The West Africa Investment Forum, a significant event for the region’s monetary union became a little bit larger today with the unexpected appearance of HRH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, to welcome the attending heads of states.

The Presidents and presidential delegations from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo had met to sign a package of some $21bn involving 17 major pan-African infrastructure projects and other initiatives across the region under the title ‘Invest in UEMOA’ – the West African Economic & Monetary Union.

Following the announcement of the imminent arrival of Sheikh Mohammed, the scheduled activities of the conference were temporarily adjourned as the West African leaders left the the room to be welcomed by their peer, before both parties returned to continue with an improvised run of proceedings.

Dr Thomas Boni Yayi, President of Benin and of the conference of the heads of states of UEMOA, remarked: “On behalf of the commission and of the economic space of our member states, we thank His Highness and the UAE for being consistent hosts in support of African development.”

“Dubai is a crossroads for business worldwide, so it was fitting for us to be here to celebrate the 20th year of the existence of UEMOA – created to further economic development and help our peoples to move forward in a climate of good governance through public-private collaboration.”

“The West Africa Investment Forum comes at a time when all eyes are on Africa.”

Producing two quotes from Dubai’s Emir, Cheikhe Hadjibou Soumare, UEMOA’s commission president, noted: “The life of a leader belongs to his people,” before continuing, “We should not only assist the youth in the schools and universities; we must also assist in the transformation of their ideas.”

He explained that Dubai represented the essence of a globalised economy, where no single country can continue to profess its own self-sufficiency; but in which every forward-looking country does, however, hold the opportunity to be part of a strong, inter-independent and collaborative partnership of nations.

He told the room: “You have come to put down the first bricks of this state and to share our ideals.”

In an impromptu delivery on behalf of His Higness and in her capacity as the Minister of State, HE Reem Al Hashimi added: “Poor infrastructure places a limit on economic and social development, and the UAE is here to see that we contribute to building infrastructure and industrial capacity in Africa.

“The UAE and Africa share significant challenges and interests, and UEMOA understands well the value of collaborating for the mutual benefit of all of its people – truly the world’s fastest billion.”

At the conclusion of the forum it was revealed that the UEMOA presidents and their prospective investment parties had signed contracts worth $19bn out of the $21.5 in planned projects for the region, spanning sectors including road, rail, logistics, power, food security and water.

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The West Africa Investment Forum was co-hosted by the West African Economic & Monetary Union (UEMOA), the West African Development Bank (BOAD) and Global Finance & Capital Limited (GFCL).

(L-R) Arun Panchariya, founder of GFCL; Abdel Karim Konaté, Mali’s Minister of Commerce; President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso; President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire; President Macky Sall of Senegal; HE Reem Al Hashemy, UAE Minister of State; HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE; President Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin; President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo; President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger; and Cipriano Cassama, Guinea-Bissau’s parliamentary speaker.