of foreign direct investment (and its accompanying revenues) to be channelled into vital development needs. The Secretary General emphasized that investment “is essential, and when it is the right investment, it can be effective, benefitting people, businesses and governments alike.” He also stated that investors should explore all sources of investment and finance including public and private as well as domestic and foreign.

President of the UN General Assembly John Ashe echoed this view. Noting that resource extraction and exports continue to be the dominant investment areas, Ashe called for increased and diversified investment to bridge the financing gap with regards to development of agriculture, industrialisation and infrastructure. The officials’ statements are in line with similar statements made by African leaders at last month’s African Union summit and the EU-Africa Summit which was held earlier this year. Government and private sector participants in the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit appear ready to heed these words. According to US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, over $900 million in deals will be announced at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum event which will be held on the 5th of August.

This governmental and multilateral push for trade and investment in Africa complements a growing, global, cross-sector trend towards investment which generates both financial and social returns. This so-called impact investing is becoming an increasingly popular approach to working in the African region. For example, African Oil Corporation, a Canadian company, is broadening its involvement and investment in local development, alongside its more traditional investments. In addition, other sectors, including the financial sector and capital markets continue to recognise the commercial and social appeal in sustainable, impact investment. By pursuing investors who are open to an impact investment approach, African nations have a prime opportunity to partner with actors who can help provide crucial financing to put towards development priorities.