Opening Remarks by Minister Van Loan at African Innovation and Technology Conference

No. 2010/5 - Ottawa, Ontario - February 4, 2010

Check Against Delivery

It’s my pleasure to join colleagues and friends in opening this important conference today.

Later this spring, I hope to be travelling to a number of African countries—countries that are pioneering new technologies and setting commercial trends for the continent.

I look forward to meeting with Canadian companies and African leaders to explore new opportunities for partnership. And I look forward to working with you to capture the exciting possibilities created by the new, dynamic Africa.

Indeed, Africa’s star is rising. Individually and collectively, African countries are making progress in many areas—overcoming challenges to tell the world a new story about this continent.

Canada is proud to be part of this story.

Our relationship with Africa takes many forms. We enjoy strong political relations, and strong people-to-people links created by universities, businesses, civil-society organizations and other groups. Every year, our doctors, scholars and youth exchanges are building enduring networks with the continent.

I’m proud to say that Canada is making a difference in Africa. We helped expand the lending capacity of the African Development Bank by a potential $2.8 billion.

As the only G8 member of La Francophonie and the Commonwealth, we’ve played a unique role in promoting reform and progress across the continent. This includes working closely with governments that advance transparency and accountability, and promoting shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

In all of these areas, Canada has played a key role. In all of these areas, freer trade has led to progress.

That’s why our government is committed to removing barriers to trade. We believe that increasing the movement of people, goods and services leads to economic prosperity, stability and a better quality of life.

To that end, Canada has strengthened its economic relationship with Africa. Our merchandise imports have more than doubled since 2000, and our exports have more than tripled. Our airplanes, software, trains and smartphones are connecting Africa. And we’re the largest foreign investor in the continent’s mining industry.

I can tell you that Canada joins many countries around the world in applauding Africa’s economic progress in recent years.

The achievements are very impressive. The continent grew by an average of five percent or more between 2004 and 2008—outpacing the average for emerging economies. African government budgets have become more sound. Inflation has slowed significantly, and external debt has shrunk.

Within the greater success story, countries like Botswana are examples of the positive effects of focused efforts on free trade. Between 1980 and 2006, Botswana’s compounded average annual gross domestic product growth rate per capita was 5.4 percent.

We are seeing high technology increasingly taking hold across the continent. Africa is home to the fastest-growing mobile telecom market anywhere. New communications technologies are constantly being introduced into the African market. These technologies help countries develop the infrastructure they need to support economic development in the years ahead.

This was very much on display at the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, which my colleague, [Foreign Affairs] Minister [Lawrence] Cannon, attended. The Summit showcased an emerging Africa that is increasingly prosperous and forward looking.

Our government recognizes the great potential that exists in the African marketplace. We also think that Canada is very well placed to fill this demand. An emerging Africa needs more Canadian expertise, more Canadian technologies, and more Canadian universities creating knowledge networks with African partners.

As Canada seeks to diversify our trade and investment, Africa is a destination of growing importance. Our government is encouraging Canadian companies to continue exploring the many investment opportunities in Africa. Canada is also showing a commitment to helping our businesses remain a positive force in the communities in which they operate.

The recent appointment of Marketa Evans as Canada’s counsellor for corporate social responsibility in the extractive sector is a good example.

Our trade and investment stimulates growth and innovation in Canada, and it creates opportunity in Africa, giving rise to a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, who are the future of our global economy.

Africa’s economic development prospects are closely tied to foreign investment. African countries can leverage these prospects to create jobs and prosperity for their people.

But good governance and a solid legal framework are essential to attracting global business and investment. Africa will require dramatically improved infrastructure, fair regulations, effective and just governance, and quality education. And it will need to deal with violence and instability.

Ultimately, solving these problems is up to Africa’s leadership, and, here again, Canada is an important partner. Canada is committed to working with the African Union to enhance the capacity of African peacekeeping forces.

We’re playing a significant role in peacebuilding efforts in Sudan and in the Great Lakes [Region]. In short, we’re taking action to help create new foundations that will benefit Canadians and Africans alike.

Conclusion

Events like this are a critical part of our joint efforts to support further economic development in Africa.

So let me close by thanking our distinguished guests, Canadian and African, for taking the time to be part of this important conference.

I look forward to working with you in the time ahead to strengthen the bonds between us, and to creating new opportunities for people in Canada and across the continent of Africa.

Thank you.